By Kathy Henrich
“With every crisis comes opportunity.” When I was in sales, these were words from leaders above me that I will never forget. Yes, things will go wrong, but if handled well, you end up with stronger relationships and improved processes and products.
In this unprecedented time, we can look for potential trends to determine how to capitalize on them, thus leading to a stronger long-term economy and workforce. While there are many possible scenarios, I’ll focus on just four:
- Increased innovation and startup activity: As humans, we want to be productive. When unemployment hits, it is natural to sulk for a bit. However, available time also provides the opportunity to observe the world in a different way, including challenges previously taken for granted. And, while no one wants to be on unemployment, it provides for minimal living expenses to sustain you while exploring passions. After the 2008 downturn, we saw a significant increase in the creation of unicorns and funding of software companies. Uber, AirBnB, Github, Cloudera, Square, Slack, Dropbox, Glassdoor and others were all started immediately following the 2008 downturn. So, what new issues are you observing?
- Increase in re-skilling: With available time and minimal financial support, it may be an opportunity to re-examine one’s prior career to determine one’s level of fulfillment and long-term sustainability. If, upon examination, long-term prospects are not satisfactory, it may be a good time to make a change. Again, after the 2008 downturn, we saw a 16% increase in attendance at technical schools. What is in demand now? Security, analytics, AI/ML, Dev/Ops, web/software development and other tech skills. With many organizations opening up their online classes for free, there may not be a better time to acquire new certifications and skills.
- On-shoring supply chains and tech jobs: The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the frailties of an international supply chain. What happens when people cannot travel or goods can not be moved? At a minimum, organizations will look to diversify their supply chains to reduce risk. And while we can all accept that work can occur from anywhere, international travel is likely to be reduced. Such travel has been critical to building trust and aligning to priorities. There is no denying that international collaboration will be required to produce long-term solutions. However, past pandemics suggest we’re more likely to see an increase in national focus, which was already increasing prior to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
- Midwest communities become more attractive to both organizations and individuals: For individuals, quarantining in a place is a lot easier when there is space to walk and green grass versus a small apartment with multiple roommates. Health risks are also reduced with lower density. Individuals will see opportunities to experience a lower risk and personally satisfying lifestyle. With the cost of operating a tech business in the Milwaukee region being about 40% less than San Francisco, 33% less than New York or 25% less than Boston, a second office may be a great way to recover financially. When combined with the trend of onshoring, organizations will look for lower-cost locations for new, affordable, business opportunities.
These are just four potential trends. Some may argue such trends could go the opposite direction. This may be true as no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy. However, it does make sense to weigh the odds and potential impacts on your organization to perform scenario planning. Ultimately, we want to not only survive this crisis, but leverage it build the future we want for our communities.
Henrich is CEO of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition. She worked previously for companies such as Accenture and IBM. Visit mketech.org to learn more.