- In This Issue
Bringing the Big Economic Picture Into Focus
The economic turn-around is inevitable. Planning your firm's human capital and risk management strategies now will help you prepare to profit upon its arrival
This article was published in the Q3 2009 issue of Aon One, November, 2009.
Looking back on the events of the past 12 months—auto giants filing for bankruptcy, tax-payer-funded bailouts, unemployment climbing into the double digits—it is difficult to take signs of an economic recovery seriously. And to contemplate profiting from it? That’s an even bigger stretch.
But history proves that every recession is followed by a recovery. And as deep and steep as this global economic downturn has been, some experts contend that the recovery may be just as sharp. Still, profiting from the anticipated upturn won’t happen without calculated effort. In order to successfully capitalize on the expected growth to come, strategic planning is required.
The temptation during an economic slowdown is to cut back on expenses wherever possible, but acting in the interest of immediate gain will almost certainly hurt a firm’s ability to grow and develop over the long term. During difficult times, it is arguably even more important to make strategic investments in two critical areas: human capital and risk management.
With regard to human capital planning, businesses must maintain a relentless focus on their customer base, which means ensuring a workforce of talented individuals with a proven track record of managing customers effectively and efficiently. Organizations must empower their leadership to make difficult decisions, making it necessary to align human resources with their business strategy.
is your organization prepared for a black swan event?
Effective positioning for recovery should also take into account those improbable events that author Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls "black swans" in his book of the same name. Such events are unpredictable and carry a massive impact. They often blind-side unprepared businesses, Taleb says, because companies concentrate on what they know and fail to consider or anticipate the things we don’t understand.
Given the speed at which the current deep recession hit, and the resulting damage, organizations must consider the possibility of how a "black swan" event—another financial meltdown, a terrorist attack or a pandemic, for example, can affect operations moving forward. "Although you won’t know exactly what you’ll be dealing with, the key is to have some sort of response to a ‘black swan’ event in place," says Nancy Green, executive vice president of Aon Strategic Account Management. "It’s a new type of variable that risk managers must address with preparation—not for a specific event, but for the possibility of unpredictable and catastrophic events."
Planning for the future not only means supporting a talented staff to serve customers, but also understanding and managing risk as a core business function. Events of the past year have proved that risk management is no longer just the simple act of insurance purchase. For future growth, it is critical that companies leverage information effectively, manage variables and build a comprehensive assessment of risk. Here, Aon has mapped out plans for covering both bases.
Human Capital Planning: Finding the Right Composition
An ideal Human Capital Strategy is centered on clients and a skilled, service-oriented staff. To cope with the economic crisis, many organizations have made drastic cuts in the human resources arena. The big three automakers, for example, have spun off pension obligations to unions. FedEx, Gannett and Motorola have frozen pensions. GM, Frontier Airlines, Goodyear and DollarThrifty are among companies that have eliminated 401(k) matching. What’s more, a recent Aon Consulting survey of 66 companies with frozen pensions or 401(k) plans shows that 73 percent of the organizations had at least one plan where benefit accruals had been frozen for all participants.
In this type of environment, growth often takes a back seat to making tough decisions involving balance sheets and competition—in some cases, just to stay afloat—but these can be detrimental in the long run. Drastic cuts leave organizations unprepared for a period of economic recovery, and also hurt their ability to retain and attract the best people.
Instead, organizations should key into areas of human capital planning which are crucial to maximizing opportunities in an economic recovery.
HR leaders can be highly effective in putting businesses on a path toward responsibility and corporate integrity
Understanding—and reaffirming—sound risk management strategies in a tumultuous world will help organizations emerge from this global crisis in better shape
Human Resource Solutions in Today's Environment are Challenging but not Insurmountable According to Aon's 2009 Client Symposium
Aon’s first-ever 2009 Client Symposium tackled the toughest human capital challenges facing companies and organizations today
Four things that can help you communicate with your workforce more openly, clearly and frequently
Tips on the best way organizations can meet the challenges of today's job market
According to Aon’s “Ready 2012 Pension Plus Survey,” many organizations have cut or reduced pension plans
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