Learning Curves

04/29/2020 CHRC

Learning Curves

The Covid-19 pandemic has had many learning curves, and no doubt there are many still to come. Those amongst us who never much liked science or statistics have now become quite comfortable with the concepts of R0 and R1, exponential curve rates and trajectories of respiratory droplets. 

Hidden behind the vast statistics of those who have died are the lives lived by each of this virus’ victims. Americans have gained a new-found appreciation of the vital role that “essential workers” play in our everyday life. Not just the essential workers that are first responders and medical workers, but those in so many businesses that do the invisible work. In the case of Cesar Quirumbay, truly invisible work. 

One of those lives prompted Matthew Miller to write to the New York Times to laud the talents and mourn the man from the back room who could sew invisible stitches and smooth wrinkles away. He instructs us that “every obituary is both a remembrance of a life ended and an instruction to those of us still living.” In HR terms, the author and the late Mr. Quirumbay’s boss describe competencies that any employer dreams of: modesty, diligence, collaboration, teamwork, attention to detail, and sophisticated communication skills. For a labor economist, Mr. Quirumbay’s death highlights another cost of this pandemic—the cost of losing human capital while still on the upwards arc of the productivity curve. As for valuing that work, that invisible work, it is skilled labor that took over 20 years to develop and hone. It cannot be replaced easily. Read More Here