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Managing Employee Uncertainty During a Recession

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Much has been written regarding the financial woes and the dark economic future of Louisiana. The troubled oil and gas industry coupled with job loss throughout the state across numerous sectors has fostered a tense climate when it comes to business. After being in a recession for quite some time, businesses across the state have seen everything from consistent layoffs to the abrupt closures of entire organizations. Meanwhile, New Orleans has been able to weather the storm better than other areas within the state. Despite the city’s resilience, New Orleans businesses should still be cognizant of how to ensure that they are able to resist any damage that accompanies a statewide recession. An important aspect in tackling this issue is properly informing your employees about how you are planning to cope with dire economic conditions. If your team is haunted by the fear of layoffs much of their time will be spent searching and preparing for their next job. Keeping them in the dark greatly impacts morale and productivity and can accelerate your company’s downfall. By making a commitment to internal transparency, you can effectively strengthen your team by putting to rest any doubts they may have while helping them to understand just exactly what needs to be accomplished. Additionally, streamlining communication and strategy implementation will allow you to empower your workforce while still achieving your objectives despite changing conditions.

Transparency

One of the more popular buzzwords regarding management is transparency. As companies wrestle with industry changes, as well as larger economic shifts they benefit greatly from understanding what can be gained through transparency. As mentioned earlier, many Gulf South companies are facing an uncertain economic climate, and the first major benefit transparency grants is the easing of uncertainty amongst your team. Your employees are undoubtedly aware of larger changes that could potentially affect them, and having honest communication with them regarding your firm’s plans will go a long way in easing any pent up anxiety. In addition to reassuring any doubts your team may have about the sustainability of the organization, transparency also ensures that you continue to have employees that actually are helping you navigate these uncertain times. Consider our previous article on performance indicators for more guidance on measuring the impact employees are having on the firm and compensating them accordingly. Your performance indicators should be readily available to the entire company; by sharing them you will ensure that everyone is working together to achieve very clear goals.

Once you are able to accept the benefits of transparency, it is important to make a commitment to enacting it in very practical ways. Simply providing employees with the larger strategy goals is only half the battle. If you find it wise to share your company’s strategic plans internally, you should also contextualize all information. If you are able to convince everyone of the overall health of the firm you will see an increase in motivation. Doing as much as you can to reassure your team that you have a plan to navigate troubled waters in invaluable. Finally, regarding employee performance, having frank discussions about what is expected and what is being accomplished is paramount. If you are a logistics company that is faced with layoffs you have a unique opportunity to make informed decisions based upon your performance indicators. Committing to having clear expectations of all of your drivers makes the layoff discussion that much easier in that there will be no questions regarding standards of performance. Simply glossing over talks about performance hinders the professional growth of your team while ensuring that the company will rarely hit its goals. A recession brings radical changes in many forms, from decreasing customers to layoffs, and transparent communication will ensure that you avoid the problem of an underperforming team. Periodic meetings to discuss issues, good and bad, will go a long way to developing respect and trust amongst your team.

Changing Strategy Meetings

Strategy is another buzzword, like transparency, that is quite complex, but needs to be harnessed effectively in times of ambiguity. Specifically, you may currently employ a method of execution that is slow and ineffective. If your organization approaches strategy execution with a series of meetings in which orders are simply handed down to others, you are embarking on a dangerous game of telephone that causes a divide between what is originally agreed upon, and what actually happens. Strategy can be more effective when a few key tactics are employed to empower your team in a meaningful way. First, you should dedicate some strategy meetings to simply providing information regarding the pressing challenges and potential solutions you seek to provide. By not dictating marching orders, your employees will feel like they are actually a part of an integral process. Also, do not expect to come out of the conversation with a clear plan for every possible problem. The utility of open strategy meetings is to properly inform everyone and provide a platform for potentially innovative ideas.

Being cognizant of your team’s feelings during times of uncertainty is an integral part of being an effective manager. The tenets laid out should serve as an organizational framework that you can use to evaluate your very specific situation. Perhaps you are weathering the recession quite nicely, nonetheless, there is no limit to how strong your team can become.

Andrew J. Albert