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Stephen Archer is a speaker with great charisma. By using illustrations and personal experiences and not being afraid to share his own point of view of the current situation and who is to blame for it, he engages the whole audience, at the same time helping us all to understand the credit crunch a little better.

— Warwick Business School

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We are recovering – but how has the world changed?

Having  just completed a world tour on business (UK, Ireland, Canada, USA and China) it is interesting to consider how the world looks as it settles from recession and the shock of 2008-2009. Such a shock has to have long term effects – but what are they?

Before considering that I should point out that the crisis and the subsequent recessions are a long way from resolved. Unsustainable debt still contaminates the Eurozone and the US plus which the much vaunted BRICs have either slowed down a bit (China) or are in some difficulty (Brazil and India) whilst the standing in the global community of Russia continues to be troubling. The Arab spring has turned out as predicted to have created uncertainty and regional instability and Turkey, geographically, economically and politically significant is volatile with some way to go towards a resolution.

Part of the emergence from global recession is a rebalancing of currency values, in many cases such as India, Japan and Brazil this is quite extreme. Trade agreements are being looked at with fresh, ambitious and yet protectionist eyes.

Greatly increased self interest and reduced trust are now a characteristic of the economies at a macro, political, corporate and individual level.  Why should this be?  The crisis showed with repeated clarity that governments are capable of being badly wrong footed – at least in economic management. It also showed that financial institutions and their participants have been dangerously incompetent and untrustworthy and that all employers be they private or state can and will take brutal decisions at the expense of employees.

The casualty has been confidence, trust and belief in the pillars of society. In particular, no western political leader has authority in the eyes of the electorate now.  Only law and order has emerged relatively unscathed. Apathy towards all other aspects of governments has never been so high, scepticism about financial institutions has turned to cynicism and faith in the durability of employment and provision after retirement is at an all time low. The individual and society has become disenfranchised – especially form the state but partly from employers too.  Commitment and motivation are casualties but this means that employers – especially private sector – now have an increasingly uphill struggle to recruit and motivate employees who are prepared to stay for the long haul and tolerate adversity.

We might call this a rise of individualism, but not the self serving individualism of the 1980s, rather‘survive and thrive’ individualism. People are less willing to believe in any institution now.  Attracting and motivating good people at many levels is now harder and true commitment to an employer is an increasingly rare commodity.

What can be done?  The first thing is to consider how this affects your organsiation and the community of people likely to serve in it.  Expectations of the individual’s role and how it is framed need to be considered more in the terms that suit them than has been done before.  Looking at how they want to work (more home based or flexi for example) and how they best see that they can achieve their goals will often pay off. In short, treating employees a little more like customers than servants will help –reframe the emotional contract between employees and the employer.

This trend will continue and the ability of the individual – especially the talented one – to define how they will participate in the work world and society will increase with the pleurisy of information and the need on their part to prosper without the support of the discredited institutions that were once dependable.


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