Our economy is on a cusp more unsettling than anything since the Industrial
Revolution. Will Hutton, former editor-in-chief of The Observer, brought home
the uncertainties to delegates at last month’s Putting Training at the Heart of
Business conference organised by this magazine and The Industrial Society, of
which Hutton is chief executive.
His input was timely. The first day’s trading of the newly floated
lastminute.com saw its value soar to £733 million – greater than Debenhams or
Iceland – although it has yet to turn a profit and its turnover is small.
Hutton also made reference to the "new economy" boom resulting in
nine traditional Blue Chip companies including Hanson, and Scottish &
Newcastle falling out of the FTSE 100.
Are these concerns for training and development? Yes. The business world is
changing dramatically and the task of preparing people for the future falls to
T&D professionals; yet neither we nor anyone else has much idea what that
future will look like.
Secretary of State for Trade & Industry Stephen Byers found time amidst
the Rover crisis to give a keynote speech at the conference. He said although
there is a lot of political talk about the euro and sterling, there is a more
important currency: "The real currency in the global economy will be
knowledge, which is why we need to develop the skills of people."
But what skills? In laying the ground for the new economy, signatories to
the recent E-Talent Declaration are pledging to give priority to investment in
a range of personal skills and qualities such as confidence, motivation,
leadership, creativity, learning to learn, inspiring innovation and holistic
thinking. The signatories, which include British Airways and Waitrose, believe
these will be key competitiveness factors in the new economy.
Training magazine has always taken a fairly critical stance on unfocused
development, but on this occasion we applaud the people who are – in the
absence of better information – doing just that.