During an economic downturn, it is imperative that people leaders know what and what not to do, especially when leading a global team. HR leaders to the rescue.
Sheri Kelleher, the Senior Vice President of People Success at Incorta, has helped high-growth organizations navigate shifting economies several times.
Join us as we discuss:
- How being an ally to your team outperforms traditional feedback
- A strategic way to approach organizational redesign and budget cuts
- Building a global team while keeping regional nuances
This post summarizes our chat with Sheri on The High Growth Matters podcast.
How being an ally to your team outperforms traditional feedback
A changing economy can be jarring for a lot of companies — often making mistakes within the turmoil that leaves their organization disadvantaged because of it. One of the biggest mistakes Sheri has seen: Knee-jerk reactions. Rather than a reactive approach to the changes, take a strategic approach at a realistic pace instead.
Too-fast decisions can lead to unintended consequences that can be hard to overcome later on. In times of crisis, communication and feedback need to increase, investing deeply in care and empowering employees to keep top performers.
Developing a merit cycle
Having a solid performance management process allows you to address problems quickly — providing training if possible.
According to Sheri, if a business doesn’t already have a merit cycle in place, the best time to start is now. Start with quarterly check ins to establish yourself and the rest of HR leadership as an ally rather than a critic:
- What was tough last quarter?
- What do you need for this quarter?
- How is everything going?
- What are you getting out of your work?
- How can I help you?
“Establishing a performance communication cycle early on is super important because it creates some consistency.” — Sheri Keheller
Rather than entering a one-on-one meeting with an employee to tell them all the things they did right and wrong, ask how you can help them. Being that ally will be significantly more beneficial long term.
A strategic way for HR leaders to approach organizational redesign and budget cuts
Sometimes, the necessary response to an economic downturn is an organizational redesign. When this happens, Sheri emphasizes evaluating internal processes. One key area to look at: The span of control for managers.
“If all of the work is not repeatable, if it's experience-based learning, a manager can't have eight direct reports; it doesn't scale.” — Sheri Keheller
Managers can only do so much. Take the time to look at how balanced your managers are and reposition teams where necessary to give those managers the best chance of success possible — becoming an ally in the same way you would for other employees.
Looking deeper into your organization also gives your employees an opportunity to shine in ways that weren’t available before. If someone on your customer success team has commercial real estate experience, they might be the perfect person to help open a new office. An employee who runs events might have design experience that could replace contractor work.
You need to become more operationally mature. Take advantage of this time to get your business as lean as possible.
Building a global team while keeping regional nuances
For a global organization with regional teams, navigating economic downturn are more complicated. A US business may experience economic impact while a team in Egypt is unaffected. HR leadership is needed.
The way to navigate the difference according to Sheri: Communication. Ultimately, a company and its regional teams are still all one company. If one area is struggling, others will balance the downturn as long as the regional needs are still being met. But this won’t happen if the company culture isn’t in place.
In the same way that a business must be an ally to employees and managers, trust and transparency can help build a bridge between regions; procedure alone won’t accomplish this.
“Being real, instead of being formulaic, is always going to move the needle.” — Sheri Kelleher
While possible with teams of over 1,000, try to incorporate this kind of open communication and consistency early on so that it scales naturally with the company. HR leaders can pave the way here.
A key takeaway
Economic downturns are always difficult; but they can be made much worse if proper strategy hasn’t been put in place to avoid knee jerk reactions when challenging situations occur.
Your employees, managers, and regional teams are all part of the same company. Treat everyone as an ally, helping them succeed wherever possible, and watch your company flourish as a result.
To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The High Growth Matters Podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for The High Growth Matters Podcast in your favorite podcast player.