What you can do to grow your business during a downturn.

Treat your “A” players like they’re “A” players.
Make sure they’re aware you value and appreciate their efforts. Ask them for feedback on how their perceptions of your company’s business and general marketplace. Take their input seriously. Keep them happy and disinterested in looking at alternative employment

Consider upgrading your staff
Can you make it through the tough times with just “average” players on your bench? Our experience dictates that tough economic times usually results in our business mix transitioning to a greater number of confidential replacement searches. The sad but true part is that through no fault of their own, a larger number of top-level performers may be available.  Tough times call for tough measures.

Challenge your employees
If you haven’t already, consider using cross-functional training. During tough times, promotional opportunities aren’t always available, but an assignment that demonstrates to an employee that you’re still committed to growing them often leads to loyalty during these periods.

Hold regular employee business update meetings
You don’t necessarily have to share your bottom line results, but keeping employees aware and abreast of the current company’s state will lead to less rumour-mongering and water cooler speculation as to how the company is handling a slowdown. It’s also a perfect opportunity to solicit their thoughts as to what retrenching measures, quality improvements or customer experience enhancements you may consider to differentiate your company from your competitors and keep the doors open.

Practice, don’t just preach an open-door policy
If employees are aware they can turn to you without fear of reprisal, they’re more likely to remain loyal to you.

Upgrade your employee hiring process
Improve your screening and reference checking processes. Ensure you have a good position profile thought through and written prior to interviewing prospective candidates. In my experience, many employers take the “ready-fire-aim” approach to hiring because it’s intrusive on their day to day functions and responsibilities. Taking the time to make an effective hire will avoid disastrous results down the road.

For example, consider giving your finalist candidate(s) an assignment to measure their understanding of your business needs. It will help you avoid the halo effect during interviews (that is the person whose personality and joviality has you forget about asking the serious questions you need answers to).

Be thorough in your reference checking (or call us to take care of this for you). Obtain their permission to check references and when doing so, ask the tough questions. You may be surprised as to what a referee will share when asked a direct question about performance, motivation, attendance or personal issues affecting their work.

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