Thriving in a Recession: How to Build Resilient Teams

October 17, 2022


8 min

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Why do we need resilient teams?

Since 2020, the world has been replete with a string of ‘R words’: resistance, resignation, recession and resilience. With the ongoing recession-led unpredictability, businesses are now bracing for impact. According to McKinsey, “to thrive in the coming decade, companies must develop resilience—the ability to withstand unpredictable threats or change and then to emerge stronger.”

We’re already noticing the first signs of an economic downturn: inflation at its highest since the 1970s, the world’s three largest economies slowing sharply, a gas crisis in the face of a long winter, and redundancies in many tech firms.

As per McKinsey’s latest survey of business executives, more than half said that “an economic downturn is due to come by next quarter and will last for up to five quarters.”

So how can companies and employees thrive in such an uncertain economic climate? 

Here are a few ways for leaders to stay ahead in the game during a recession:

Focus on mental health and empathic communication

The Great Resignation was an obvious sign of a shift in values and the desire for better fulfilment and work-life balance. During the pandemic, many companies managed to make the shift to remote teams and kept their teams productive and engaged. 

Although these are certainly signs of workforce resilience, they come with certain high costs at the expense of talent and are not sustainable in the long term. 85% of employees experienced higher levels of burnout, and employees’ trust also declined, as did their willingness to embrace change.

HR leaders must focus on workforce health and happiness—and not just productivity—to achieve and sustain workforce resilience. Quick fixes are not enough. As leaders, we need to be mindful of individual needs: both professional and personal. What are some tactical measures you’ve taken to ensure your employees are happy, healthy and thriving? Some good starting points are investing in a mental health programme, scheduling regular check-in with your team, and making sure your employees are heard without judgement.

During a recession, companies must develop resilience—the ability to withstand unpredictable threats or change and then to emerge stronger.

Foster flexibility, connections and a sense of purpose

Creating a remote-first work environment that encourages flexible and asynch work helps employees find a better balance between work and play. For organisations, flexibility will also play a key role not only in terms of employer brand, but also in terms of overall reputation.

Recent technology transformations have changed workplaces, opening up a variety of opportunities, both for talent and employers alike. Relying on digital solutions for your talent management needs has become more of a necessity than an option. 

Employees also need to feel connected to one another. Gartner data shows that in times of disruption, connections in immediate working teams matter most. Highly cohesive teams have a 37% higher likelihood of sustaining workforce health.

Resilient firms focus on diversity and inclusion: onboarding globally will help you build an experienced and diversified workforce. Retaining and reskilling your employees while reflecting your company’s true self and values can help you build organisational and reputational resilience. Can your team function well without managers? Do they enjoy autonomy and ownership? 

Lastly, find out if your employees are simply sticking to their task lists or are aligned with your company’s purpose. Consider this quote from Netflix’s culture page: 

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Invest in skills, and celebrate the wins

Upskilling your talent is an underrated strategy that needs more focus. Helping employees build on their skills, attend workshops, take up courses helps them progress and builds their confidence. This is essential for their growth in the long run. Remember to celebrate your team’s successes every chance you get. Celebrate the wins, give shout outs to your team members, call them out for a job well done. It boosts team morale and it’s free!

Even in the face of an unpredictable future, if employees are rewarded, cherished and listened to, they will stick around and continue to do their best. Happy teams are built over time, through patience and people-focused approaches. 

Checklist for building thriving teams during a recession

Would you like to build diverse, resilient teams that can thrive during a recession? We have an in-house team of knowledge experts that specialise in hiring international employees in over 160 countries. Talk to one of our experts today to find out more.

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