Article by: Joan Beets
Companies are starting to manage shareholder expectations and news about reorganizations and layoffs are becoming more frequent, as the likelihood of a recession increases. Standard playbook for when an economic downturn is looming you would say. Yes, but we are not living in standard times when it comes to the talent market, making the employee experience even more important.
We are tired, having hardly been able to recover from the pandemic before the next crisis hit with the war in Ukraine and soaring inflation. And we are still more likely to walk away from a job without having a new one if unhappy, despite the economic uncertainty. You may argue that if there is a recession, people will be less likely to quit. Personally, I would not make that bet. We still have talent shortages in many functions and industries, work-life balance has become and stayed a top priority since the pandemic, and we have become more open to alternative ways of working such as freelancing and fully remote jobs.
That means that if you do have to restructure, how you take your employees along in this process will be key. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing exactly those people you need to make the turnaround. Be clear on the why (reason for change) and the what (strategy and goals) and then ask your people what they need to be able to make it happen. Not what they want, what they need. There is a difference between asking employees what they want versus what they need. When you ask about needs, instead of wants, you will get more potential strategies to fulfil that need and shape a positive employee experience. Strategies that will work for both your organization and employees alike. So, involve your coworkers in the how, listen to them and make them part of the solution.
And if you do need to let some of your people go, do so in a way that they leave your company as a brand ambassador. Put as much thought into your offboarding process as you do in your onboarding process. Make it memorable, in a good way. Not just because everyone deserves a respectful and caring parting, but also because negative offboarding experiences impact the morale of those who are not let go, increases their likelihood of leaving, and impacts your ability to (re)hire talent in the future due to reputational damage.
Making decisions that impact peoples’ lives is not easy and sometimes we cannot avoid them. What we can influence, however, is how those decisions are experienced by people. In the words of Maya Angelou – “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So think about the employee experience and remember; your employees are the same people who just spent the last 3 years working harder than ever to keep life and business going during a pandemic, changing the way they worked and lived overnight. And they did so successfully because they care about what they do, so show them the same care.