HR and the Global Economic Downturn

As economies all over the globe are slowing down, with rampant predictions of gloom and doom, what can we HR professionals do to keep the workforce positive and productive during these challenging times?

Communication comes to mind first and foremost. Employees must be made aware of how organisations anticipate the current conditions may affect them. We cannot hide and think we are immune or insulated from the problems of the leading economies, for this village we live in is now truly global. While we may not be able to share all our strategies to combat the crisis, we can at least relay a sense that we are in control and working to minimize adversity.

Focus groups can be established to generate solutions to mitigate the circumstances. Employees can brainstorm and present and discuss options to the wider workforce. This also goes a long way to ensuring buy in.

Revenues are going to be reduced and there may not be much that can be done to change this; so the costs or expenses have to be closely monitored. Finance can work along side Human Resources to advice management on where costs can be better managed. Costs for items such as kitchen supplies and stationery can be immediately addressed. Other costs can also be tackled with some closer analysis.

Technology can be utilized to greater effect with the introduction of teleconferencing and video conferencing facilities in-house or rented through service providers. While there may be short term costs associated with these, the long term savings may well be worth the initial outlay. We know first hand from our experiences with the CaribHRForum that virtual teams do work!

Emphasis must be placed on succession planning and retention of key employees during these times of uncertainty. Organisations can ill afford to lose prize talent when they need it the most.

Employees will be feeling more apprehensive and stressed, so that productivity can be affected. The use of Employee Assistance Programmes therefore becomes critical. Team Building sessions as well as those that focus on Stress Management may be timely.

Most of all, Human Resource professionals need to continue to be the warm, empathetic human beings that we are and smile as we seek to be a ray of hope in an otherwise unsettling world.

Bianca Attong

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