More Thoughts on the Invisible Hand and Skilled Worker Shortage

Guest Post by Dave Bradford, President, William Bradford Associates, Cleveland Ohio.

David Bradford  for BlogDave publishes a series of PROTALK roundtable discussions to improve professional sales skills of industrial distributors, including steel service centers.

We hit a nerve with Dave with our post on Why Isn’t The Invisible Hand Training Enough Skilled Workers?  As  a business student at the University of Chicago, Dave heard first hand from Nobel prize winners George Stigler and Milton Friedman on the subject.

“Friedman suggested that the phrase ‘the invisible hand’ refers to ‘the possibility of cooperation without coercion,’” according to Dave.

Here is Dave Bradford’s take on why ‘the invisible hand’ hasn’t provided us the skilled workers we need.

1) The timing is not right. Without an economic imperative to improve skills and having it seen as a necessity to fulfill the mission of the company, training will not be a priority. Once training becomes an imperative to the mission in management’s eyes,  steps needed will be taken to supply skilledworkers. 

Speaking of Precision (SOP):  It is up to us, not ‘invisible hands’ and we’ll do it as we see the need.)

2) We lack a priority on skilled training.  Making skilled worker training a priority is similar to heat treating in steel, according to Dave.  Just as heat treating rearranges the atoms in a structure to achieve a desired result, so too should our managements have a process  for rearranging the priorities in our companies. Management can achieve a more profitable outcome by investing in this training and including it in long term planning by applying ‘heat’ to the company’s priorities.

SOP: Why did a former boss talk about “holding people’s feet to the fire“… the invisible hand’s job being to hold those feet right there.

3) We require a sharper focus on critical skills within workers, an asset as yet untapped by management.  Stephen Covey’s inside-out approach recognizes that potential for skills exists within capable people, but doesn’t contribute to the bottom line until management unleashes it.  ‘Sharpening the saw’ is Covey’s phrase for  ongoing renewal. This idea applies to our workers,  by providing them with refresher and advanced skill training to perform at their optimum level. Peter Drucker says essentially the same thing: Optimize positive forces in a company to make negative factors irrelevant.  

SOP: ‘The invisible hand’ is management’s awareness of its resources to develop and improve critical skills in workers. This awareness either exists or it doesn’t. Dave Bradford sees the phrase  as ambiguous, which serves to kindle  economic, political and academic discussions. He implies that the invisible hand may simply be an alias for “us.”

Why don’t we make skills training a priority, rearrange our carbon atoms, and ‘sharpen our saw’ by focusing on untapped human resources? Maybe the invisible hand is, in fact, the hand that we aren’t seeing at the end of our own arm. Are we doing enough to benefit society by pursuing our own interest?

Have we done enough to pursue our own interest, so that society too can benefit?

Have we done enough to pursue our own interest, so that society too can benefit?

Invisible Hand Graphic courtesy Micro Loan  Bank Kiva

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