The topic of economic downturn came up during my recent visit to the New Hire Technician class. A new technician, who had relocated to Las Vegas for this job, wanted to know my thoughts about the current economic situation and what our company will do if another recession starts. These types of questions can be tough to answer, but they can be near impossible to address if you aren’t prepared. Below are the top 4 things you can do to help increase your knowledge and prepare yourself to answer these questions and lead your team through economic fears.
- Understand the fear
If you are asked these questions by an employee, you should first get the details about what that employee fears in a recession. Most of the time, in respect to our employment, we all fear a decrease in income or worse, a layoff scenario during recessions. In this case, I reflected the questions back to the technician. I first asked this new employee what their thoughts were on the economy and what they believe our company would do if the economy took a turn for the worse. They confirmed what I had thought, that they were most concerned about uprooting their family to a job that might not be here in the future, and as far as what they thought the company would do, they admitted that they were too new to make a guess.
In directly asking their question back to the person, I can quickly and efficiently understand their exact fears and address them. I drew upon my experience and knowledge of company history and reassured the class that our company has never laid off employees in the Field Operations department for economic reasons. Also, for what the company would do, I communicated that the company is always preparing for these scenarios, and pointed out that current budgetary measures such as hiring freezes, decreases in travel budgets, etc. are all meant to prepare us for the possibility of a recession.
- Draw upon your previous experience or the experience of your veteran team members
They always say that history repeats itself, and so I continued to talk about how we carried on during the 2008 Recession. Las Vegas was ground zero for the Housing Crisis that contributed to the recession. I was very transparent and shared my fears during that time, and how eerie it was to be a technician arriving at the only home in the whole neighborhood that didn’t have a foreclosure sign. But we made it through and no one in the department was laid off. Drawing upon past experience will not only give you confidence to face another similar situation, but also encourage those you lead that there is a possible positive outcome.
- Talk with your leaders about the plan
This is a preemptive activity that will help prepare you to answer questions about what your company or department will do during an economic crisis. Take the time to discuss the business continuity plans with your leaders. When you are asked the same questions, it is never a good idea to be speculative or communicate your best guess. Your people are looking for reassurance through concrete strategies not idealistic presumptions.
If your leaders are not able to articulate the plan, hopefully your questions are able to motivate them to begin formulating an effective one.
- Engage your people to increase their ownership of the business
The last thing I spoke to the class about was about how they should understand their stake in the overall success of the business. That they should act as owners of the company because their actions will dictate how successful we will be and the level of protection we will have from a recession. Things like making sure you are not wasteful with supplies, giving customers the best service, and expecting the same out of your peers will all contribute to the success of the company.
I engaged them to increase their ownership, not only because it’s true, but it also empowers them have a hand in determining the outcome. Recessions can often feel overwhelming and something you can do nothing about. But it shouldn’t be the case and this reminds your people that we’re in this together and their efforts are necessary to get through it.
Hopefully, this helps you navigate this delicate topic that is starting to become more and more prevalent in the minds of your people. How do you handle economic questions as a leader? I am always looking for new ways and perspectives to communicate things to my teams, please be sure to let me know your ideas.