Stress Test

The ISM Report on Business for November pegged its Manufacturing Index of 52.7 percent. That’s 1.9 points higher than the October number and continues a 28-month trend of growth. The October number was perilously close to ending that growth streak, so the increase in November suggests that the U.S. manufacturing sector continues to pass the “stress tests” of lingering high unemployment, a lethargic housing market, and global financial worries.
(Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a record 226 million shoppers visited stores and websites and spent an estimated $52.4 billion, so consumers seem to feel the same way.)

Of course, the Report also showed manufacturers are hiring, but not very quickly. As one respondent said, “Trying to do twice the output with the same amount of people.” So slow growth with minimal new hires appears to be the “new normal.”

The skills of current staff are critical to success in an environment like this. Smart companies are using the chance to upgrade the skills of staff — figuring they won’t be hiring soon, and neither will competitors, so it’s worthwhile to invest in current employees.  Popular topics for training are negotiations and cost analysis — although effective procurement now requires much deeper skills in supplier relationship management building long-lasting strategic relationships. What are you doing to keep your team sharp?

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