The Need to Focus on Employees During Unsettling Economic Times

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Why Focusing on Employees During an Economic Downturn is Critical

As the Canadian Dollar drops, oil prices plummet and there is speculation of a housing crisis again, several industries and sectors will be badly hit. This may result in the need for layoffs, reduced budgets and fewer investments.  Many employees have experienced several economic downturns in their careers. During turbulent times, it is critical for leaders to focus on their people.

There are several reasons why:

Employees will have to do more with less

As your organization reacts to changing markets, employees will have to do more with less. At the same time, your employees may be concerned about whether or not they will be able to keep their jobs.

Experienced employees may be concerned about their personal financial situation or the security of their jobs.  Younger employers will manage their concerns by updating their resumes, budgeting for the eventuality of downsizing and actively considering other employment options.

The more leaders involve employees in creating solutions to your business’ challenges, the more you will mitigate their concerns and worry. Fear and worry cause people to be less productive, because their minds are distracted by matters other than the work at hand.  Look for ways to keep team members focused on achieving a common goal and provide incremental rewards along the way to demonstrate an appreciation for their dedication and hard work.

Need for rapid change management

As businesses need to adjust quickly to changing markets, so too do leaders.  This requires making change management decisions rapidly and helping employees through the change transition process.

It’s natural for employees to resist change. What leaders need to do to help employees move to the desired future state as quickly as possible is:

  • Be transparent about the current situation and the need to change
  • Describe the future state requirements and how it will benefit all employees
  • Embrace ambiguity and communicate what is and is not known
  • Provide support through coaching, feedback and active listening skills

Employees have multiple skill sets

Gen Xers have already experienced several downturns in the economy throughout their careers and Gen Ys are often very flexible and adaptable. In addition, many Gen Ys have the support of their parents and may choose not to work somewhere if they are not happy regardless of the economic situation

For some employees, an economic downturn may be an opportunity to go back to school, volunteer or work abroad. Addressing their needs during a tough period will keep them more engaged and you will be more likely to retain them. The goal isn’t to keep employees forever; the goal is to retain high performing employees for as long as possible, ensuring they are highly motivated and engaged.

What employees experience today, impacts your recruitment & retention success tomorrow

HR professionals and leaders need to recognize that how you treat employees today will impact your ability to recruit and retain talent  in the future, especially during positive growth cycles.If you don’t treat employees fairly now, you run the risk that they will jump ship the moment the labour market allows them to do so.

Gen Ys, who have high expectations of corporate social responsibility, consider the treatment of employees as a factor when evaluating your organization’s level of responsibility. They are often very connected with their ‘pack’ and are fantastic viral messengers. Many Gen Ys use the internet to warn each other of corporate cultures that are not engaging. This may impact employees’ decisions to join, leave or stay with your organization.

Your organization’s reputation is bound to be broadcast through Twitter, Facebook or a blog. This could impact your future ability to get, keep and grow a high performing workforce if you don’t have a strong employer brand.

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that help clients target, motivate and engage employees in order to increase performance and productivity. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies across North America. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. With close to 20 years of experience in learning and development, she has devoted more than 13 years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance.

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