Recently, I read two articles in the Wall Street Journal that presented an interesting picture of labor markets and organizations’ commitment to developing their people. The first article, “The End of Employees,” describes how many companies are shifting their work to “temporaries, contractors and vendors (TVC).” As the article states, this trend is “radically altering what it means to be a company and a worker.”
From a people development perspective, it raises the question of who is actually responsible for developing the human resources needed to perform the function. In the case of temporaries and contractors, the answer is simple—each individual is responsible for their own development since the company is contracting with these people for specific functions.
In the case of vendors, presumably the vendors are now responsible for people performing critical functions, and again, the primary company doesn’t care because it is hiring the skills of the vendor.
This brings me to the second article titled “Skilled Workers Are Scarce in Tight Labor Market.” In this article, the WSJ reports on how smaller companies (presumably some of which are the above vendors) are encountering a tightening and less skilled labor pool. As a result, these companies are less able to hire to a specific attitude and skill requirements and must invest considerably more in training. In some cases, developing people is taking four to five times as much training as was previously required and twice as much time to become fully productive.
There is obviously a conflict between these two articles. Larger companies are dumping responsibility for developing people to individuals and smaller companies. But smaller companies are struggling with their own development requirements and don’t really have the skills and knowledge to develop their people well. So who really cares about people development?
As I have said previously, prior to 2008, you would regularly hear executives say “people are our most important resource.” While this was always more symbol than substance, now you never hear it. Organizations could be OK with not being concerned about their people as long as there was plenty of labor around to fill their needs. With the labor pool, particularly the skilled labor pool, tightening drastically, you would think that organizations would again be interested in developing their people. Maybe this will happen, but it certainly hasn’t happened yet.
This is one of the reasons we created UrSof. UrSof is a new neuroscience-based online learning platform that the Cerebyte team has designed to facilitate meaningful learning and performance improvements throughout any organization – all in Twitter time. Given, at best, a grudging interest in people development, a learning program that demands little of executive commitment but still produces productivity gains might be useful. We will see.
Does your organization really care about people development?