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Recovering from the recession


A skilled workforce will be crucial to aid businesses in their recovery from the recession. And it would seem that the majority of business leaders recognise that continued workforce development is an imperative, according to Ruth Spellman.

As the recession continues to take its toll, the temptation to continue to make cuts and focus only on the present is overwhelming. Taking one day at a time is no longer good enough - now, more than ever, there is a pressing need to look ahead. The focus for UK business has to be not on green shoots, but on healthy roots. Short-term fixes will not be sufficient to push us towards recovery.

Instead, business managers must devote adequate resources to preparing for a competitive future.

The last six months have been miserable for managers. The CMI’s latest Economic Outlook survey shows that the number experiencing a negative impact from the current state of the economy has grown substantially, from 66% to 80%, since last September.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. CMI data also shows that the net level of optimism in the long term is largely unchanged and most remain positive about their business prospects over the next three years. Yet optimism without action will not be enough. Steps must be taken now to lay the foundations for long term, sustainable growth.

A skilled workforce will be crucial to aid British business recovery and, encouragingly, it would seem that the majority of business leaders recognise that continued workforce development is an imperative. CMI research shows that of all the possible Government policy responses to the downturn, tax breaks for training was the most welcome by managers.

Valuable lessons

The failure of the Chancellor to address this in his Budget was a blow, but managers must not allow it to deter them. Innovation is needed. More individuals are recognising the need for formal qualifications and looking for training opportunities as part of their remuneration packages. To satisfy this thirst for learning and attract and retain skilled workers, employers need to be creative and resourceful, and look for cost-effective ways to up-skill and if necessary, re-skill their people. Fortunately, and thanks largely to the internet, we live in an information age where training is cost-effective and remains viable, even for those businesses hardest hit.

There are valuable lessons to be learnt from our handling of the economic crisis so far. It will be crucial to future competitive success, that we learn all we can from the downturn. Managers need to recognise that despite the hardship, current conditions can also be a source of opportunities for businesses to regroup and re-energise. Merely surviving will not be good enough; the real test will be how ready businesses are for the upturn.

If business leaders fail to be proactive now, when conditions do begin to improve, there is the very real danger of being left behind.

Ruth Spellman is chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, a chartered professional body that is dedicated to management and leadership and committed to raising performance of business by championing management.

For more information, please visit the CMI website

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