Are you ready for a potential recession? Here’s how you can future proof your workforce

Future proof your workforce

In the past couple of months, there has been a lot of talk around whether to expect a recession in the near future or not. Economists have been concerned that the economic growth seen over the past decade can’t continue for much longer and that signs of a slowdown have started to rear their heads..

And while a number of experts have concurred that an economic downturn is not necessarily as likely as initially thought (although still possible), it remains important for businesses to be prepared for the worst in order to minimize the ‘shock’ of a recession should one strike.

How can this be done? Let’s take a look at a few fundamentals that can be put in place to future proof your workforce.

Motivation is key

While organizations who are serious about retention should always prioritize this, it becomes all the more critical to keep employees motivated and engaged when the possibility of a recession looms. As expert, Brian Kropp explained to Human Resource Executive, this approach will encourage employees to “lean in” with the organization to ride out the tough times, rather than “leaning out” which automatically creates further retention issues and places greater strain on budgets. Read more about the high cost of attrition here.

So, how do you keep employees motivated and leaning in?

Give them the opportunity to flourish and show them that you’re still committed to their growth as part of your organization. Even if you don’t have the resources to offer them expensive training opportunities, you could look into other avenues, like microlearning. This may be a more cost-effective route and one that shows that you value your employees and want to invest in their skills for the long run.

Beyond that, it’s important to continue to encourage innovation. High performers enjoy thinking out of the box and tend to be keen to put their skills to use outside of the scope of their immediate responsibilities. Not only does this allow them the autonomy that they crave, but they may even come up with creative ways to pull through a recession or to make your organization more robust in turbulent times. Read more about encouraging innovation and autonomy here.

A word of caution, though – be careful not to overload your high performers in times of trouble, as we’ll discuss more in the next point.

Retention efforts are essential

Kropp explains that people-related issues take a back seat when budget cuts occur – which, of course, has the potential to counteract your efforts to future proof your workforce and retain high performers. These employees are often relied on heavily during cash-strapped times and aren’t necessarily given any financial compensation for their extra effort.

With this being the case, organizations risk losing these employees to other companies where their contributions will be recognized, valued, and rewarded. If you are in a position where you aren’t able to immediately offer any financial compensation, evaluate other ways that you could reward these employees for their additional efforts. After all, modern employees are motivated by more than money.

As we’ve previously seen, today’s employees tend to be most attracted to rewards that are personalized, and are appropriate to their circumstances, their age, and their quality of life – for example, flexible working or time off in lieu of additional work could a long way in showing your appreciation to high performers.

Essentially, you want to show these employees that you’re invested in them for the long run and that they can trust that they’ll have the opportunity to advance at your company (which they also want to feel confident will succeed beyond any looming recession). Another way to reinforce your commitment to employees is by helping them develop a career map, outlining a plan for their growth at your organization. Read more about putting your employees’ career maps into action here.

Company culture is fundamental

With raised tensions and concerns during unstable financial times, employee behavior may be impacted. Kropp says that instances like falsifying expense reports or employees avoiding reporting workplace injuries, for example, may occur. If employees are concerned about their job security in light of a recession, they may behave in ways like these in an attempt to safeguard their jobs.

What’s the answer to this problem? The threat of a recession should prompt organizations to pay close attention to their company culture and should have strategies in place to future proof their workforce. While this is something that should never be neglected, you will likely need to put more emphasis on morale during trying times to keep employees engaged and committed to the organization’s standards, ethics and values.

We previously referred to Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on great leaders inspiring action, and we unpacked the fact that transformational leadership communicates a vision. By aligning your employee and systems to achieve this vision with integrity, you motivate them to incorporate higher values and ethics – ensuring that they will follow you for their own benefit. Read more on this topic here.

Adaptability is a must

Businesses who wish to excel in 2020 and beyond need to be agile and adaptable. These characteristics are among the most sought-after skills among individuals in the modern work world, and they should be high on the priority list at organizational level too. In one of our previous blogs, we delved into the trends that are shaping the modern work world and how these influence the need for businesses to be adaptable. Read more about how businesses can redesign their talent management processes for today’s workforce here.

Considering that organizations would need to be able to reduce operational costs, increase operational efficiency, ensure productivity, and hone their retention efforts in the face of a recession, adaptability becomes all the more critical to their ability to make it through the challenging times, and continue on their path towards growth and success.

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