Surviving and Thriving in Uncertain Times

Kurt Wilkin

Let’s be honest—the last thing you probably want to read right now is another article about the pandemic sweeping across the globe. I realize at this very moment, there are millions of articles, social-media posts, and other media being published regarding the situation at hand, so I was hesitant to add one more to the pile.

But, as experts in talent planning and recruiting, and as contributing members of the community, the HireBetter team and I feel a great responsibility to make ourselves available as a resource to you and your organization.

This is awful. Really, really awful. But it’s not the end of the whole world. We will get through this. We will be temporarily banged up, but we will definitely get through it — together.

HireBetter is open for business. Our team is fully functional and working remotely. We are absolutely here to help you with anything related to talent. Hiring, firing, and anything in between. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks visiting with business leaders. As you can imagine, without exception, they are nervous about how this situation is impacting their companies, their teams, the economy and, of course, their families. This is clearly a scary time for all of us. There is so much information out there right now—much of it conflicting—it’s hard to know how severe the impact will be. And it’s difficult to plan and make important business decisions with so many unknowns.

So what are you to do?  My goal is to help you navigate the unknown and help in any way that we can. As you’ll see below, we want to address some of the talent-related matters that may be top of mind—but know that there are many other areas for which we can provide counsel or serve as a sounding board to leaders of middle-market companies.

As you continue to assess ways to mitigate the impact on your business, it’s important that you don’t lose sight of your most important asset—your people. Lead from the front with compassion and integrity and take care of your team, and they will run through walls for you.

Two HireBetter core values I find especially relevant this week are: “Together We Win” and “Be Transparent.” I truly believe that we are stronger together—we need everyone in the boat rowing together. And that we need to be open, honest, and transparent with each other. I encourage you to embrace your own core values and use them as a compass for navigating important decisions.  After all, these are the types of situations for which you have core values in the first place.

As a country and community, we will come together to support one another through the challenges we are facing. And we will come back stronger than before—in business and in life. As recently as 2009 with the banking and credit crisis and 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. and world economies came storming back—stronger than before.

In the meantime, I have addressed some of the most urgent concerns I’ve been hearing from some of my fellow business leaders. I hope you find it useful as you create your own plan to survive and thrive in uncertain times.

Economic outlook: How to read between the lines
This is probably the toughest one to get our arms around. I know there are a lot of so-called experts out there who claim to know the answer to what’s going to happen to the economy—but nobody truly knows. We do know that the stock market has taken a massive hit and it will likely get worse before it gets better. There are numerous industries that have been significantly impacted.

If you want examples of those industries, just look around. Travel-related, entertainment, and restaurant industries have obviously been negatively impacted. But supply-chains issues alone have caused challenges in industries ranging from software to automotive. Actually, let’s be honest: Every industry has been impacted, and most of them negatively. There’s no escaping the fact that the world is a very different place now than it was just 10 days ago.

What does this mean for your business? It likely means that your customers may be less willing to buy your product or service or may be less able to pay timely for work you have or will provide. It doesn’t mean you need to panic, but it does mean you need to be aware of potential credit and collection risks.

I encourage you to review your existing cost structure, including your current team. How long can your business go with significantly less revenue or significantly less cash flow? It may make sense to reduce costs until we better understand the short-term and long-term impact of everything that’s unfolding.

Planning for recovery: Create a talent plan
I don’t believe this is our new normal…for the long term. At some point, this too shall pass. So how do you make meaningful changes now to improve your chances of coming out on the other side stronger than you were a few weeks ago?

This is something we can help with at HireBetter—even if it is to simply provide you with some free counsel as you get your arms around everything. Your talent plan may include trimming some non-performers or even borderline employees now and plan to reinvest those salaries in top tier talent from other companies. If you look hard enough, you will find rock stars who may have been let go in a panic move by their company, or maybe they left because they didn’t like how their employer handled this crisis, or maybe they are simply open to new opportunities. This will blow over and the opportunity for your company to come out stronger than before is absolutely real.

Supporting your team through distress, layoffs, pay cuts, and furloughs
You will likely need to make some tough financial decisions in order to get through this. The way you treat your team says a lot about you and your company. Don’t get me wrong, if you lay people off, no matter how kind and “fair” you are, you will get blasted on social media and beyond. So don’t try to please everyone.

But you can provide assistance with areas like mental and emotional health, financial hardship, and finding another job. There are some great resources out there to support your team as they navigate uncertainty in the upcoming weeks. Here are some resources that might be helpful to you and your team:

Comprehensive Resource Guide: includes resources for financial assistance and essential needs, coping with anxiety and quarantine, health insurance and medical care assistance, business assistance programs, mental and emotional support resources, and more.

Financial Assistance and Essential Needs

Mental Health Resources:

Several people have asked me the question, “What can I do now to help me rehire key employees back once things smooth over?” You may consider temporary pay cuts or salary freezes or maybe even furloughs in order to maintain business continuity. But the ultimate success will all come down to how you treated them throughout the process.

In the coming days, we’ll dive deeper into things like managing a remote workforce, how to have difficult conversations with your team, and change management. We also plan to publish a resource article for jobseekers and professionals who may be at risk for being laid off. In the meantime, do you have other concerns you’d like to see addressed here? Here is my personal email: Let me know and I’ll update this article with responses to your questions as they come.

Remember, this too shall pass and we will get through this together.

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