The economy is on the rebound and companies need to make hiring and training a priority. This was Alan Abeaulieu Beaulieu’s message at a meeting of the Washtenaw Economic Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan that I attended on September 16th. With all the negativity about the economy, especially in Michigan, it was refreshing and comforting to hear these words from a highly respected economist. Beaulieu is President of the Institute for Trend Research (ITR), a 60 year old firm with an unusually high level of prediction accuracy, including warning his clients about the start of the Great Recession in 2008. He is co-author of the recently published business strategy book, “Make Your Move.” He not only makes predictions; he presents the economic evidence for those predictions.

According to Beaulieu, the economy will grow slowly and steadily over the next two years. He said that this is the perfect time for companies to bring in the people they’ve been reluctant to hire and prepare those people to help their companies achieve a competitive advantage. He said:

This is the time when we want to make sure that all of our employees are as trained as they possibly can be. We want to make sure we are driving all of the efficiency we can. Cross train. Super train. Reduce work hazards. Make sure the product knowledge is where it should be. Because we can’t waste time losing a single sale because we have somebody who is rude to a customer, doesn’t know the product, or doesn’t know our competitive advantage.

If companies are going to emerge from the Great Recession in a better place than where they started, they must invest in people. It will be their competitive advantage.