The Dow plummets over 300 points. Trump slaps more tariffs on China. Consumer confidence wanes.
We don’t know if a recession is imminent. But we do know many internal communications professionals have not had to work through a recession, yet. We’ve spent so much time talking about how a great internal communications program drives culture and how that helps with things like talent retention, employer brand, Glassdoor™ reviews, and attracting talent. But what happens when a company (or an economy) has a downturn?
In this post, we’ll evaluate how intranets help improve company culture during recessions and many of the symptoms that come with an economic downturn. You’ll learn how to make the case that investing now in intranets will better help you through some storms that may come. Hopefully, the economy will hum until we all retire. But just in case…
How the intranet improves company culture during recessions
Just because intranets are great tools (as part of broader internal communications and executive communications strategy) to attract and retain your employees, this doesn’t mean they’re not important tools during recessions. Arguably, intranets are even more important during lean times.
Some internal communicators are in a constant crisis communications mode. Most, luckily, are not. Admittedly, it’s not the intranet technology that improves company culture and the impacts of recessions. It’s the communications strategy itself that drives necessary behavior change and focus. The intranet is just used as a tool for communications.
What happens to company culture during recessions
Tough decisions are made
Anyone who has gone through company layoffs can appreciate the importance of:
- How everything is handled
- How accessible management is during these times
- How everything is communicated
Organizations want to come off as sympathetic, transparent, rational, objective, clear, and accessible. Without a clear communications channel, the remaining employees are left in a chaotic state where gossip and personal fears of the worst take over.
People feel insecure and unsure about themselves
At our core, personal security is a basic human need. Transparent communications are tremendously important. You want your employees to feel relative safety in their roles so they don’t go into a fight-or-flight mode.
When employees begin to feel insecure and uneasy in their position, fear spreads like wildfire and improving company culture is at risk. Using an internal communications tool like an intranet helps disseminate clarity and important communications from the top down to quell employees.
Stress builds on employees and cynicism cuts into performance
Recession or not, the key drivers of employee engagement remain the same.
- to align with the company’s purpose,
- a strong sense of community
- be aligned with the strategy
- to feel appreciated
Companies should not stop congratulating, thanking, and motivating employees just because times are tough.
The organization must better align and focus
Business success can cover many blemishes. The nature of recessions forces businesses to refocus on priorities. There is never a more important time for all employees to understand corporate priorities and how they contribute to the strategy. A modern intranet can provide companies a channel that focuses the message without noise or clutter, especially in a recession.
The rumor mill runs rife
Fake news is always a problem in the workplace but even more rampant during recessions. That is because gossip feeds on insecurities. Part of an internal communicator’s job is to snuff out any fake news that’s floating around and provide a channel to quickly put out the rumors. Think of your intranet as a snopes.com for your business.
Motivation lags and many employees slack off
When company performance is in limbo, many employees naturally use the time to mentally check out and take a break. It’s very easy for motivation lapses to trickle down hierarchy lines. Before you know it, half of your organization is taking 3-hour lunch breaks or secretly blocking conference rooms to interview with other companies. During this time, it is critical to improve company culture and an intranet becomes the tool needed for organizations to help inspire and focus their employees.
People need to forge new connections
Workplace networks can change during recessions, especially if there was a layoff. The organization can improve productivity and the culture’s sense of community by fostering connections. Specifically, an intranet can help by giving employees a place to find new experts or get support from coworkers in other departments in times when they lost previous resources or budget.
The politically savvy outperform your real contributors
A bad, arguably evil phenomenon happens to an organization at any time resources become constrained. Vultures, who are politically savvy, pounce on limited spoils and deflect ownership to thrive when companies experience tough times. Most of us have worked with these types of personalities. Focusing on strong culture is one of the best ways to combat these employees so organizations can dodge the negativity and not tolerate the “under-the-bus” maneuvering.
How leadership should use the intranet in times of crisis
Important communications don’t get lost as they do in emails. Intranets foster cross-departmental and cross-location collaboration in a time when company networks are rattled and need to be rebuilt. They give leadership the ability to set the record straight on gossip, give employees and departments hope and recognition, and inspire the workforce through tough times. Leadership needs to step up now more than ever and modern intranets are the communications platforms to do that. In recessions, companies need Winston Churchill, not Charlie Chaplan or Debbie Downer.
Why communication is critical in times of during recessions
Communicating in times of stress is arguably more important than ever. This is the time to get the organization focused, be transparent, encourage cross-functional collaboration, quash rumors, and persevere toward a vision.
As internal communicators’ most critical technology, modern intranets are the most appropriate technology vehicle available to help fulfill those objectives. They serve as a company’s virtual headquarters™ so every employee has transparent access to what’s going on and no one feels like a second-class citizen. Modern intranets uplevel the conversation and focus, so employees don’t get mired in their todo lists during a time when they really need to focus on what matters.
So, again, just in case, spend a little time thinking about this scenario in your own organization and work on your pitch. It would be a good thing to prepare for.