Organizations have to make tough choices. Financial issues will dominate – resulting in the myriad of cost cutting measures (including technology change) we see in organizations we have observed for many years.
A consequence though: is depending upon what is done, the future capacity of the organization to grow through development of it internal talent can be jeopardized.
This post is inspired by a 20 April, 2011 National Post article titled: “Middle-skilled jobs eliminated by technology”, by Eric Lam, page F10. This article focuses on how technology change impacts the middle within organizations and society at large. This post focuses on the stripped out middle on organizations.
I have observed this in action with two notable (non-tech change) examples coming to mind:
- The organization had a significant due diligence over its assets role that was discharged in large part by development of engineers who participated in the development and commissioning of these very same assets. The organization then made the business shift to becoming an operating focused organization and as it needed additional assets it used a classic purchase approach. The effect after a number of years is there was no capacity to internally develop replacement due diligence engineers because the requisite experience was no longer available. This lead to several conundrums about how to best meet this need without experiencing anticipatable adverse consequences (e.g., jeopardizing relationships with external consultant firms). My role was to assist the client in finding a suitable TM strategy.
- Another organization was facing significant financial pressures and looked quite appropriately in part to those areas that were viewed as “overhead” roles. This lead to consolidating numerous regionally based business offices so as to consolidate duplicate type costs. This meant that a number of first level manager roles were eliminated. Subsequently, it became very difficult to develop sufficient quality second and third level operational managers because these first level roles were used to promote and develop non manger people into effective managers.
So, even though these two examples are not the specific result of technology change (that the article focuses on) they do exemplify the impact of stripping the middle out of a development chain. For the engineers, they did not get an internal opportunity to properly develop their due diligence technical/professional acumen. For the managerial example, the reduction of first level operational manager roles pinched the organization’s ability to develop sufficient replacements of retiring second and third level managers.
I am not in anyway questioning the wisdom or necessity of these two organizations’ decision to make the business choices they did. It is just that future consequences can be problematic and very difficult to deal with (and in both example cases were purportedly not considered at the time of the cost management decisions). It certainly was for both of these organizations. One consequence for the second example is the consolidated first level roles became “pressure cooker roles” because of their increased span of dealing with operational issues: the balance of developing people managerial skills was jeopardized by the need to more frequently deal with local business issues. The consequence was those in these offices who may have aspirations for career advancement through becoming managers observed that these were roles that had many headaches and impacted work/non-work lives. Hence the number of operationally business skilled applicants began to dry up. The reader can surely perceive the possible ramifications of that.
Organizations that focus on the internal development of their internal people in their TM strategies, need to be sensitive to the consequences of change resulting out of business decisions. These are changes resulting from difficult financial circumstances or the introduction of productivity enhancing technology changes. TM practitioners owe it to their organizations to be able to comprehend the TM consequences and offer up mitigating strategies that satisfy the business imperatives along with moderating the subsequent adverse talent development consequences. Being unable or unwilling to this means you are a bystander not a contributing participant.
My counsel? Is for internal TM agents to become involved with assessment of business decision option with the view of identifying potential TM consequences and offering useful ideas on how these consequences might be mitigated if the decision is adopted.