When the market changes, so should our approach to work

‘Out of adversity comes opportunity,’ said Benjamin Franklin. It’s a call to arms for many business leaders right now as recession is set to challenge sectors across New Zealand. 

‘Making the decision to thrive and not simply survive is how we look at a period of negative growth,’ says Mike Burke, the managing director of PEP New Zealand, workplace productivity consultants. For the veteran business leader, a powerful response to a recession is investing in people and process. He equips people with the tools they need to navigate changing environments, and invests in process for smarter systems and workflows.

‘Faced with a period of negative growth, some leaders often look to outdated responses: cutting costs, reducing staff, battening down the hatches. However, I believe when the market changes, so should our approach to work.

‘For traditional corporates – those with healthy balance sheets and experience through several recessions – when they manage a recession well, they can come out ahead of their peers. By staying highly focused and adaptive to their customers’ needs, ensuring they train and upskill staff to deal with the higher pressure, they can gain greater market share and keep profits growing or intact. Those who are reactive, with a short-term outlook and a lack of direction, risk falling into a downward spiral of losses with no clarity as to the reason why.’

Powerful strategies

He points out that 80–90% of the time economies are actually in a state of naturally occurring growth, but in the 10–20% of time spent in recession, many businesses overreact and therefore struggle to cope.

‘In his books Good to Great and Great by Choice, Jim Collins shares useful case studies of businesses who lean in to embrace a recession to experience significant growth afterwards.’

Like Collins, Mike stresses the need for a multi-year approach instead of a knee-jerk reaction. He says the common factor successful businesses share is a simple, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process which keeps everyone on track.

‘We can work in our business, and we can work on our business,’ notes Mike. ‘The more successful, high-growth companies have their leaders spend more time working on the business rather than in it, even in a recession.’

Some of the areas Mike focuses on to maintain a thrive mindset include:

1. Keep your marketing nimble

As customer needs change during a recession, so should your value proposition. Don’t get caught in marketing myopia; be adaptive and responsive.

2. Invest in process

How much time does your organisation spend doing business with itself compared to doing business with customers? How much work are you doing that your customer will never see? If it’s more than 50%, it’s time to optimise for efficiency.

3. Invest in people and culture

Most employees are really eager to upskill. PEP foundation coaching teaches behaviours that transform a workplace. ‘PEP’ed’ workplaces are less stressed, more effective, more productive, and more respectful. During times of change, people can learn to adapt their work priorities quickly to make sure the right things are being done in the right order.

4. See your business like a body

If you’re going to make cuts, know the difference between the fat, muscle and bone of your business. Cutting fat makes you leaner. Cutting muscle will hurt and hinder performance as it heals, but once you cut bone it’s gone forever. If we came out of a recession tomorrow and you’re better off, it’s likely you cut fat. If it takes you two years to recover, then you probably removed bone.

5. Communicate more frequently with your team

Faced with a negative 24-hour news cycle, people are going to worry. To counteract this, leaders need to communicate with their team more often, giving constant updates for clarity on goals, roles and results (principles taught in the PEP leadership coaching). This is key in times of change. Company goals might alter, and you need frequent, clear communication to maintain high performance.

6. Help people prioritise

Organisations always have more tasks to do than the capacity to do them, and even more so in a recession. Teach your team to master prioritisation. This helps people work well and get into flow, so that they complete mission-critical tasks more rapidly, and with less stress and therefore enhanced wellbeing. A period of recession (or growth) also changes the volume, velocity and variability of tasks – the V3 principles taught in PEP coaching. Navigating the daily complexity of V3 is fundamental to healthy and productive workplaces and the avoidance of burnout.

Play the infinite game

Mike notes there is no one-size-fits-all advice: ‘Every business has to apply different strategies by industry, age, stage, balance sheet, and the maturity of the leadership team.’ But by playing what Simon Sinek calls the ‘infinite game’, businesses can focus on becoming the strongest company they can be in one, five, ten years’ time.

‘When the market changes, so should our approach to work. Too many leaders, almost by default, go from a thrive mindset to a survive mindset. A thrive mindset creates an opportunity to add better tools to their toolbox. It gets people to ask, “How can we be better off when we come out of recession?” This is a powerful mindset and puts leaders in the long-term, thrive mindset required to navigate change.’

Find out how PEP can help you harness the power of working well by getting in contact with us here.