Economists and industry experts have been discussing the possibility of a recession for months. Recessions are difficult for companies and employees in the workplace, but in some ways, they’re a force to bring balance back into the economy.
Elon Musk said it at a tech conference in the spring. “I’ve been through a few [recessions],” he said in May. “And what tends to happen is if you have a boom that goes on too long, you get a misallocation of capital. It starts raining money on fools, basically,” Musk added. A recession, painful as it is, clears out weaker companies and weaker performers.
We’ve noticed it in the staffing industry as well. When a booming economy goes on for a long time, it’s hard to tell top performers from workers who just got lucky. As the economy tightens, companies will have to determine who the real performers are and make some tough decisions about who to retain and how to weather the storm.
There’s no question that the balance of power has shifted to workers over the past year of recovery from the pandemic. But we believe we’re about to see a shift back.
That means some of the policies they implemented to recruit and hang on to talent will change. Crazy signing bonuses. Salaries that were not in alignment with job responsibilities. Letting employees work all the time remotely. It may not be easy; there’s bound to be resistance. A manager recently complained that she was struggling to get her own administrative assistant to come into the office one or two days a week so they could meet face-to-face.
Employers are ready to get back to regular office hours, according to surveys. A recent Microsoft survey of more than 20,000 employees in 11 countries found differences of opinion on remote work. While 87 percent of employees said that working from home increased their productivity, 80 percent of supervisors didn’t concur. That probably means more office time for more workers very soon.
As the economy tightens, the company’s focus will change from what the employees need to what the company needs. Workers will have to make decisions about what they want from their careers, how and how much they want to work, and what they’re willing to give up to feel satisfied in their jobs.
Young workers who started their professional careers during the pandemic don’t know how the workplace used to function. The very fact that “quiet quitting” is an open secret shows that workers think the balance of power will remain with them indefinitely.
This may sound like very basic coaching, but there’s a formula at work when companies make decisions about who to keep and who to let go. They look for value first: who is making a difference to the bottom line? Who is still bringing their A game, even as business slows down? Who is still working at learning, innovating, and breaking new ground?
If a worker is not on the positive side of that equation, it will be difficult to make the case for staying, let alone justify raises, promotions, or perks like remote work.
The company’s performance, and that of its workers, will be measured against competitors. In a weaker economy, only strong companies that make good decisions about talent retention will be standing after the storm. As a worker, you’ll need to balance your wishes and preferences for work against the reality of business cycles in the 21st century.
Fourth Quarter Rally: Blog Series on Strategies for Winning During Confusing Times
Our current blog series, Fourth Quarter Rally: Winning During Confusing Times, will examine what is happening in the marketplace and how you capitalize on growth while preparing for a recession. We’ll be bringing you people strategies for both “Thrive” and “Survive” modes and ways to get back in touch with your core values and use them as guideposts for good times and not-so-good times.
We will also talk a little tough about the realities ahead because success is a good deodorant. When things get tough, you will soon know if there is anything rotten that needs to be addressed. Our advice is to do those assessments now while things are good. Take advantage of the fourth quarter to continue to win while ensuring your team is the right one with the right talent to play the game well when times get harder.
About the Author:
Rich Thompson, CEO of XPG Recruit, is an expert on staffing, human resources, training and leadership development. He is also a former All-Big Ten football player for the University of Wisconsin. XPG Recruit provides recruiting for staffing companies. The XPG Recruit Athlete division places former athletes into business careers and works closely with universities through its sister company, Podium X.