image The Economist has a good article this week about the ways different parts of the world are dealing with joblessness – both are using fiscal stimulus, but Europe are directing much more of their spending towards labor market policy.  So in the short term, Europe’s joblessness rate is looking better than that of the US (which is a fairly unusual situation).

BUT…then we get to the “short term sense, long term problems” aspect…the lesson for workforce planners.  Think about this:

Consider the subsidising of shorter work weeks, continental Europe’s most dramatic innovation…in a vicious temporary slump, driven by a credit crunch and the collapse of global spending, such subsidies make short-term sense. But they prop up demand by fossilising a country’s job structure and preventing the shift of workers from industries with excess capacity (like carmaking) to more promising ones. That ossification will surely come to haunt continental Europe.

It may be difficult to draw a comparison here, but a lot of organizations are putting in short term strategies which may well lead to fossilized job structures or ossified workforces – whether it is voluntary reductions which lose our most employable people, random cuts that lose as much workforce “muscle” as “fat”, shorter work weeks, furloughs, or blanket policies about hiring or promoting – maybe they are going to be beneficial in the long term…but maybe not.  The reality is, like Europe’s approach, if we don’t segment the workforce, do workforce planning and think of the long term…we might end up with a workforce that’s ossified.  (I’m liking that word)

Are you making short term sense but creating long term problems?