Recent decades have seen organisations concentrate on efficiency to drive up competitiveness and profitability, exemplified by the “just-in-time” manufacturing processes pioneered by Toyota in Japan.
Just-in-time manufacturing involves finely-tuned supply and distribution chains so that as few components or stock as possible are retained on site, thereby reducing costs and the need for expensive storage facilities. For such systems to work, the risk of disruption must be minimal.
Nowadays, the drivers of change require a rethink in light of a recognition that resilience needs to be built into organisational processes (see emerging themes – flexibility). The fragility of UK supply chains has been illustrated by the disruption caused by a lack of HGV drivers arising from a combination of Brexit and Covid-19 (see emerging themes – labour market). In addition, Covid-19 will require organisations to prepare better for future disruption and uncertainty, including resurgent variants of the current virus or completely new pandemics.
Manufacturers of products such as cars, washing machines, smartphones and games consoles have faced serious shortages of the semiconductors that are integral to their products, largely due to unforeseen increased in demand. The shortages have been exacerbated by the climate crisis (see sustainability driver of change) as unprecedented storms in Texas (a semiconductor manufacturing hub) closed factories last winter. Manufacturers will no doubt look to build increasing resilience into their processes. As the labour market rapidly evolves, employers are recognising that it may be more difficult to adapt resourcing quickly to demand fluctuations and so will need to build resilience into staffing projections.
Personal resilience will become more valued. The 21st century term “snowflake”, first coined by Chuck Palahniuk in his 1996 novel Fight Club, has been used pejoratively to describe a lack of resilience and sense of entitlement ascribed to the millennial generation (see demographics – generations). The emergence of the term could, however, equally been seen as a reflection on the baby boomer generation struggling to adapt to a changing world. Either way, millennials and Generation Z clearly face greater challenges in some respects than earlier generations. Employers will need to adapt and enhance their training and development programmes to support their workforce in meeting the uncertainties ahead (see emerging themes – flexibility).