On Friday I wrote a blog entry about the challenges facing GM dealerships who have been "axed" as a part of GM's restructuring.
One of the points here is that these dealerships became "irrelevant" to GM overnight, and yet that writing was on the wall for a long time. In fact, if I were one of the remaining dealerships I think I would (a) be thankful for the reprieve and (b) start the process of looking at a different future!
We live in a world where change happens quickly.
We live in a world where industries are affected by change overnight.
Businesses are disrupted by technology, by innovation, by global competition, by smarter stronger competitors, by larger competitors with deep pockets ... and even by ineffective management.
When business are affected in this way of course their employees are significantly affected, and most people react in the same way ... like deer in the headlights!
ARE YOU A DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS?
Is your industry changing, and if so, is your company adapting to that change? Are you working for a market leader?
Tough questions to ask, and even tougher to answer. Ten years ago Nortel was the darling of the Canadian high tech industry today it is on the brink of self-destruction. Who could have foreseen such a free fall?
The high tech sector has many cases of companies that were leaders in their time ... but don't exist today. Compaq, Digital Equipment, Burroughs, Sperry, Sun Microsystems ... are all gone. Most through acquisition but inevitably after some period of decline.
So ... what can you do?
If YOU are a company then you need to ask the question ... How Relevant am I? You need to answer it honestly, you need other people to answer it for you and you need to plan accordingly. GM dealerships could have asked that question 18 months ago and today they might have been well positioned for their next role in the economy instead they face competition from 2,600 other dealerships (Plus however many Chrysler dealerships and possibly Ford dealerships) all looking to reinvent.
If you are an individual then you need to ask yourself the questions ... How Relevant am I? You need to think about the future ... what happens IF your world gets changed for you? What can you do to improve the likelihood that you will be "relevant" should layoffs happen in your industry.
What happens if your employer goes out of business? What happens if your job is eliminated? What happens if your company is bought and you hate the new environment?
Do you have in-demand skills? What can you do to upgrade your skills? What can you do to be MORE relevant to your employer? What can you do to make sure that if people are cut, your name is not "on the list"?
There is no such thing as guaranteed employment today, and we need to be responsible for our own futures. For many people that is a scary prospect ... but it is reality.
There are things that anyone can do ... invest in yourself, read books, take training courses, take pride in doing your job efficiently and effectively, see feedback, adopt a positive attitude, become indispensable in your company.
So far I have focused on the fact that all of us are affected by change ... and that it happens quickly. There is another side to this story ... ALL companies depend on great people to be successful. We WILL return to skills and labour shortages in the not too distant future and the pendulum swings back in the employees favor then. So if you become indispensable now, just think of the bargaining power you will have when the world's economies recover!