An article in The Economist last week compared the situation of workers in the current climate to those of Boxer the carthorse in George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Aside from the obvious irony in comparing a socialist satire to the current state of capitalism, it does make some interesting observations on how overwork of the employed is an impact of increased unemployment, and on some of the bad effects of that – reduced discretionary effort and engagement, increased corporate crime, etc.  On the bright side, it also lists some ways that some employers are taking steps to try to compensate this at no cost – reward programs, flexible working hours, and above all empowerment of high potential employees.  This is being discussed in the talent/HR press a lot, good to see it make the serious business press as well.

As a wider issue, there are a couple of key points for workforce planning:

  1. Ensure you use both types of segmentation – workforce segmentation for critical groups; talent segmentation for supply side groups such as high potentials
  2. Be ready to include higher turnover and lower productivity in your workforce models.  Make the assumptions conservative and have your HRBP’s discuss the potential impact with your leaders
  3. Build a good environment scan on issues like this – using highly credible sources like The Economist!  (sorry, but HR press just does not carry the weight with business)
  4. Do NOT base your plans for the future entirely on the past – reduced engagement, differentiated talent strategies and a labor market upturn will mean that your last 12 months are likely to be very different to your next few years
  5. Get out and talk with the business about it.  Analyze, discuss, discuss, analyze, discuss.  Then target and measure.  Whatever you do, don’t just lock yourself in your office analyzing…

Not that you shouldn’t be doing all these things anyway!