Given the new year, I feel compelled to offer some thoughts about three major trends I see for 2009 related to organizational learning and leadership development. It seems like everybody is making predictions at this time. My caveat is that I'm like the economist who has trouble predicting the past, let alone the future. But I'm going to give it a try, anyway.

First, let's look at what will be happening with Baby Boomers, the 76 million people who are beginning to reach traditional retirement age. Given the economy and their personal financial situations, many will have to work longer than they had planned. Some will remain in the workforce but disengage because of their disappointment with having to work longer and the anger they feel regarding their situations. Others will appreciate not being "put out to pasture" yet and they will become highly engaged. Some of these workers will be in "encore careers" and very excited about the opportunity. However, for those who are working because they feel they don't have a choice, organizations will have a difficult time increasing levels of engagement. Unless these organizations address this issue head-on, they will have large numbers of workers who are "not in the game."

Second, employers will risk losing the talent of all employees during the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, unless they take special care to be honest, forthright, and fair. And they need to communicate, communicate, and communicate. They must keep employees informed, even if it's only to say that they don't know anything new at this time. Employees already are feeling a great deal of generalized anxiety. If employees believe that they are not being told the truth or they are not being treated fairly and with respect, this anxiety will just increase. This could affect the health of many workers. Uncertainty leads to chronic stress which results in serious health problems. Right now we are faced with a time of tremendous national and global uncertainty. Employers should not be making it worse for their employees.

The third major trend I see is an increasing emphasis on efficient use of resources. Money will not be as readily available as it once was. Companies will have to do more with less. To be competitive they will have to lower their costs and make sure that every dollar is spent wisely. This has always has been true for the mom-and-pop company, but it is also becoming true for the multi-national conglomerate. Learning interventions, whether training, coaching, elearning, internships, or any other employee development activity, will have to show positive results to justify continuation. It won't be enough to have good attendance and happy participants in workshops. Executives will demand to know how those events are contributing to achieving business goals of companies.

Do you agree with these predictions? What trends in organizational learning and leadership development do you see for 2009?

Comment