Human Resource Opportunities and Imperatives in an Economic Downturn

Team thinking

There is no question, we are in a downturn, slowdown, or some  even say a recession here  in Newfoundland and Labrador. In response, leaders often instinctively look internally to reduce costs,  frequently through downsizing and increasing productivity, while protecting their  client  base. However, this can be a time of opportunity. It may be hard to believe but downturns are a great  time to leverage talent internally and externally to drive efficiencies, take advantage of internal talent capacity, and respectfully exit lower performing employees to make way for top talent that  is available in the market.  Here are five areas to consider capitalizing on in a downturn:

Align HR Strategically
No matter what business you are in, do not lose sight of your vision, values, and people. Talent is all that  you have to drive your strategy and meet your organizational objectives. Take the time to review  or define your core business, key strategies, and your talent needs to effectively execute your plan. If you are lucky enough to have  internal or outsourced Human Resources support, make sure  HR focus  is strategic, forward thinking  and not just process driven  or reactive.

Cut Strategically and Respectfully
You will most  likely need to streamline to weather this economic storm. Based on the review  of your strategy and talent, now is the time to cut with precision in the areas that  need change or are less impactful on the bottom line, not just a reduction company wide. Every day, we see  how streamlining and downsizing can be done humanely and respectfully to reflect your values and reputation. In the case  of downsizing, ensuring ‘surviving’ employees are engaged and committed will be more important than ever before.

With a leaner, more  efficient organization and an understanding of your talent needs, now is the time to take advantage of the best talent in the market – many are open to move  or currently available so find that  top talent now in this ‘hirers’ market.

Engage and Develop Top Talent
Unless your business thrives in a downturn, it can be extremely stressful for you and your top performers. Don’t misperceive your star performers’ high level of performance as loyalty in this time of uncertainty or think they  are not being courted by other companies. They want to grow and evolve their  careers so ensuring these ‘stars’ are engaged must be a top priority. Ensure top performers are recognized, rewarded and, most importantly, feel that  they  have  a future in the organization. As reflected in your succession plan, show them  what may be possible and provide appropriate support to help  them  get there, whether it be through education, coaching, mentoring, or stretch assignments.

Strengthen All Talent
You now have  a lean, efficient workforce with engaged top performers but don’t forget about the solid performers that drive the everyday workings  of your organization. Expand their  skills and competencies to strengthen competitive advantages, service your clients to a higher  standard, and better ensure their commitment and engagement; after  all, engagement drives  productivity and the bottom line. Consider such options as cross training, secondments, or even government funded training options (Canada-NL Job Grant) to enhance technical or soft skills.

Finally, no matter what you do, communicate, communicate, communicate. Be honest about the situation, share the vision on weathering the storm, and offer support and encouragement. Your team  is looking to you for leadership, now more  than ever. Look for the opportunity to strengthen your company by supporting the folks that drive it.
This article  originally appeared in Business News (2016)