Still Fighting the Last War: What’s Holding Michigan Back


Michael Echols, vice president of strategic initiatives at Bellevue University, noted in a recent article that we are beginning to recover from the economic recession. He points out that the key to a serious recovery lies in our ability to find innovative ways to grow revenue and create jobs.

OK, so what’s the hold up? Can we get on with this already?

Not so fast, people. It seems like we are stuck fighting the last war. Echols argues that,
“Unfortunately, like generals, many senior managers are still fighting the last war; cost cutting,” Echols said. “The challenge for executives today is to recommend investments that contribute to the challenges of innovation … (and) executives must first modify their goals from cutting costs to productivity improvement.”

If you look at our job market right now, you will see this scenario playing out right in front of your eyes. Recruiters are beginning to call, interviews are starting to pick up, but few new jobs are being landed by the displaced workers in Michigan.

It seems that businesses are still a bit skittish and gun shy about increasing their workforce. Companies have not shed their cost-cutting mantel in exchange for a new and brighter cloak of innovation and productivity. This shift in mindset will be our last big hurdle to turn the economy around.

Once businesses begin to believe that there is a reasonable amount of stability in the market, they will begin to turn their attention to competitive growth and increased productivity. When that happens, you will see meaningful job growth in the state and around the country.

I took an informal survey of business leaders and HR hiring managers over the past few weeks. Their responses confirmed the fact that many companies are still fighting the last war. Most respondents pointed out that they are still under hiring freeze orders from corporate leadership, even though they are recruiting for new positions. New hiring will begin in earnest once 2011 budgets are approved, most often in the fall.

Until then, hiring will be spotty and strategic. That means recruiting activity will continue to increase while new hires will come mostly in key areas that are mission-critical to businesses. Slowly, we will see the transformation from cost-cutting stasis into innovative productivity.

So, for this summer, you will see a slow progression of workforce development activity, increasing in intensity as we move into the autumn months.

Yes, we are still fighting the last war, but at least the tide is turning and the battle is now in our favor.