Dec 16, 2010

Relative novices in our industry who have only been through a few cycles of recession and recovery are quite likely to misinterpret the probable scenario for the year that lies before us. Yet for those with greater depth of experience and observation, predictability is far more clear. “The years”, as Emerson wrote, “teach things that the days never know”.

It is worth examining briefly the reasons why errors may be made, as acknowledgment of these traps will serve to help avoid an expensive mistake.

On the one hand, we have those who are prone to “positive thinking”. Attitude certainly counts, but so does realism. Our future, long-term, is bright. It should not be depressing to analyze our short-term industry future with a cool head, avoiding the influence of what noted sales trainer Zig Ziglar referred to as “positive thinking snake-oil salesmen”, who may have their own agendas for misleading prospective customers. Politically, of course, we have those who hope the current administration’s policies will eventually show gains; alternatively, some believe that the recent congressional results will give confidence to the business community, thus spurring growth. Both over-state their positions. There is certainly nothing wrong with political enthusiasm, but objectivity is a far better business model.

Following are the facts. Historical numbers state that the recession statistically ended in June 2009 (National Bureau of Economic Research). Following that, we did indeed start to show growth. However, unlike the previous recoveries from steep downturns, this one has been virtually indistinguishable from the recession itself. The percentage of increase has averaged below 3%. far less than half of the rebound, for example, following the 1982 recession.

Moreover, predictions of a quick resurgence ignore the consistent and significant delay after recessions statistically end before returning to normality. In the previous recession, for example, it was 22 months before employment returned to some semblance of pre-recession levels. In the one before that, the period following was 33 months. In both of those, of course, economic policies were far more conducive to recovery than at present. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently described our economy as “unusually uncertain”. Indeed it is.

On the other hand, the usual diminution in the quantity of recruiting firms competing for what business does exist means that even some improvement will yield results for us greater than the raw data would indicate. This will be balanced to some degree by the slowness of hiring authorities to respond to what will very gradually over time become a more candidate-short market. As Paul Hawkinson has written, “Long-term, the talent shortage is systemic, not economic”.

The current issue of The Fordyce Letter contains the first of a two-part article entitled “Time to Grow?”. Owners of recruiting firms would be well-advised to read it carefully.

As for myself (since The Fordyce Letter asked), I will continue to work a desk personally, as always. Having produced four brand-new or heavily-revised products in the last four years, my goal for the coming year is.…no more new products! Of course, I’ve said that before. My focus on customized in-house training for individual recruiting firms of all sizes will continue. Yet in a questionable market, associations and franchises seem to rely on those who have seen our industry through multiple cycles of ups and downs for public speaking – and that would be me. I presume that the burgeoning of the public speaking side of my business will continue.

I wish everyone in our industry the best and would like to remind them of the remarkably glittering future we have before us if we make the right decisions in coming years – even if immediate results are not likely to be forthcoming in this one.

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