The Great Postponement

My business partner and I have been in the L&D and OD business for 16 years, 12 of them as owners of ODI where we work with a large portfolio of sole traders who contract to us for our projects. Many of our contractors also work independently with their own clients in the L&D and OD space.

In the time that we have been in business from our home base in Christchurch New Zealand we have seen serious earthquakes in 2010-2012 and again in 2016, and Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. None of these have been good for business until a new normal has emerged and we have been able to pivot our services and return to our client sites.

At the present time of watching for Omicron to strike, we are experiencing the quietest and most uncertain times we have ever had. We are seeing many client L&D and OD decisions being delayed and contractor engagements being postponed. And we know that ‘postponement’ to be the same in other sectors and businesses; we see it in travel, accommodation and hospitality to name a few.

I am quite non-plussed by this and wonder what has happened to our society that our usual ‘go for gold’ character has been set aside in favour of ‘let’s wait and see’?

Have we become conditioned by the ‘information’ that government and the media present to us; most of which is conjecture and speculation about what Omicron might look like? 

Have we become dependent on political leadership to tell us how to react to uncertainty, losing our own initiative along the way?

Are we irrationally afraid, despite our high vaccination rates, and our practised compliance with checking in, masks, spacing, airflow, and our generally good health response capability?

Whatever it is, I am not liking it. It is causing great harm to the L&D and OD sector and to many others. And it is being felt now, unlike the earthquakes and Covid lockdowns, without the backstop of government financial support; as businesses, we are on our own at this red traffic light.

In L&D and OD I can see two serious impacts from this ‘postponement’; reduced learning opportunities in the near term for those at work; less learning means less practice change and less improvement in business results. Not a good outcome in a country where both organisational leadership and productivity are below par. And one where some have had plenty of challenges but little access to work-based learning in the last two years.

And I can see the sole traders and small businesses who make up our sector leaving for more certain futures as corporate or government employees; a bad outcome for all of us in the longer term as sector capability potentially diminishes.

I am not at all suggesting that we submit to Covid and let it roam free. What I am suggesting is that we step up to living with it right now, using all the science, processes and experience we have available, so that we take good care of both lives and livelihoods.

And, like every business in New Zealand, my business is essential to its owners and employees - we need access to RAT tests right now to keep our people safe and our doors open.