Nearly five years have passed since the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed, and one lasting result has been a change in the way businesses are staffed: most companies now operate with fewer workers, relying more on automation and technology.  The workers who have remained find themselves assuming more duties, and accumulating more skills. As the economy improves and more jobs become available, it’s logical that employees will seek new positions to take advantage of their circumstances -- seeking better benefits, wages and above all, job satisfaction.

The next wave of economic growth will come from those remaining workers.  In the 21st Century smart companies are leveraging the inventiveness, ingenuity, creativity, and “tricks of the trade” to be found in their remaining workforce, drawing on these resources to launch new products and services.  This is your final warning: In order to ride the next wave of economic growth, to shorten the sales learning curve and expand market share, you need to access the assets available to you. Many of the skills, knowledge and abilities — SKAs — you need now are already available in your remaining workforce.

It’s understood that the value of a company is reflected in its stock price, but not always: Microsoft trades at a market value far in excess of its book value. Chairman Bill Gates is one of the world’s richest people, but he didn’t start out that way.  He doesn’t own mines, refineries, or factories, and yet he’s worth tens of billions of dollars.  How did he get so rich?

The answer is that in the Information Age, great wealth no longer depends on controlling physical assets.  Intellectual capital, those same SKAs, has superseded the value of agricultural and industrial assets.  

To succeed in the Information Age, you must maximize the value of intellectual capital. Henry Ford exploited his own insights to build an industrial empire, but we have passed the time when any company can own all the resources on which to build new wealth.  The best opportunity is to harness the value of your organization’s SKAs by documenting and sharing that information with all employees.   

Managing resources is another element of successful businesses, those that find ways to maximize the value of their financial assets, facilities, and equipment.  In the Information Age, the challenge is managing intellectual capital — the SKAs of the remaining workforce; the intangibles, like solving complex problems; and the decision-making knack that grows from education and experience. 

In my experience as a business consultant, I have encountered many examples of managers who have purchased new equipment to replace workers, overlooking the SKAs, that mix of experience, education, values, information, expertise, and initiation that sustains organizations. SKAs are the explicit knowledge of your workers, including expertise that in some cases means only one person can do a particular job.  Often SKAs are not stored in company documents, but reside in the minds of remaining workers.  Recent reporting about “the skills gap” make it clear that a tremendous amount of knowledge has been lost to manufacturing businesses, leaving organizations to face the challenge of growth without the SKAs necessary to thrive in the Information Age.