Developing people in a recession

The consultancy sector took a battering post 2008, and those still surviving took time to get used to the new landscape.  The question now is, how will it cope given that we have dropped into a ‘double-dip’ recession?

Consulting is a somewhat tougher beast these days.  Regardless of the form of consulting being undertaken,  in order to survive (and one could argue, mature), the practitioners were required to show resilience, agility and above all the value that they brought to the companies they engaged with.

From the world of people development, we witnessed an initial reduction in the contracting for strategic engagements (Vision/Values pieces), with the focus shifting to performance management; a natural leap with the desire for organisations to get more from their employees.  Steadily and in reaction to the huge internal and external changes, we noticed that organisations began to question ‘how can we afford not to bring in transformation specialists, when our organisation has been so heavily focussed on transactional activities?’  Recessions accelerate change, encourage improved performance and increase innovation – the key is to harness these elements, and developing your human capital remains your greatest possible outlet to do so.

Yes…the UK economy is suffering, not aided by the axe wielding approach of the Coalition (bull/china shop anyone?).  The fact is, there hasn’t really been any recovery since 2008, our output levels are still a whopping 4% below what they were pre financial crash…we recovered quicker in the 1930’s! The Independent ran a great article on this.  So with the benefit of experience, the fact that not a great deal has changed in terms of output since 2008 and on the backdrop of some questionable figures that have officially placed us in recession, why shouldn’t all sectors rightly believe they are in a stronger position to deal with what the future months may bring?

Change is a given in any successful organisation, the ability and desire to flex with internal and external influences gives organisations a distinct competitive advantage.  Complicating the matter for many, is the issue of trying to push forward different change agenda’s at the same time.  For example, one that transforms the culture of an organisation and another that cuts costs have different priorities and need to be approached in distinct ways.  Transforming the culture of an organisation to handle the frequency of change, by developing self-aware leaders who will take ownership of any downturn or plateau in performance, is something we have been privileged to assist many organisations in achieving.  Similarly, if I were to ask you how much your business strategy has changed/developed since 2008?  I am sure each leader would answer ‘a huge amount’….equally, how can you possible expect your people to deliver on this strategy if they haven’t been developed in line with it?  I’m not strictly sure you can.  The end of the recession may officially come when statistics show that we are spending again, but in my mind you can’t underestimate the power of business leaders the length on breadth of the county taking positive action in-house and demonstrating confidence and reassurance that the future is bright and we have weathered the storm.

Articulating the value for money and increase in performance that consultants can bring is a constant challenge, but it is one that should be embraced by everyone.  The necessity to provide clarity on the exact ROI that clients will receive, along with the ability to price projects based on this pre agreed ROI, is a fantastic evolution that followed the last recession.  We created such a results based pricing model in conjunction with our clients in order to reaffirm our collaboration and desire for a long term partnership together…lets look forward to what this one will bring!


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