Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It is about who you know

I came across this article Why Some Companies Retrain Workers and Others Lay Them Off and I thought it would be a simple get mad skillz or get a pink slip article. It's actually, a make friends article.

Peter Cappelli, a professor at Wharton, studied why some employers retrain and others layoff (also called, churning, like a feeling induced by a roller coaster). What he discovered was it was not policies that saved an employee, but relationships: how many they had, how valuable and how much the employer valued the relationship.
What is social capital? It’s a tight network of relationships within a workplace...Because it is an asset that exists between individuals rather than within each individual, social capital may suggest why it could make sense to reinvest in and retain individuals even if their job-specific skills are obsolete: The relationships they maintain with others may create value that extends beyond their ability to perform their current job.
Cappelli is also pretty clear: stopping for a chat on the way to get a coffee is not social capital. Social capital is sharing what is in your head for the betterment of others, giving and getting in return. The less you give, the less you can have. This doesn't mean it is the most important measure--I can have low social capital but still have the power to fire everyone--but I shouldn't give away the most important pieces. And those people know more and share more.

If this argument is true, having fresh skills is important, working for an employer with high social capital very important (for more about corporations and social capital check out Linda McQuaig's All You Can Eat), but if you have noticeable connections to people in an environment that values those connections, you can weather the storm. So serving on a committee--one outside of the library so people can see you--instead of writing another book review, may be in your best interest.

This is also called networking, but I didn't want to scare you.

And finally, service providers will be affected by the layoffs because companies are "externalizing" the cost of retraining. This can include the library. If you have some skills that people need to learn--reading, writing, figuring, word processing--you can certainly find private employment.

No comments: