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Is the economic sky really falling?


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There is a lot to be said about things falling out of the sky in Iowa during winter. We have had snow, ice, rain and the beloved winter mix, which is apparently a mixture of all three. Add to that, for the first time in my life I witnessed “thundersnow.” A term I don’t think I will ever forget and one that sounds like the title of a B movie.

What I find interesting is that these events come and go on a fairly regular basis. No matter how bad the storm, we know in a day or two it will be gone and in some cases within a couple of hours. That is just the way weather works in Iowa, and we are used to it.

The economy is a much different story. We have become so accustomed to economic growth, our confidence is shattered by the current financial crisis. Especially because all best guesses on when the downward spiral will end are just that – guesses. The recession has made us fearful and for good reason. With the number of layoffs and the amount of uncertainty in the workplace, it may be a good time to run around and yell, “The sky is falling.”

Then again, it may be a good time to right the ship and focus on employee growth. One of the biggest issues employers discuss with me is employee engagement. It is a struggle in organizations of almost every size, and I have written about it quite a bit over the years. Though the sky may still be falling for some, it appears it may not be that way overall.

Right Management did a study this winter that found that 67 percent of organizations are not planning to make cutbacks, but instead anticipate focusing their efforts on retaining and engaging their work forces in 2009. The other 33 percent plan to reduce their work forces. It is sad that it has taken a recession for companies to wake up to the importance of engaging their employees, but nonetheless that is where we stand.

Though it also appears there will be more layoffs and many more people and families affected, I am encouraged that it is not nearly as bad as I had previously thought. These are easily the most challenging times most of us have ever seen. Dealing with the reality of the economy and companies’ need to make profits, I suppose it is to be expected. Employee engagement and reassurance are keys to getting through it.

The expectation of change is in the air. In 2009 I believe we will survive, but we will be forced to deal with issues that weren’t as important in the good times. We will come out of this stronger, with more job security and better-run companies that will be positioned to challenge global competition. We are Americans. We have faced challenges from the beginning of our existence that threatened to do away with us. It is now time for us to pay our dues, like those people of the Great Depression era who have gone before us.

I hope this recession will bring a shifting of values and a sharper focus on what is really important during our time on this planet.

Nick Reddin is the business development manager for Manpower Inc.’s Des Moines office.

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