At 2:35 a.m. ET on the morning of November 9, the Associated Press proclaimed Donald Trump the winner of the 2016 presidential election, making him the 45th president in United States history. With any new president comes a new and often uncertain economic landscape. This is especially the case when the incoming president comes from the opposing party. Not only will Republicans control the executive branch come January, they will control both chambers in Congress and have the power to replace the vacant seat on the Supreme Court.
These developments could mean big changes are afoot in the global market for talent. While Trump laid out a number of economic and social proposals on the campaign trail that could have strong implications for business, many of them lacked specifics, leaving many executives in the dark. Nevertheless, based on things Trump said during the campaign, there are some policy positions he is likely to follow through on that will influence how companies manage their talent. His tough talk on trade, promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strict stance on immigration could have long-lasting implications for business leaders reliant on globalization and visas for high-skilled immigrants. Trump also took a hard-line stance on the technology industry — a sector that values skilled immigrants, gets most of its revenue from overseas and, while it has proved successful in earning profits and bolstering stock-market valuations, has done little by way of adding middle-class jobs.
Still, even though many executives will remain in wait-and-see mode when it comes to the new administration’s policy proposals, there are a few short-term implications that Trump’s election victory is likely to bring.
The first is around brand, specifically the brand of U.S. business abroad. Trump’s brand as a businessman, as reported by many news outlets during the campaign, paints him in a very negative light. And for many observers his behavior on the campaign trail didn’t exactly exude a polite and diplomatic approach to dealing with others. How will Trump’s brand as a fearless and unrelenting businessman translate when he is sworn into office? Perhaps more important, will Trump’s brand stand as a representation of how all U.S. leaders do business?
For many other countries around the world, Trump’s victory and protectionist views on trade and immigration cast him as a hate-filled, anti-globalization leader. Will executives from other countries begin to paint all U.S. business leaders similarly? This point is exacerbated by the likelihood that many of Trump’s cabinet members are likely to be former top executives from U.S. businesses who share many of his policy views. While for many that may indicate a Trump administration would be pro-business, there may be larger brand implications for how foreign executives view the U.S. business community.
The second implication has to do with corporate culture. For years now leaders have progressed the idea that company cultures need to be less top-down, more collaborative, more transparent and more unifying. But in electing a president with a business reputation of being more top-down, more hard-handed, less collaborative, less transparent and more interested in promoting his own brand and self-interest, does that translate into how executives and managers view and continue to teach modern ideas of corporate culture? If we as a country look to our president as an example, what sort of behaviors and tactics will the business community adopt from a President Trump?
These are questions that won’t find answers anytime soon. But it’s important for executives of all political stripes to consider not just how a new administration’s policies will affect their business and their view of managing talent, but how it will impact our brand abroad as well as the continued progress we’ve made on transforming our internal corporate cultures.
Frank Kalman is Talent Economy’s Managing Editor.
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