Blog Thought Leadership

Recession or not? It’s getting hot out there.

Time to call in the smokejumpers. 

Throughout 2022, the financial press kept us on the edge of our seats, predicting a recession that has yet to show up. Even though a recession hasn’t caught fire, you may be feeling the heat from the pressure of layoffs and budget cuts while still nurturing your hard-working (and potentially side-eye giving?) employees.

How about taking a cue from the pros, like smokejumpers? Smokejumpers are elite, highly trained teams who assess the fiery landscape from above before dropping into strategic locations to fight the fire. 

It’s the view from above that is the key. 

Instead of hacking away on the nearest ridge while missing the inferno beyond the next hill, smokejumpers use the 10,000-foot perspective and coordinate with teams on the ground. They work strategically to put out the fire and contain the damage so the ecosystem can recover more quickly. 

Let’s look at some possible strategic jumps you can take to help your company and teams navigate the uncertain fires – and keep their eyes front and center on trusting you. 

Smokejump 1: The L word – layoffs

The way layoffs have been used have been…well, let’s say not consistently awesome? Adam Grant shared data on the financial hit companies take after layoffs (compared to creative strategies to reduce expenses).  So, what happens after the smoke clears? With the exit of more experienced workers, your junior employees may need coaching to help them navigate more responsibility during uncertain times. 

At the same time, how well prepared are your senior managers to do more with less? Perhaps interim, focused management team coaching can help senior teams perform at their best?

Smokejump 2: Keeping your best people means keeping them happy

The emphasis on cost-cutting can obscure the indirect benefits (and savings) of keeping your highly-contributing people engaged and happy.

In the past, recession rumblings meant fewer employees leaving jobs. Today’s workforce is challenging that, showing an unexpected willingness to take risks. A study by Robert Half showed that 46% of U.S. workers plan to look for a new job in Q1-Q2 of this year.  The hot spot that caught our attention is that tech and human resources employees are among the most likely to quit, according to a survey by Payscale. And who might be those who leave first? Perhaps the ones who’ve been contributing the most?

In the short term, transparency is vital to top talent – Does my boss care about me? Do they have my back? Will they tell me what is going on so I can plan? Will I get resources to keep performing well or is this destined to end in burnout for me? Questions like that speak to a need for reassurance to turn down the fear factor. 

Beyond verbal reassurance, investing in your best people builds trust, too. Our January blog discussed the “learning mindset”, one of the elements in our founder Sally Thornton’s Future of Teams DNA concept. Take a look at your best people. They likely all have a learning mindset. Providing opportunities for learning and growth is one way to create greener pastures in your organization, so they aren’t tempted to seek them elsewhere. 

Smokejump 3: Reach out for support 

Wildfires are unpredictable, and sometimes the conventional response doesn’t work. Local firefighter teams then call in smokejumper expertise. In People Ops, achieving the best outcome during uncertainty may mean getting an outside perspective.

But what does that look like? Well, it depends on your situation. Our October post discusses the difference between the specialist vs. generalist in HR support. We can help you save time and money in sussing out the best option for your situation and tap our network for the right fit to keep the burnout at bay.

Smokejump 4: Soft Landing or Scorched Earth? 

Yes, we might see a recession, yet other sources predict a rebound by the end of the year. Think for a moment about the best and worst-case scenarios in late 2023. What is the ideal positioning for your teams?  What actions can you take now with your teams to minimize the scorched earth damage and position your company to ride the updraft in 6 months to a year?

The stage of your company has a lot to do with the answer, and we get that. We’ve worked with companies at all points along their growth trajectory. 

Feel free to reach out to us for a brainstorm. Our team keeps close tabs on the data and what’s happening in the moment. We have some ideas, and beyond ideas – actual humans who will give you the oxygen-mask first approach we all need – in a firestorm or just a Tuesday :).