Cutbacks are expected during an economic downturn. That often means layoffs. But does it have to? What if you decided to make an investment in your people instead of giving them the pink slip?

Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli claims there’s no solid evidence that layoffs actually improve profitability. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. People become less trusting of companies after layoffs.

Since trust is a cornerstone of personal connection, companies should work to build stronger relationships with employees, especially during tough financial times.

If you’re looking to recession-proof your business, investing in your people is a good start. Start investing in them today with these five tactics.

1. Celebrate

During a time when there’s likely low morale, stepping up the celebrations can keep employees engaged and looking forward to work. Occasions you might celebrate are:

  • Workplace anniversaries
  • Birthdays
  • Reaching project milestones
  • Getting new clients

The sky is the limit, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw a party every time one of the above occurs though. Calling people in at the end of the day for a group huddle, sending around handwritten thank you notes for their years with the company or even writing happy birthday on a board everyone can see will not go unnoticed by your employees.

Celebrations build a culture of gratitude. Little gestures add up over time and make people feel appreciated. This brings us to our second way to invest in people.

2. Value

Value and celebration go hand in hand. Celebrating people and their accomplishments is one way to tell your employees you care about them. Other ways include:

  • Keeping lines of communication open
  • Taking the time to get to know who they are and what they care about
  • Making time for them

Making time doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a whole day one on one. A small act like putting your phone away or closing your laptop during a conversation shows they are worth your undivided attention, which makes them feel valued.

Employees who feel valued are more likely to put in extra effort and go above and beyond the call of duty. This often translates to an increase in productivity, which can help your company survive a recession.

Not only does valuing your employees increase productivity, but it makes them feel more fulfilled in their roles. When people feel more fulfilled, they are generally happier and less likely to leave a company. So by showing employees you value them, you can decrease costly turnover.

3. Remove stress

Recessions are stressful enough as it is so workplace stress is the last thing people need. And yet, it is so widespread. According to a study the American Institute of Stress conducted, “80 percent of workers feel stressed on the job.” (That’s without a recession to deal with.)

To combat workplace stress, consider:

  • Pausing/removing projects to balance workloads
  • Helping to resolve conflicts
  • Making time for relaxation
  • Casual Fridays
  • Office yoga
  • Asking employees how you can help

Simply asking what you can do to relieve a little stress means a lot to employees and shows them that you care.

4. Self-efficacy

Believing in their own abilities and that they’re able to rise to the occasion helps employees feel more secure in the workplace. Given that recessions are ridden with insecurity, setting new, exciting challenges give employees purpose.

Self-efficacy shouldn’t be in conflict with our third recession-proofing tip, reducing stress. To have these two work together, set realistic goals and expectations, and provide employees with the materials they need. Match the task with the employee’s knowledge and skill set so they’re set up for success.

Allowing employees to feel ownership over their projects improves job satisfaction and is an investment in people. Feeling ownership also requires employee feedback, which brings us to our last way to invest.

5. Input

Our last recession-proofing tip for investing in your people ties into many of the others. People value the ability to provide input. When you seek out employee input, listen to what they have to say. Then use that feedback to make informed decisions, which lets employees know their voice matters.

If you don’t currently have a culture that welcomes honest feedback, it’s never too late to start. People may have varying degrees of comfort providing input, so give them different opportunities to speak up.

Some tactics to consider are:

  • A suggestion box (people can leave anonymous notes or sign their names)
  • Conduct a survey
  • Before meetings, send materials out in advance so people have time to collect their thoughts
  • Make time during each meeting for feedback
  • Invite post-meeting and post-project feedback

No matter how you gather input/feedback, you have to do something with it in order for employees to feel like they’re making an impact. Give your people next steps, communicate along the way, and let them know when/how you’re moving forward with a particular suggestion.

These five ways to invest in your people help build stronger personal connections. Layoffs will only make them wary and distrusting, so carefully consider whether they are necessary. If you want to recession-proof your business, invest in your people. Because people matter.

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