What is it with some people and optimism? I mean, it’s nice to be optimistic sometimes…I always believe my team are going to win, am certain that my son will deliver good grades in his exams, and hope upon hope that Santa will bring me a new iPod.
But I pretty much know that the economy isn’t going into overdrive any time soon.
I wrote a blog nearly a year ago called Optimistic Recruiters Don’t Create Jobs. It was true then and it’s true now. For the record:
Growing companies create jobs.
Companies grow when demand for their goods and services grow.
Companies hire when their capacity to fulfil the growth in demand is limited by manpower.
This is fairly basic stuff but you would be surprised how many people seem to think that if we think everything is going to be alright then it will be. I can accept that there are one or two exceptions, that in a GROWING economy some firms will forward hire in anticipation of future demand either in existing or new markets.
But now isn’t one of those times.
There was a bit of a fuss this morning with a CIPD press release forecasting that there could be as many as 1.6m extra job losses in the UK over the next 5 years. The belief is that these will be covered by new jobs created by the private sector…yet to do that would require a level of consistent growth in the UK economy that it is nowhere near achieving any time in the near future. The CIPDs economist – a man I have a lot of time for, and one who has been right a number of times in recent years – was speaking to the Treasury select committee and that was what he was going to advise. Let’s not forget that there are already 2.5m claiming jobseekers allowance (many more inactives not claiming too).
So what was being said here is that total unemployment COULD rise to 4m (almost certainly will be 3m+ it seems) and the very best we can hope for in terms of new jobs is 1.8m, but that the circumstances needed for those 1.8m to be created are not yet in place.
Shouldn’t have really been a shock to anyone. Certainly not a shock to anyone working in recruitment and HR, for whom you may have thought this was a quite relevant viewpoint. It should highlight a big cause for concern.
It is an economist’s view; one heavily involved in our industry, and as such I would have thought of interest to us.
But the problem seemed to be that it was a negative message. It prompted some angry tweeting and blogging, including this rant by Andy Headworth.
People seem to want optimism. Had the press release said that lots of new jobs were about to be created, maybe it would have been more acceptable.
Why? Because if we believe that the jobs are coming then they will come? Is this the CIPDs fault?
We will be getting new figures from the REC on recruitment activity soon…if the figures aren’t good will it be the RECs fault? (It won’t be down to them if the figures are good!)
All of this makes me think of the Stockdale Paradox. Written about in the book Good To Great, it refers to an American Captain in the Vietnam war who became a prisoner of war. On his coping strategy he said:
“I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
In answer to the question ‘Who were the people who didn’t make it’ he said
“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
If you’re reading this blog there is a strong chance that you are a someone who is advising or helping people in their careers and job searches.
I would have thought a bit of realism would go down well, a valuable part of helping people.
Clearly I don’t believe optimism is good for business and I don’t believe that it is good for our candidates and clients. I do believe that we need to be honest and truthful and deal with things as they are.
So I’m throwing down a challenge.
Tell me why you think I’m wrong. Why is it better to be optimistic, even though it is may be completely unfounded? Are we in danger of leading those who rely on us in to the disappointment?
Surely we all want to be the Stockdales, coming out the other side….