Ted Blosser is CEO and co-founder of WorkRampan all-in-one platform that enables learning as a growth engine for today’s top organizations.
After being shaken to its core during the pandemic, the economy is still recovering. Rebounding stocks and higher-than-expected corporate earnings have left some experts wondering if the bear market was ending, despite Nasdaq falling 21% from its record high in November 2021, according to an August report. Reuters article. While I hope we’ll see the market improve throughout the year, the positive impact of those improvements won’t be felt for a while.
Right now, most people feel the pressure of the bear market. And while managing employees in a bull market is easy, in a bear market after two years of doom, gloom and uncertainty, it is much more difficult. Maintaining morale can feel like walking a tightrope; one slip-up can result in a downward spiral.
Striking the right balance between optimism and realism is essential to ensuring that your most valuable asset – your team – stays with you as your business recovers and recovers. Here are three essential best practices:
1. Be positive but transparent.
Your company has been through a lot and so have your employees, so it’s critical to make time for activities and events that boost morale, encourage team bonding and bring a little fun into the workday. Create cultural touchpoints to help people feel engaged and involved. Be sure to encourage monthly team activities that are 100% social in nature.
This is even possible in a virtual or hybrid workplace; think virtual happy hours and cooking classes. At my company, for example, we organize a virtual lunchroom on Wednesdays to help people feel connected. We also use technology. For example, we use a virtual coffee app to help teams connect for virtual coffee, ‘water cooler’ discussions, peer learning and more.
Remember that honesty breeds trust, so be transparent about the company as you work to improve morale. Not only will you gain your employees’ trust by telling the truth, but you’ll also inspire them to get behind important business initiatives. Struggling to meet a profitability target? Do you need to implement cost-saving measures? If you’re transparent about the challenges ahead, people will get behind the case.
2. Communicate the total rewards regularly.
In a recession, your employees may be hyper-focused on salary and not consider the total compensation package they receive from the company. While it is difficult to award pay increases in a bear market, health care, personal leisure, stocks and shares, and learning and career development opportunities are extremely valuable.
Even those team bonding activities are hard to put a price on. Employees spend most of their waking hours at work, so making it a pleasant place can go a long way. In addition, recognizing hard work and giving credit where credit is due helps people feel valued.
3. Help employees build new skills and advance in their careers.
More than 90% of employees will stay with a company longer if the company invests in their professional development, according to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2019. Therefore, in any type of market – bear or bull – it is critical to provide opportunities to learn new skills, additional responsibilities and build expertise.
To start, look for “side projects” for employees to work on that may be slightly outside of their area of expertise. For example, we recently asked a finance professional to take on a sales pricing project, even if it was for a different department. Such opportunities can boost employee confidence while paving the way for sideways or upward moves within the company once the bull market returns.
In April, Gartner predicted that annual voluntary employee turnover would likely be: increase by 20% this year. I think this number is likely to be higher in companies that fail to nurture employee connectedness, belonging, and loyalty. Taking concrete measures to counteract the economic downturn is essential for employee satisfaction and retention.
Downturns don’t last forever, but these three best practices can help you better track the road to recovery and move forward once the bull market returns.