How to Weather the Storm: 5 Practical Talent Tips for CEOs and CHROs to Navigate Uncertainty

CEOs and CHROs face a multitude of exceptional challenges that demand an honest, hard look at their talent strategy. Those who are willing to make hard changes will set themselves up for success.

Here are five practical tips to consider:

Reorganizing versus restructuring. As weakening demand began to emerge in 2022, many companies responded by cutting staff. It was estimated that tech companies alone laid off 150,000 workers.

While layoffs are sometimes necessary, other solutions may help you optimize your organization for the future. Take advantage of existing and emerging lower cost hubs — areas like India, Mexico, Spain, and Southeast Asia are all investing significantly in building infrastructure to support global business. Re-embrace the flexibility of remote work, part-time workers, returning retirees and contractors. Regularly re-evaluate your hiring and workforce plan by reviewing headcount plans every quarter and implement additional processes to ensure each hire is in line with current needs.

Plan for the organization you will need. When market forces change, companies need to re-evaluate their business strategy, product plans, product market fit and marketing approach. Similarly, CEOs and CHROs should be re-evaluating talent plans as well:

  • Do we have the capabilities today to deliver these new products or business plans?
  • When will we need these capabilities?
  • Where are the main gaps and how do we close them?
  • Do parts of our organization now have skills we don’t need? Can staff be retrained for the areas that will grow? What will that require?
  • If not, what is our strategy to reduce this portion of our workforce in a humane and thoughtful way?
  • Who do we consider our talent peers? As that shifts, how should we change our recruiting approach and recruiting structure?

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Emphasize performance measurement. Revisit your performance management approach to ensure you’re identifying and keeping your top performers, who can be anywhere from 50% to 900% more effective than your average employee. This might involve training your managers to help them identify high performance. Some can confuse potential for performance, and a clear goal-setting process can help.  Ensure each employee has clear stretch goals aligned with the strategy and direction of the company.  Support this goal setting process by linking your rewards and recognition processes to their achievement, and put in place talent reviews to ensure you have clear line of sight to who are the top 10% to 20% of employees.  Make sure they get the right time and attention from you, the leadership team and the organization overall.

Be resilient and lead to navigate uncertainty. Building resiliency takes time. Consider instituting skill-building in active listening, minimizing bureaucracy and unnecessary meetings, establishing time to think (“meeting-free days,” leadership-only sessions, peer-to-peer coaching/learning sessions), ensuring leaders are clear on how decisions should be made by establishing a matrix for who handles more risky decisions, and empowering less risky decisions to be made quickly at lower levels.

Finally, teach leaders about self-sufficiency and self-care so they can be as effective as possible, reduce stress and instill that behavior in their teams.

Build trust with your employees. Employers have a trust problem. In a recent DDI study, only 32% of employees “trust senior leaders at my organization to do what is right,” and only 46% trust their direct manager. If the gap continues to increase, employers risk making employees feel disconnected and ultimately more likely to leave.

The best way to close that gap is through constant communication. Modern methods — live presentations on Zoom, or original short-form video clips similar to what you would see on social media — can cut through the noise of information flooding your employees’ inboxes.

Leverage your values and what you are doing for society to help engender trust. According to one report, 69% of global employees believe “having a societal impact is a strong expectation or deal-breaker when considering a job.” Employees want to know they’re working somewhere that has a greater purpose.

Jesse Meschuk

Jesse Meschuk
Jesse Meschuk is a career and HR expert and a senior advisor with Exequity.

Jesse Meschuk

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