Productivity Crunch — Invest in Your Long Term Capacity
Everyone who I know or meet — well, those who have a job at least — is crazy busy… busier than ever before. (Hey, I don’t really have the time to be even writing this… but alas… I…. must…. keep…. blogging….) This post-Great Recession “Jobless Recovery” thing is starting to show its seams and employees everywhere are getting tired of it (…not that I’m complaining TOO much… us Hired Gun / Consultant types do very well at times like these…) When will the madness end? When will middle management decide that it is so over-worked that it needs to hire some additional help? Leading indicators are showing that this is starting to happen… but most people don’t live in the Land of Leading Indicators.
Some smug economists would tell you to relax, it’s simply a “realignment of the labor force” due to “increased productivity.” Well, the trouble is that these smug economists use macro data — macro timeframe and macro segments of the economy. In the micro economy where most of the people I know work and live — professional services — and in the timeframe which is relevant to us — right now — this ain’t so much a “realignment of labor due to increased industrial output per worker” as much as it is a “productivity squeeze because businesses have been nervous about hiring workers, even as business is booming.”
In other words, the “doing more with less” we see going on is more of a choice than an issue of capacity. At least it looks that way in my corner of the economy. This fear of investing even in the face of an uncertain economic recovery was described back in July by James Surewecki in one of his pithy New Yorker articles. In short: Business leaders don’t know if the recovery is going to stick, so they hold back on making investments.
The thing is, we saw the same thing leading into the recession ( https://danspira.com/2009/02/02/the-long-winter-of-discontent/). Companies, facing the uncertainty of the slowing economy, stopped investing in the things that mattered most for long-term success.
In the world of professional services, this meant a slashing of investment in intellectual capital — people, processes and ideas. Now those firms that survived the economic crunch are still feeling nervous about investing into their intellectual capital… either that, or they’re just too busy with the crush of DO-IT-NOW work to invest in it. So in a sense, this Jobless Recovery could be a second round of “shaking-out” after the Great Recession, separating the long-term winners from the also-rans.
“The groundhog poked its head up from the burrow, where it had survived the winter by eating its own fat. Starved, it proceeded to gorge itself on whatever food it could find, still disregarding the landscape that was becoming less and less hospitable to its mode of existence.”
If you weren’t already doing it, the time to invest in your long-term future is now.