To Navigate a Downturn, Double-down on Your People

Did you know that some of the best products in the world were created during downturns? These include the iPod, Monopoly, the photocopier and even chocolate chip cookies. If necessity is the mother of invention, economic uncertainty is its father. With another downturn on the horizon, how can you position your organization for success? The answer lies in your people, ensuring they are equipped with the best skills and knowledge and working in the right places to drive performance and innovation.

Time for a Rethink

Now is the perfect time to rethink your workforce and upskilling strategy to ensure it is fluid enough to change suddenly if market needs evolve. The first step in this is understanding what you currently have in your organization — what skills, what people and what positions or projects they’re currently working on. This is relatively simple when you look at your consolidated skill data (the information collected in your HR, recruitment and learning systems). It will help you understand your current workforce skills, skills being built through learning plans and skill gaps.

Expanding Your Talent Pool

From this, you’ll be able to spot talent who have transferable skills to move onto other projects or departments if needed. This doesn’t just have to apply to your permanent workforce; you can also include your contractors, freelancers, alumni, partners and more. This skills-based approach gives your workforce true agility, with people working on the projects and tasks that align most with their experiences.

It also levels the playing field when it comes to DE&I. Matching people to work based on skill data removes unconscious bias from workforce planning. It also expands your possible talent pool because a hiring or people manager no longer relies on referrals and connections and instead can see exactly who meets the necessary skills for a task. For instance, participants in Verizon’s Women of the World (WOW) career development program are 7.3 times less likely to quit, 1.7 times more likely to make lateral career moves and 2.3 times more likely to get promoted.

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Building Lasting Careers

Career pathing can often be overlooked in the immediacy of responding to a downturn. Giving someone clear direction and learning opportunities to achieve their career goals is crucial for retention and productivity when the future is uncertain. Indeed, McKinsey & Company has found leaders in downturns consistently offer career advancement opportunities and meaningful work to their people.

Alignment with the Business

Of course, alignment with business goals is needed to ensure all career development and learning will meet current and future company needs. At Bell Canada, there is a recognition that its future workforce will need AI, machine learning, business intelligence, cybersecurity, software development and cloud computing skills. As a result of it tailoring its learning strategy to these areas, Bell has shifted 241 employees into new roles that align with its future needs, and 30% of these candidates are women (+8% over market availability).

Putting Your Best Workforce Forward

Continuously assessing what’s working and not for your people is a worthwhile activity in all economic conditions. It makes sure that your workforce is working at its best and shows senior stakeholders how essential learning and career opportunities are to overall business performance.

Janice Burns

Janice Burns
Janice Burns is chief people office at Degreed.

Janice Burns

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