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Managing People during a Recession

Managing People during a Recession

By Cheryl Stein
Monster Business Coach

Today’s economic environment makes managing people quite difficult. Everyone is afraid of being laid off, numbers don’t look good no matter how productive people are, and strategies that seem to have worked in the past no longer apply.

To add to this problem, people can no longer afford to retire and are staying in their jobs longer. This has caused great levels of anxiety as people fear for their futures. Younger workers feel that they won’t be able to move up as older workers continue to occupy coveted positions and older workers are holding on for dear life. As we come to the end of another dismal quarter, strategies for managing your anxiety filled workforce need to be employed to try and steer your companies to a healthier future. It’s time to start thinking ahead and planning for recovery.

Since one of the greatest assets that you have in your company is your people, what can you do to smooth some of the bumps in the road?

What are the Experts Saying?

While everybody and their mother is trying to come up with predictions on how and when things are going to start to get better, one thing is clear, knee jerk reactions are dangerous for Canadian Businesses. According to Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton of Harvard Business Review, (December 2008), " Unless the downturn threatens a company's existence, executives should focus on rooting out operational slack and inefficiency, not on modifying or sacrificing strategic initiatives, which build capabilities for long term competitive advantage.”

This idea has a lot of merit. Canadian businesses need to create long- range strategic vision. This focus on forward motion will have a ripple effect on your workforce. Focusing on pulling out of difficult times instead of dwelling on the problems of the present will energize your company and boost morale.
In the groundbreaking book, “Built to Last” by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the authors found that, among other factors, when companies understood the need to drive progress as well as had extremely lofty goals, they were way more likely to thrive in the long term.

What Does this Mean for Your Business?

  • Start thinking ahead. The economy is terrible, sales our down, people are miserable but in the end, things always recover. Where do you want to be sitting when that recovery happens? Take the time to do that analysis and make sure that when things start to change, you are exactly where you need to be to capitalize.
  • Link strategy and decision-making. The best strategic plans are useless if they don’t drive decisions. Don’t be one of those companies that engage in high level strategic planning once a year. Use strategic thinking every day when making decisions.
  • Creativity and chaos. Your best thinking and most innovative projects can emerge from uncertainty and difficulty. Focus on believing that you have the power to be victorious and start coming up with innovative ways to steer your company to financial health.

What does this mean for Your Workforce?

  • Value your people. The best way to weather any economic storm is as a team. If people feel that they are valued and that their contribution makes a difference, you will have their loyalty and support as you try to steer you company through troubled times.
  • Create a culture of creativity. The best ideas can come from the people within your organization as long as they feel that it is safe to add their two cents. Support and reward those that are willing to try and come up with solutions that will make your business better.
  • Be honest. The more you are honest with the people that work for you, the more loyalty and buy in you will have. Times are uncertain, relieve their anxiety by giving them as much information as you can about your companies plans and abilities to weather the storm.
  • Measure twice, downsize once. People will understand if you need to cut down on staff. They will not understand if you keep making cuts. Do a serious analysis if you are going to lay people off and make sure that the people that are left can go to work with relative security.

There is no denying that we are dealing with some difficult times ahead but if you can shift your focus to the future and engage the people that work for you, I have no doubt that you can be one of those companies that thrives.

Cheryl Stein is an Associate Certified Coach, a credential that is designated by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit Stein Consulting and Coaching.