Did the recession gives employers an excuse for shedding under-skilled workers?

For almost two decade beginning with the "War for Talent" paper released by consulting firm McKinsey and Company, a shortage of skilled workers has been forecast. This crisis is by no means unexpected. Beginning in 2001 and accelerated by the Great Recession, job creation models were shattered. Outsourcing and automation became a fact-of-life for many organizations. Many businesses resisted change, hanging onto processes and people that were inefficient, unproductive and costly.

Many people ignored the warnings. Others challenged the logic. They argued that the Baby Boomers would retire, tech-savvy Millennials would replace them, and improvements in education and training would turn any shortage of skilled workers from a disruptive gap into a productive bond.

Well, the Boomers aren’t retiring just yet. The Millennials are unemployed. Gen X aren’t advancing up the career ladder. Education is desperately attempting to play catch-up with fewer and fewer resources and dollars. And workforce training is just plain underfunded, underutilized, and just too bureaucratic to retool more than 100 million workers with the skills they need quickly … and desperately.

The recession changed all that. It’s like the recession justified a business cleansing — wholesale layoffs, plant closings and outsourcing for the sake of avoiding bankruptcy or closing a business entirely. “Many businesses took the recession as an opportunity to clean house and raise quality,” says Mustafa Kapadia, an outsourcing advisor with EchoPoint Consulting. “The political and moral sting and backlash from replacing five people with one piece of software or equipment and outsourcing entire departments abated, at least temporarily, under the veil of business survival. Employees weren’t sacrificed for the sake of a few extra bucks on the bottom line but for survival and sustainability.” 

What happened in 2008-2009 should have happened voluntarily in many businesses years ago. The recession just provided the excuse.

See related article: "Jobs Report Affirms New Reality"


Ira S Wolfe