Recent conversations with clients and colleagues – and the seemingly endless media litany of layoffs, closures, cost cutting – take me back to the early 1990s, which many of us recall from a perspective quite different from our current one. In that recession, many of today’s corporate and public sector leaders were employees, or perhaps frontline or middle managers. It is probable that their experience in that time has shaped the philosophy and values they bring to their current leadership roles.
For several years, we’ve been hearing about a looming war for talent. Baby boomers are starting to retire and fewer young workers are available to replace them, which means demand will soon outstrip supply in the labour market. Already we’re seeing the impacts of that significant demographic shift in certain industries, disciplines and geographies.
In the late 1990s, IT professionals were in short supply. Organizations, driven by uncertainty over the impending Y2K rollover, went on a hiring spree, beefing up their IT teams to stave off the threat of costly errors or interruptions in their operations. The demand for IT expertise was so great that, having drained the pool of available talent, companies resorted to poaching staff from one another to protect themselves.