Longevity first: how to plan your way to success in economically turbulent time
In this guest article, Stephanie Coward, Managing Director of HCM, IRIS Software Group, discusses overspending, reviewing your tech stack, and prioritising roles in your company during times of economic uncertainty.
We all know the world of work has changed, and these changes show no sign of stopping as economic uncertainty continues worldwide. From adjusting to hybrid working to labour shortages and the rising cost of doing business, it’s never been more crucial to leverage your most valuable asset: your people.
However, as leaders, we know that is easier said than done. Forecasting labour demands is difficult enough when things are going well. Add a turbulent economy to the mix and the task becomes even more complex.
It goes without saying that you need enough people to do the work, but with purses pinched and budgets shrinking, many businesses simply don’t have enough funds to get the staff they urgently require on board. Even where budgets are available, 87% of UK businesses have said they are struggling to fill job openings.
It’s a tricky situation. But it doesn’t have to have dire consequences for your business. Of course, a big budget would be ideal, but realigning your organisational goals to get through this difficult time could go a long way to bridging the gap. Some changes to behaviour and attitude within your control can help businesses make great strides despite the challenges at hand.
With that in mind, here are some key changes you can start making today to refocus your objectives on longevity rather than immediate growth.
Improve management of staff workload
What do your processes look like? If the answer is anything but ‘ruthlessly slick and efficient’, it’s time to take a look at how you manage workload. You might be surprised to find hidden pockets of friction that are forming roadblocks in your staff’s schedules – for example, group meetings that no longer serve the business effectively, or admin tasks that could easily be automated. And you may find your staff agree, especially when 62% of IRIS survey respondents said that more needs to be done to manage staff workload.
Above all else, it’s essential to have full visibility over your team’s output. Simply having a 360-degree view of what’s going on is half the battle and can help ensure teams have fuel in their tank and time in their calendar for the tasks that matter most.
Examine where your budget goes
No matter how lean you think your spending is, it’s worth having an in-depth look to see if anything could stand to be cut back. Budgets can harbour many small investments that yield low returns, such as subscriptions to services you aren’t currently using, or non-essential travel expenditures.
Cutting back to the crucial may not scrape together enough for that new C-suite member you had your eye on, but you can redeploy those resources to upskill and engage existing staff. It’s entirely possible that you already have the people you need on board, at which point it becomes a matter of getting them in the right position to take on a new role – something you can easily do with a combination of nurture and training.
Nobody likes to make budget-cut announcements, so support your people in managing those difficult conversations, and check in with your teams to ensure that cost-cutting activities aren’t having a negative effect on wellbeing.
Review your tech stack
Is your current tech stack still relevant and fit for purpose? Reviewing this can have immediate benefits, from both a cost-cutting perspective and in terms of pinpointing gaps in your organisational process. This goes hand in hand with managing staff workload more effectively.
There are myriad ways to streamline processes, from making communication easier with Microsoft Teams, to having better project management oversight with Asana. Or perhaps your business would benefit more from HR software to automate business admin, allowing your people to focus on value-added tasks that better address customer needs.
Look for solutions that allow you to tailor the offering to your business priorities, with different tiers of service to ensure you’re not overpaying for enterprise-level coverage if that’s not the capacity you need.
Understandably, there may come a point where you simply cannot do without someone in a certain position. A labour shortage and turbulent economic climate doesn’t have to mean no new hires, but it may mean prioritising critical roles or those that might take more time to recruit.
Consider your organisational goals and where budget would be best utilised, reflecting on where existing employees could be encouraged to apply for roles internally or upskilled to meet demand. Ask wider teams for their opinions to get a holistic view of what areas need immediate attention, and see if what they say aligns with broader organisational goals.
Keep moving forward
It’s important to remember that recessions don’t last forever. While tightening budgets and doubling down on efficiency isn’t as easy as being able to hire your way around roadblocks, it can go a long way to bolstering your business through a testing time. And with the right blend of software support and positive mindset, you may well find your business in a better place than where you started once the skies begin to clear.