Are we demonstrating value?

When we talk about "change", we're not just talking about Washington or Detroit. We also need to include OURSELVES. The events of the past couple of months have given us all pause for thought with our careers and what we're going to be doing in a couple of years' (or weeks' / months') time.
Written by Phil Fersht, Contributor

Donovan McNabbWhen we talk about "change", we're not just talking about Washington or Detroit.  We also need to include OURSELVES.

The events of the past couple of months have given us all pause for thought with our careers and what we're going to be doing in a couple of years' (or weeks' / months') time. 

We had a great discussion a few months' back when we talked about the challenges of staying relevant in today's corporate climate, and this current economic shift is driving this need for relevance right down to all employees in the organization.  The "relevance" discussion now goes far deeper than roles and responsibilities, it goes right into demonstrable value-add, and the ability to impact revenue.  Whether you work in sales, operations, finance, marketing etc., you need to be able to tie what you do to your company's mission and revenue stream.

Bad recessions bring out different reactions from companies with their approaches to steadying the ship and readying themselves for sustained profitability.  These reactions nearly always result in staff reductions, reorganizations and aggressive means of reducing both variable and fixed costs.  Past recessions have resulted with most companies "snipping" costs without changing their business models, and several firms even kept hold of all their staff and rode out the downturn in anticipation of recovering much quicker and stronger than their competitors.  Most of the snipping was focused on low-performers.

This time is different.  Most companies - right now -  are snipping staff who do not directly impact their revenue, whether they be a low or high performer.  Staff who may be incredibly talented, but focus on activities which are peripheral to the company's core revenue-generation, are at risk in today's corporate environment. 

Employees at risk in today's corporate climate:

1) Staff working in new product lines which are yet to have matured, or are considered discretionary in this environment;

2) Staff in management roles that are largely administrative and have limited involvement in direct sales / client relationships;

3) Staff who are unpopular and considered to have a negative impact on revenue development;

4) Low-performers, which the company has wanted to shed for a while and now see the long cold winteras a chance to ease them off the payroll with limited reproach.

And if you are unlucky enough to get caught in the cross-fire, your next challenge is to understand why this happened.  Most likely, you were unlucky and need to find a new opportunity that aligns you with another firm's core revenue channel.  But if you dig really deep, you may have to concede that you need to develop your skills and knowledge to make yourself attractive to future employers, so you can directly impact their core businesses.  I believe we'll see many people seeking career changes in the coming year as they concede their current skills and experience are no longer as relevant as they once were. 

New growth and investment areas, such as health-care, renewable energy, new technology development, are going to be the lucky recipients of an influx of talent willing to retrain for long-term career security. Moreover, jobs in the public sector and education are now appearing far, far more attractive than they were a couple of years' ago.

All-in-all, we're moving into an environment where some industries will find their feet, others will decline and some may die altogether.  Many people will be refocusing their careers in new areas that they may not have envisaged in the recent past.  One thing is clear - we are in new era where people are going to have get used to change and learn to adapt themselves to new job roles, new routines... and new expectations.  

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