Storm Clouds

Storm Clouds

By Tom Conroy, Managing Director, GattiHR Industrial

The stock market took a big dive today… actually, I’m not sure when this will be published, but I suspect I have around a 50-50 shot at being right. Volatility being what it is these days, it’s sort of a coin toss. 

I graduated in 2008, so I ran my first job search in the middle of the financial crisisSome of my peers rode it out in a master’s program, not because that was their plan, but because it was a LOT easier than finding a job. More often than not, my friends saw it as buying time before starting their career, but for the most part, it was a good investment.  I’m now 33 years old, run the Industrial Practice at GattiHR, and manage 10 people. 


Turn it into a positive  

I realize this is the first time since starting my career we are going to potentially be in a recession. So far, it’s been a pretty good century for me.  Early 2000s, I was in middle school; 2008, I managed to land in a job where I could prove myself.  I’m realizing most companies have a lot of people and managers who are in the same boat I’m in – a significant part of their workforce really hasn’t had to navigate a recession.  The companies who help them navigate through this, even if a portion of them don’t stay, will wind up with a committed and engaged workforce and rabidly supportive alumniThose that don’t will wind up with demoralized and resentful employees, and rabidly negative ex-employees. 

I’m not talking about using fear tactics about the recession to scare your talent into staying. Or to use that fear as a tool in general. I’m talking about taking an opportunity that hasn’t presented itself in a while to build good will. It’s not about politics, policies, or taking advantage of the situation in a selfish way but being an employer that engages their people with transparent communications, broadly participative problem-solving, and when bad things happen, empathic support. 

Strong Relationship

Basics of building a strong relationship

Like most things in life, it all starts with listening more and talking less. Of course, your organization already does a lot of this.  One-on-ones, team meetings and town halls can seem like a huge time-suck when the economy is roaring, and an even bigger time suck when things get tight.  The fact is though, they work.  There are also things that can leverage scarce management time, keep leadership’s finger on the pulse of their organization, demonstrate concern and collect specific, actionable data.  Focused, continuously sampling climate survey programs, organizational network analysis and video town halls can extend leadership’s reach and effectiveness, and the technology to do them are downright cheap.   

It’s also important to ask broad questions, not just the work-related stuff that leaders usually limit themselves to. What about reaching out to hear their thoughts on the economy in general?  Most leaders will be able to recognize the angst their employees have and address some of their concerns without making commitments or promises that they may not be able to keep. Simply and sincerely acknowledging that “I hear you, and we’re all in this together” is an opportunity for engagement and retention. Walk through what happened in the specific industry during “non-2008” recessions. Or reference industry specific down turns. Explain how the business is positioned to handle a recession. All of these are questions that employees are wondering about If all they hear is silence, then the 24-hour news cycle will be doing the talking for you.  Rather than ask you hard questions, a lot of team members will simply start looking for jobs, just in case. As soon as your talent pick up their heads to evaluate what else is out there, the recruiting industry will make sure they digest a healthy dose of viable options. 

So, before the recession comes, hopefully later rather than sooner, take the time to bring the recession news to a meeting.  Senior leaders, prepare to answer some basic recession questions, or at least be able to point to some historic data. Millennials, do your research, so you don’t think 2008 when you hear recession. Challenges and hardships produce opportunities for organizations and individuals. Let’s not put blinders up and engage our teams. 

As Managing Director of GattiHR Industrial, Tom leads executive search for the Integrated Supply Chain and General Management practices. Working with our proprietary tools and techniques, Tom has helped his network actively manage their careers.