Out with the old, in with the new

As another year turns over, we naturally look back as well as forwards. Sometimes, single words can sum up a complex view. If the word of the year last year was ‘unprecedented’, the word of the year this year, according to the Collins Dictionary, is ‘permacrisis’. A bit sobering, but reflects the very uncertain times we find ourselves in, with political, economic, social, and environmental crises all happening, and often in interconnected ways.  

Projections for global growth in 2023 hover around 2%, which is where it was immediately after the financial crisis in 2009. The UK is already in recession and according to the IMF, showing one of the lowest growth rates of major economies. And the Bank of England expects this picture to continue through 2023 and even in to 2024. 

Inflation and rising costs together with slowing demand are always tough to navigate. They are challenging for businesses as much as for governments, and are creating difficult individual circumstances.  Not surprisingly, workforces and Unions are exerting pressure for significant pay rises through industrial action on a level we haven’t seen for decades.  

These shorter-term economic pressures will abate, but we’re also seeing longer-term shifts. Geopolitical upheaval leading to a rethinking of operating models and supply chains, pervasive skills shortages, changing expectations of our people as well as customers, investors, and regulators. More will be required of government and policy intervention and support, as well as people and organisation strategy and innovation in businesses.  

The last few years, managing through the pandemic, was hard, but as organisations, we were operating to fairly well-defined parameters or rules. Now, there are fewer rules but also more variables – pay and reward, restructuring, flexible working, changing industrial relations, skills shortfalls, policy changes and legal uncertainties.  

We can expect to be judged more by what we do in the next two to three years than we were in the last couple of years. And how we respond now is likely to set the scene for the coming decade. Will we be able to build more responsible businesses, to sustain positive movement on inclusion, on wellbeing, and building for more fairness at work and in our societies? Or will short-term actions in response to declining profit margins further exacerbate divides and differences? 

This is a particularly important time for us all. Crises force change. Those that survive and thrive are able to manage paradox and uncertainty, to adapt and to learn, using uncertainty to try new things, not just to hunker down and hope it all blows over. We all have to think not just about short-term actions, but longer-term consequences. 

We will continue to do all we can as the CIPD to support. We have seen that pressure on the people profession has probably never been greater, and it is impacting wellbeing and stress levels. This was called out in our most recent membership surveys, and it is important we are mindful of the adage of putting our own oxygen masks on before helping others. 

Our new code of conduct and ethics helps to guide thinking and practices across the profession, and to make us all aware of our accountabilities. The CIPD profession map calls out the ideas of being principles led, evidence based, and outcomes driven, and we need to keep finding the ways to invest in our own professional skills and capabilities as well. Being part of a broader peer community also helps us all in being able to share, and to support each other in these challenging times.

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