Is your employee experience recession-proof?

Suzanne Rouart

Written By Suzanne Rouart

3rd October 2022

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Prioritise employee experience to help recession-proof your organisation

There’s no escaping the fact that the impending recession will have a significant impact on already over-stretched HR teams. As businesses face inevitable cost-cutting that may put jobs at risk, and the soaring cost-of-living crisis impacts employee wellbeing, HR are again at the forefront of another crisis, and are the linchpin of managing the impact on our most valuable assets – people.

HR teams are already battling against the toughest recruitment landscape in a generation, coupled with employee engagement challenges driven by The Great Reflection and quiet quitting, so finding the time to focus on how to help mitigate the impact of the recession will be tougher than ever – but critical!

Now is the time that HR leaders need to be prioritising transformation strategies that streamline ways of working so that their teams are prepared and sufficiently agile to deal with the impact of this latest crisis.

Employee experience is vital in protecting the health of your organisation

For many business leaders, preparing for the impact of recession comes down to reducing costs, stalling new initiatives, and battening down the hatches in an attempt to weather the storm. What may not be top of agendas is the part employee morale, motivation and engagement plays in enduring the effects of a recession.

The uncertainty and looming change that come with recession bring into sharp focus the need to prioritise protecting employee morale, because low morale will have a direct impact on performance, and in an economic crisis that is likely to impact negatively on headcount, this creates an even greater business risk.

There are copious studies that demonstrate the correlation between positive employee experiences and business performance, so when faced with the challenge of protecting revenue while containing costs, maintaining employee productivity is imperative to success. Therefore, prioritising employee experience strategies that ensure your workforce can deliver their best work should be high on recession-proofing agendas.

Top 6 priorities for recession-proofing in the era of employee experience

1. Prepare your managers for recession

A key component of successful recession planning is to consider how you can empower line managers to take more ownership of people matters. Giving managers the tools to effectively, consistently and safely manage more employee relations matters, such as absenteeism, poor performance, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) issues, and grievances, will help to build closer relationships that nurture the emotional commitment employees have with the organisation. This is even more important during times of uncertainty and stress.

During an economic downturn, HR teams need to be as strategic as possible in order to respond quickly to opportunities and threats, and drive initiatives that build an agile workforce. Empowering managers to self-manage more employee relations tasks will free up HR teams from tactical support so that they can focus on strategic recession planning and providing the right support to the wider workforce.

2. Recognise the impact on everyone

With the inevitable threat of job losses and reduced headcounts increasing the pressure on employees, ensuring your workforce feel recognised, valued and heard will help to increase their trust and loyalty. It’s critical to recognise and do what you can to support and reward the efforts of your employees to ensure they remain engaged, productive and committed throughout the crisis.

Monitor and listen. Consider how you can ensure employees feel heard. If you don’t already do so, consider benchmarking your employee experience now so that you can monitor any changes that may impact organisational health.

Communicate effectively. Engaging employees in what’s happening in the wider business will offer reassurance, even if the news isn’t always positive. Transparency and honesty are key to enhancing employee experiences.

3. Review how your HR technology supports your employee experience strategy

The pandemic demonstrated the speed with which businesses can digitally transform when there are no other options, and HR teams were responsible for the selection and implementation of solutions to support radical new ways of working. This was also in a time where furlough and redundancies meant that HR headcounts were tight and they were having to do a lot more with less. The businesses that emerged strongest were those that invested in technology that helped to drive efficiency within their own teams, as well as the wider business. This will be of equal, if not more importance as we face the impact of the recession.

Making significant investments in an economic downturn may seem counterintuitive, but the pandemic demonstrated the value of investment in digital transformation during times of crisis. When headcount is tight, the right technology is critical for simplifying ways of working and helping to streamline and standardise processes, making them more efficient, visible and consistently applied.

Reviewing how well your technology supports your people strategy will relieve the pressure on overstretched teams and deliver more consistent employee experiences.

4. Ensure you have visibility of the data required to make informed decisions

Monitoring and analysing the right people data will help you to quickly identify where there are risks and opportunities that may impact the business in a recession. This could be honing in a on a department with a high level of absence or employee churn, or it could be identifying best practise that can inform the rest of the business.

Greater visibility of people insights will help to drive data-driven decisions and help to avoid knee-jerk reactions in times of crisis.

5. Support idea generation and innovation

Although innovation may be one of the first initiatives to stall when cashflow is being tightly controlled, agility in a recession is critical for survival, so seeking employees’ ideas and inspiring a passion for innovation could help set you apart from the crowd. Manager-empowerment is a key part of this as they act as the ears on the ground. Tasking them with keeping momentum on idea sharing, particularly around issues that may impact performance, will help to keep the business moving forward.

6. Ensure your Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy remains a priority

As we’ve already covered above, EDI remains a priority. As belts tighten, business leaders may be tempted to stall EDI initiatives, but the data points towards a focus on EDI being a contributing factor in successfully navigating the impact of recession. Investing in creating a culture that embraces a diverse workforce will help to protect the business through this period of uncertainty.

People-empowered business transformation gives you a competitive advantage

Prioritising employee experience in recession planning will help to position your company to move forward, while your competitors retreat. But getting this right requires business-wide engagement and commitment. Check out our 10-step guide to implementing a successful people-empowerment strategy in this HR Leader Success Kit.

People-empowerment is about giving managers and employees the tools to ensure they feel fully supported to do their best work, and valued and recognised for who they are and the contribution they make to the business. HR teams that are focussed on developing a culture and employee experience strategies that empower managers to build empathy with their teams will be on the right path to creating healthier organisations that are better placed to withstand the impact of the recession.

HR leaders that don’t recognise the urgency with which they need to transform ways of working and demonstrate their commitment to employee experience will be unprepared for the impact of the recession and risk losing talent to companies that actively demonstrate a people-first culture.

empower® will help recession-proof your organisation

empower® is a leading Employee Relations solution from AdviserPlus. It combines custom-built technology, designed by HR experts to digitally simplify your people processes, complemented by support from our expert team and in-depth HR analytics services that help you build a positive culture, making employee relations simple, easy to access and agile. empower®  will help to recession-proof your people processes and give you the tools to build a healthier organisation that can respond more efficiently to change.

See the opportunity in action

To help you to move quickly on recession planning, book a demo to find out how we can help with the transformation of your people processes and how empowering managers will deliver business-changing results. As part of the demo we’ll show you real-world examples of how we increase efficiency, consistency and free up your HR experts to focus on strategies that will recession-proof your business.

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