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As economists and financial leaders continue to debate the possibility of an economic recession in 2023, there is little doubt this hot topic is creating a great sense of uncertainty for businesses and a disruption in the workforce. While companies are likely focused on continuing operations, workers are on edge for professional and personal reasons, leading to distracted employees and reduced performance that affects the bottom line.
Although economic indicators fluctuate, and recession forecasts are ever-changing, savvy business leaders understand the unwavering foundation of their business is people – a company’s greatest asset. Successful leaders emphasize taking care of their people — in good times and bad — to stay the course, leverage opportunities and weather any storms, leading to more resilient companies anchored by an engaged, secure workforce.
Below are three ways people-focused business leaders can address recessionary concerns to make employees feel safe.
1. Practice clear communication
In a world of 24-hour news cycles filled with dynamic views about a recession, it is not surprising that employees may feel confused and concerned about the economy and their employer’s stability. Human nature dictates that workers will naturally rely on those they trust. They look to leaders for clear communication, guidance, reassurance and a path forward to help alleviate any fears.
While practicing clear communication is key in all business situations, it is even more critical during times of uncertainty, which employers and employees are all too familiar given the last three years. Prior communication strategies serve as a solid knowledge base to inform current decision-making tactics.
Leaders should consider what worked, what didn’t and areas for improvement. Frequent, clear and consistent communication throughout the company can help to reinforce the company’s position and its vision forward. Hence, employees feel secure and free to focus on the tasks at hand. For example, acknowledging recessionary concerns and sharing insights through CEO video messages/all-employee meetings, manager updates during team meetings with time for employee Q&As and relevant content/links posted on the intranet are ways for leaders to keep workers informed and to help them feel more secure.
2. Promote the culture
A strong corporate culture can be a differentiating factor during uncertain times because employees need to feel supported and cared for by their work family, providing a critical sense of belonging that leads to camaraderie and a united front as everyone faces the possibility of an economic recession together. Therefore, promoting the culture by reinforcing existing policies, programs and benefits, or creating new ones, should be top of mind for business leaders.
When leaders make a concerted effort to understand employee wants and needs regarding particular situations – similar to offering more flexible scheduling during the pandemic – it can go a long way toward cultivating an environment in which employees feel appreciated and leads to a confident, engaged workforce.
For example, many employee assistance programs (EAPs) offer access to financial resources, mental health and well-being programs, and personal or professional guidance free of charge to employees and family members. Another way to support employees is through financial wellness programs that delve into developing a budget, reducing debt, understanding credit and saving for college or retirement, which can help employees gain more confidence in managing their finances.
3. Offer unique financial perks
Although the economy is uncertain, the still-tight labor market is a valid concern for many organizations. Therefore, offering unique financial perks is one way to attract and retain top talent. When employers think outside of the box by providing benefits to help ease employees’ financial burdens, it not only acknowledges economic concerns but also demonstrates empathy because leaders understand what it is like to feel financial stressors.
There are numerous ways companies can provide financial assistance to support employees while standing out as a great workplace. For example, employers might consider offering employees lump-sum financial benefits workers can use at their discretion for groceries, gas, elder/child care, utilities and other living expenses. Additional areas to consider are assistance with student loan repayments, tuition reimbursement, access to short-term loans and company match on 401(k) accounts. When employers go above and beyond to address financial issues, employees take notice and realize business leaders have their best interests at heart.
As business leaders face the possibility of a recession, their number one priority should be taking care of their people — the lifeblood of a company’s existence — to help ensure they feel informed, supported and secure in the workplace.