No one can escape it. Everyone is talking about it…
Here’s a shopping list of just what could be headed our way…
Cutbacks. Soaring energy prices. Power cuts. Strikes. Defaults on loans. Repossessions. Inflation. Projects on hold. Revised revenue targets and KPIs. Exceptional competition. Redundancies. Bankruptcies. Pivoting. Increasing cyber attacks. Possibly war for more countries in Europe.
Although the definition of a recession varies between different countries and scholars, 2 consecutive quarters of decline in a country’s real gross domestic product (real GDP) is commonly used as a practical definition of a recession.
During a recession, the economy struggles, its output declines, people reduce their spending, business’revenues drop, or they go bankrupt, people are laid off. But recessions aren’t new, seem to occur every decade or so in modern economies, and are typically followed by periods of strong growth.
Hard times sort the wheat out from the chaff and as unpleasant as they are, when you come through them, they will make you stronger – as a person and as a business. During my career, in the UK, up until now, there have been 3 periods of recession – the early 90s when I just graduated, the Great Recession (2008-2009), and the Covid-19 Recession (2020).
Now there are numerous things you can do to survive and thrive during recessions, from assessing the situation and forecasted impact, planning out cashflow, financing and supply chains, and preserving cash, to dropping non-essential programs, pivoting your business model, marketing, selling and so on. However, I’m only going to talk about one today, and it’s leveraging your employees, team, and the way you work as a leader.
Here are my 3 top tips.
1.Take better care of your people
The only way you’re going to make the impact you need to in recessions or tough economic times is by creating and implementing effective strategic actions. And that means inspiring, empowering, managing, and equipping those you lead. It means attracting and pulling those you interact with naturally, rather than by control and force. It means treating your people as your greatest asset and unlocking the power of human creativity, imagination, and ingenuity.
No one comes ready-made, and with human capital high on a board’s agenda, organisations must accept that they need to double-down on talent management budgets and provide their teams with effective ways to learn, develop and re-skill.
This requires courageous leadership. It requires leaders to understand that when they unlock the power of human ingenuity that comes from identifying, developing, and equipping their teams – whether future or existing – with the resources they need to do their job, they access a whole new level of workforce transformation.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But sadly, many leaders and HR representatives struggle with this. Some believe they know exactly how to recruit and lead the “right” mix of skilled and flexible team members who fit in to their culture and have the “right” mindsets and behaviours. Others are too afraid to admit their ways aren’t working and delivering the expected returns on investment.
These problems can be solved quickly, but only when you build High Challenge-High Support environments, and when you focus your efforts in powerful and equal combination.
You see, this is your foundation. This is your bedrock for realising not just gender parity but high performance for your whole team. But you must get the balance right. For example, if you have too much challenge, the environment is stressful, can lead to team burnout or attrition, and achievement will be inconsistent, from moderate to high. If you provide too much support, teams become too comfortable and dependant on direction, and as they’re never pushed to achieve their potential, achievement is moderate. When too little of either is given, teams become apathetic, and as no one cares if the job is done well, a team’s achievement is low.
Organisations and leaders who create High Challenge-High Support environments build trust. Their reputation soars. The word spreads fast about them. And this is exactly what you want in a world where trust is an increasingly valuable commodity, where top talent, especially female, is competitive, and where everyone’s performance is ultra-visible. High Challenge-High Support environments have the capacity to be your communication engine too but only when used correctly and as part of a strategy.
2. Commit to developing your people and future team
To say “no one comes ready-made” sounds obvious, but leaders must truly acknowledge this and that they need to find new ways to develop their workforce for those outside the usual talent pools. For example, for women and people from diverse backgrounds, including young people, minority groups, those without a college education and from low-income households. Upskilling doesn’t always take a long time in cyber especially if you hire people with transferable skills and have a process for developing them – academies, training programs, shadowing etc – and setting them up for success.
Leaders and those in charge of hiring need to understand their team’s needs and ensure they design solutions that cater for them or centre on equity rather than equality.
Here’s what I mean by equity. Equity is all about giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is about treating everyone the same. It’s vital to recognise the differences as different sets of people, in many parts of the world, have different barriers to overcome in order to achieve the same results.
When companies do this, they maximise a huge pool of high-potential and under-utilised talent. They’re able to make better decisions and become more adaptable, resilient, innovative, and profitable.
Diverse workforces bring you greater innovation, creativity, happiness, and competitive advantage but only when you embrace diversity, accelerate equality via equity solutions and are ambitious with the goals you set.
3. Use sweet spot practices
The way you run your team matters. The way you build your organisation’s culture matters. The happiness you create matters. All these things matter, especially in tough times, when you need to be outperforming your competitors, meeting your KPIs, and safeguarding your reputation.
As a leader you must work harder to attract and retain top talent. Outsourcing it to Talent Acquisition or HR isn’t enough. You need effective systems, tools, and processes to support you. And if you want gender parity you must start implementing changes to your business model now. The timing is critical. It must become a priority. Not a nice to have, or an “I’ll do it next quarter, or year.” The world of business success doesn’t tolerate your inertia.
So, focus on…
- Enabling a culture of continuous learning. This ensures your team is future-ready and can adapt, shift and pivot at scale and with speed.
- Listening to what your people want and giving it to them. Perhaps it’s new tools, real-time data, hybrid work, part-time work, fractional work, study time, research time, or something else. The environment you provide for your people is more important than ever and when you can provide something special, your people will work harder, stay with you for longer, and will recommend you more.
- Using tech to support flexible ways of working and teams that are more dispersed. Be creative and think outside of the box.
- Retention and stamping out toxic workplace behaviours. Retaining the people you have is preferable and cheaper than new hires.
- Caring for your team’s health and well-being. Relational needs are a key differentiator.
- Setting and sharing people metrics, such as hiring, sentiment, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Be accountable and transparent.
- Aligning to worthy causes, which shows a more caring image of your brand. It communicates to all associated stakeholders, be they clients, new recruits, partners or investors something beyond price, product or service and gives them a reason for picking your organisation over others in the market.
- Being a role model; living and breathing the things you stand for, and against.
So, what’s next?
Tell me your view. How are you coping with these tough times? What tips have I missed or that you can share?
Then, if you’re a woman in cyber come join me at The Source. It’s a membership club for women in cyber and an environment where community and opportunity overflow. We have membership for all levels of women and budgets – https://bit.ly/TheSourceSalesPageX
If you’re a business (leader) who values women, and you want to improve results (and are ready to invest), we need to talk! Book a discovery calland learn how we can help you succeed!