While the economy has been growing steadily stronger since the 2008 recession, few would label the current economic environment as “certain.” National leadership is staggering from left to right, foreign powers are threatening, and business leaders are less confident about the strength of the economy.
While economists generally agree the economy is strong, this is a good time for human resource professionals to plan how to help keep the business humming and retain talent for the time when there may be a downturn. During times of economic trouble, there is a need to cut unnecessary spending and eliminate redundancies while keeping desirable talent around. This balancing act can be difficult — but not if HR is well-versed in the six Ds.
The following explanation can serve as a framework upon which individual HR leaders can improve with customized and enhanced strategies.
As an economy begins to slow and an organization begins to show signs of belt-tightening, it is vital that HR professionals identify which employees are most likely to be impacted by future developments. Often, these employees have a smaller workload and frequent downtime. HR should administer appropriate assessment tests to better understand those employees’ skills and strengths. Ideally, the talent can be reassigned to available positions within the organization, so neither the business nor the employees lose opportunities to succeed; however, whether employees choose to stay will be determined in the next phase.
Employees will not successfully transition to new roles if they are not interested in doing so. To gauge interest, HR professionals should conduct interviews with employees to discuss the possibility of leveraging identified skills and strengths in a different position within the organization. HR professionals should strive to be honest and direct about an employee’s prospects, but HR should also strive to build desire for the transition within employees. This might include incentivizing employees with enhanced benefits packages or perks. When an employee agrees to pivot to a new position, the next phase begins.
It’s unlikely that even the most enthusiastic talent will automatically perform well in a new role. Therefore, HR must provide employees with relevant training, professional development, coaching, and mentoring to prepare them for their new responsibilities. Well-organized HR departments will already have a thorough talent management plan to assist in employee development endeavors, and those protocols for training and coaching should apply to transitions made with the 6D approach. As an employee begins demonstrating proficiency for the new role, it is time to move to the next phase.
Even with brand-new hires in an excellent economy, HR should never simply drop employees into new positions and expect them to adapt and engage. HR professionals are responsible for ensuring all employees feel comfortable and confident in their roles within the organization. During deployment, HR must work to see an employee becomes fully engaged in the work and take measures against risks of transition failure. While benefits and bonuses can assist in the engagement process, recognition and targeted rewards have been shown to produce greater success. Therefore, HR departments should ensure employees who show aptitude for their new positions are recognized by their manager. Even after an extended period of effectiveness, don’t take workers for granted. Besides providing encouragement, HR needs to monitor and assess these transitioned workers.
A plan cannot be labelled successful without diligent tracking and analysis. Thus, HR should have a procedure for structured review of employee performance of employees in their new roles. Ideally, after a few weeks of adjustment and acclimatization, transitioned employees will exhibit high productivity in their new positions, and the organization will be able to retain top talent during times of economic stress. But this is not always the case. HR must be able to monitor employees and provide preventative and corrective actions as needed. Once HR conclusively demonstrates success in retaining valuable talent, the final phase is triggered.
Troubling economic times are not constant, nor are they particularly common. Therefore, when the economy recovers, as it has been doing since about 2013, many organizations forget how to react and preserve their talent when crisis strikes. Therefore, the final D in the 6D approach is particularly important: HR must retain the knowledge gained through the ordeal of optimizing talent during uncertain economic environments so it can more seamlessly do so in future economic emergencies.
If a strong methodology is developed, HR can restart the 6Ds with the “Distinguish” phase as soon as signs of economic distress begin to appear.