External, uncontrollable disruptions such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have an astounding impact on the economy. Some businesses are affected more than others, but the impact is immediate, forcing the need for a quick response and a shift in priorities. Other, less apparent disruptions, can be more damaging to the long-term health of an organization. For example, such disruptions include shifts in consumer preferences and buying behaviors, a reprioritizing of values that influence consumer and employee wants and needs. We witnessed this phenomenon as a result of 9/11. Individuals suddenly had a desire to connect with family, friends, their community; they had a need to feel engaged, to have a sense of belonging. Organizations responded to consumer preferences by focusing on creating experiences that evoke a positive emotional response … “branding” as opposed to marketing.
What BusinessWeek reports about Microsoft—losing “key” talent, reminds us that the same value shifts that change consumer behaviors also change employee behaviors. A growing economy creates opportunity for talent. Great talent has no reason to tolerate work that is not meaningful, organizations that don’t value individuals’ contributions, workplaces that are so bureaucratic they make innovation nearly impossible. A culture that breeds complacency and leaders in denial can kill a company, but it’s such a slow process that companies often don’t feel the pain until it’s too late. Microsoft is a perfect example of this.