Discover How to Create a Resilient Workplace: The 5 Critical Experiences for Navigating a Recession

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Groundbreaking new research from Great Place To Work® shows that experiences of employees around inclusivity, innovation, fairness and integrity drive exceptional business performance during uncertain economic times like a recession. Analysts indicated that Singapore may face the risk of a technical recession in 2023, with the export-driven economy set for a bumpy ride.

As economies open up post-pandemic and contend with complexities in the global economy – rising costs, disrupted supply chain and geopolitical tensions – the key for organisations to succeed is to maximize human potential. In his book “A Great Place to Work For All”, Michael C. Bush, Great Place To Work CEO spoke about the new frontier in business where developing every ounce of human potential is crucial. How can business leaders help their organizations not just survive but thrive as global economic conditions become less predictable?

The answer is in your company culture.

4.5m employees have spoken

Great Place To Work analyzed our employee workplace experience data set of more than 1,700 organizations representing roughly 5 million employees over the past 15 years — including the Great Recession of 2007–2009.

In the ASEAN region, in 2022, we surveyed close to 146,000 individuals representing 260,000 employees across seven countries in ASEAN, across a wide range of industries and company sizes, including both local enterprises and multinational companies. Many of these organizations are Great Pace to Work-Certified™ companies and Best Workplaces™ list winners.

What do employees value at their workplaces? Among our Certified community, these are consistent traits within the workplace: a positive, high-trust experience around inclusivity, innovation, fairness and integrity.

We also found that particular aspects of the work experience were vital for employees. They are: feeling treated as a full member of the organization, management following through on promises, and fair promotions and feeling welcome when joining new teams. Another critical experience is “Innovation By All” – a sense that everyone in the organization is invited to generate new and better ways of doing things.

Why Are Our Employees So Important?

Many serve customers directly, so they’re plugged into the reality of how the business is doing on a daily basis. They can also often be the first to suffer wage cuts, furloughs or layoffs, or have been disproportionately affected as “essential workers” during the pandemic. They are likely to be the first to feel the pain anytime the business is in trouble and when their experience is positive, the overall experience of all employees is likely to be positive.

Critical Employee Experiences for Surviving and Thriving during a recession

No matter your level, from frontline manager to CEO, you can help your business move from surviving to thriving by focusing on improving the employee experiences in these five areas:

1) Everyone is treated as a full member

When every employee feels that they are valued, you build trust, retain talent and increase engagement.

Thriving testimony:
“Everyone genuinely cares about everyone else’s personal and professional success, from the top to the bottom of the food chain.”
Flatlining testimony:
“I wish upper management would treat everyone equally and fairly. I would like to feel like my opinions matter and are important. I want to feel a part of the team.”
How to take action:

Recognize the extraordinary work your people are doing in this crisis: working from home, transiting to a hybrid work arrangement, showing up for work despite the accumulated stress of the past 2+ years, being willing to pivot and adapt.

2) Practice Innovation By All

You need everyone in the organization looking for ways to improve productivity, reduce costs, or deliver superior value to the customer, especially during turbulent times.

Thriving testimony:
“The company encourages innovative thinking. No matter what role you are in, anyone is able to furnish ideas of how to make the company great, and they listen!”
Flatlining testimony:
“I don’t feel there is a strong acceptance of 'original thinkers'. I don’t see an appreciation for the differences that people bring to the company. I would like to see a greater inclusion of diversity.”
How to take action:

Ask employees for new ideas – whether those are ideas for cutting costs, improving customer service and retention or generating revenue in new ways.

3) Management delivers on promises

In uncertain times like these, we all need as much stability as possible. When you’re a predictable and steady leader, your employees can focus on their work and their lives and not on second-guessing or managing you.

Thriving testimony:
“For me, the trait that separates [the company] from most places I have worked is integrity. There is no daylight between what any of our leaders say they value and how they act. I completely trust the people with whom and for whom I work.”
Flatlining testimony:
“Management says one thing and does another. Most senior managers are very arrogant, make more money than anyone is worth and every year they apologize for our pitiful raises.”
How to take action:

Level with your people. The old warning about not overpromising and underdelivering applies now more than ever. Be careful about the commitments you make and carry them out. Provide whatever hope you can while also trusting your team to manage complexity.

4) Promotions are fair

Fair promotions signal to employees that leaders make decisions based on performance and capability in an even-handed way. You’ll inspire everyone to give their all when they see that people like them can advance.

Thriving testimony:
“Employees are treated as valuable assets to the company’s success. People receive promotions when they deserve them. It isn’t political and promotions don’t occur in specific months. I believe it really is by merit. I feel I am given the same opportunity as anyone else to succeed.”
Flatlining testimony:
“Promotions don’t go to those who deserve them. It’s not based on job performance. Promotions go to those who know how to ‘play the game’ and those who the managers like.”
How to take action:

Review your promotion and hiring process for any bias or inconsistency, and double down on transparency. Make your criteria for advancement crystal clear and celebrate promotions by explaining the qualities and achievements of those who earned a larger role.

5) New team members are welcomed warmly

Teams often are volatile in a recession. Their make-up and purpose can change rapidly as strategies and company structures pivot. Whether hiring new people or shifting existing employees onto new teams, the tone is set early. An inviting team climate cultivates engagement and best efforts. A cold greeting fosters indifference or worse.

Thriving testimony:
“When I joined the company, I was very impressed with how my entire department, and people from other departments, went out of their way to welcome me. The whole onboarding process was very well put together and very informative for a new employee. I hope to be here for many, many years.”
Flatlining testimony:
“Don’t bully people into changing jobs, and/or positions without consideration of what they want to do. Give the employee input on whether they want to change jobs and/or positions. You come back from vacation or time away from work and they’ve changed your job for you.”
How to take action:

Many companies are onboarding employees and moving existing staffers to new teams remotely. Take the same (or more) care and intentionality around connecting people to each other and to the business as you would in person.

Start engaging your people right

No matter the health of your company’s culture entering a recession, the formula for success today is the same. It involves the five action items mentioned above. And it includes a crucial sixth one: Listen continuously to your people.

Organizations must track the experience of their employee groups, as part of a wider strategy to monitor their culture. The organizations that provide the most inclusive, high-trust culture for all their people are the ones most likely to avoid flatlining during this downturn and beyond. They are the ones most likely to soar.

Help your company soar through the current economic climate

>Stay informed and respond to the rapidly moving needs of your employees with a high-trust workplace culture.

>Understand and close the experience gaps between employee groups with a culture management tool.

>Explore company culture advice to help you create an inclusive workplace.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.