INSIGHTS

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In the swirling mix of economic forecasts, 2024 presents a peculiar paradox. We’re technically in a recession, yet it doesn’t quite fit the mold of the gloom-and-doom scenarios we’re accustomed to. “Not a ‘real’ recession,” some might say, as they try to pin down the elusive nature of our current financial climate. Yet, the business leaders I’ve chatted with echo a singular sentiment: the road ahead is peppered with challenges.

A common thread among these conversations is the wavering confidence levels. It’s not that customers and clients are vanishing into thin air; they’re just becoming more discerning with their wallets. This newfound pickiness casts a long shadow over budgeting and forecasting, making financial crystal balls fuzzier than ever.

Teams feel this uncertainty keenly.

Watching clients hesitate on the usual orders or campaigns sends ripples of insecurity through the ranks. No one I know has ever enthusiastically embraced downsizing or its myriad of euphemisms (“trimming the fat,” “getting a haircut,” “a close shave”). Yet, when profits shrink, the spotlight invariably falls on the largest expense for most businesses: their people. And believe me, everyone senses when that spotlight turns their way.

Amidst this backdrop, some may adopt a ‘survive until 2025’ mantra, tightening the proverbial belt a notch and looking to make cuts wherever possible. But whilst reviewing all costs is the sensible thing to do when the pressure is on and you enter what is colloquially known as ‘squeeky-bum-territory’, there is another path to consider as well: optimising team potential and steering through the fog, not just waiting for it to lift.

Open, transparent communication with your team can help.

Being candid about the company’s financial health doesn’t mean laying all your cards on the table, but sharing enough to maintain trust. It’s about giving your team a glimpse into the decision-making process, the challenges faced, and the strategies employed to navigate through them.

You can’t forecast the future with absolute certainty, but communicating regularly and openly with your team can dispel as much fear as possible. In times of uncertainty, bold ideas often take a backseat, but it’s precisely these ideas that can pave the way forward.

Acknowledging the economic elephant in the room while encouraging your team to brainstorm ideas and innovative solutions can replace a culture of internal competition with one of collaboration.

Upskilling is also a beacon of hope here too. Whether through internal training, shadowing, or leveraging the plethora of free resources online, equipping your team with new skills can turn the tide and help people see problems with fresh eyes and skills, offering flexibility and resilience in spades.

Positivity will thrive where you and your team have strong wellbeing and resilience.

The cornerstone of navigating these turbulent times is the well-being of your team. And whilst it’s not just all-on-you to ensure that support and positivity thrive, your influence will be considerably stronger than others in the team in this regard.

Paying attention to your own resilience quotient therefore in each of the four key areas – physical, mental, spiritual and social – can help boost your own wellbeing before turning to see how it can help others. From get togethers (social) to regular walk-and-talk meetings ( physical and social) right through to positive self talk and encouragement of feedback (mental), all of these small steps build to create a team with healthy habits and get you all in the right place. External help can also support, including providing tools and resources that bolster efficiency and effectiveness and Employee Assistance Programmes which allow for expert support in areas that you or your managers may not be equipped ( or be appropriate) to discuss.

Explore all avenues (but don’t forget to take your team on the journey too).

Adjustments may be inevitable, including the difficult decision to resize the team. Yet, there are many avenues to explore before reaching that point. I’ve seen businesses pivot to part-time arrangements or explore voluntary redundancies as a first step before making anything more permanent. But even if that is the end result, transparency and openness early on in these discussions can significantly impact how fair and respected team members feel and what this does for your businesses’ long term health.

In the heart of economic downturns lies an opportunity—not just for survival but for growth and innovation. It’s a chance to reframe challenges as catalysts for change, encouraging leaders and teams alike to adopt a proactive stance. Together, there’s immense potential to not only weather the storm but to emerge stronger, more cohesive, and innovative on the other side.

If you want to chat through options to steer your way to success, drop us a line at hello@thehrhub.co.uk or give us a call on 0203 951 1208.