Earlier this year, iconic US office supply company Staples Inc. announced it will close as many as 12 percent (225) of its North American stores and cut as much as $500 million in costs. The plans to cut costs come from both competitive pressures from online retailers, as well as general underperformance. The concerning part is that this type of downsizing is becoming all too common – even for companies as strong as Microsoft.
Here are 5 key things the news teaches millennials, as well as all professionals about how to mitigate risks to their careers:
1. Loyalty Is A False Security
Many of the people who will be jobless or job-searching following the store closures may have been with Staples 5,10,15 or even 20+ years. Decades ago, this type of longevity correlated with a sense of loyalty to the business.
However when the axe comes down, your personal feelings of loyalty and belief that you’ve served well so you should be protected, aren’t going to matter.
You can’t rely on good will and loyalty to secure your work or financial future, you can only rely on you and your ability to foresee industry direction and add value.
2. Innovate At All Times
One of the biggest pieces of criticism about the recent downsizing news, is the sheer size of the shake up. It brings on questions about why things have to get to such a magnitude before action is taken, which may have significantly altered the landscape.
As a Millennial or professional, you can’t afford to ever rest on your laurels. Treat every day as going from hero to zero, and continuously look for ways to streamline processes, reduce cost, or increase revenue.
Ask yourself everyday “how can I add more value to myself and my company”.
3. Management Is Dying
The traditional version of management I believe is well and truly dying. By traditional, I mean government-like layers of management, which simply result in a longer time for decisions, communication red tape, and quite simply a top heavy organisation with not enough people executing.
Not only will this apply to Staples, but so too for Zappos, who also announced plans to strip management out of their business.
It simply shows that if you aren’t in a position where you are making a quantifiable, accountable impact on your business, then you are in trouble.
4. Create and Convey Quantifiable Value
Whenever you think about a project to begin, a sale to be made, or an action to take, make sure you quantify the impact. For example “I believe this project will reduce cost in this area by 10%”, and make sure this equates to enough to cover the costs – not, “I think we should put in this nice software to make the process better”.
This does two things:
a. It presents business value. You can measure in advance, and after, whether the benefit was achieved and that you are moving in the right direction.
b. It is a great selling point for you at promotion time or when looking at new jobs. Wouldn’t you rather have a CV which says “I was able to cut costs by 10%, or $500,000, within my first year”, rather than “I was responsible for putting in a software project”.
5. Have Industry Vision, and Stay Relevant
When it comes to looking at where you want to work, it pays to do regular research and to think with vision about your industry. To maximize your value and income, look for industries with high visionary growth/sustainability and avoid ones where the writing is on the wall. Or, if you like a particular industry, simply think about where the trends are going, and stay relevant.
a. Think back to Kodak prior to their demise – people worked there thinking they were in the ‘photo/polaroid’ business. However, if they realized they were actually in the ‘memories’ business, then they might have moved on to other companies with technologies like online or digital printing.
b. Think then about current industries – for example, airline employees don’t work for an airline company, they work for a transportation company. Maybe in a few years they should be moving to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop (high speed trains), or join a teleportation company – to grow with the industry before the tool which provides the transport outcome becomes obsolete.
In summary, the rules that kept your grandparents secure no longer apply. It’s our responsibility as millennials to remain agile, and add value at all times to secure our success.