Investing in the Employee Experience During Uncertain Times

In response to ongoing economic uncertainty, many companies are laying off employees, giving smaller holiday gifts, trimming year-end bonuses, and freezing hiring in anticipation of a recession, or at least a downturn.

When times are uncertain, it’s easy to want to scale back and spend less on your employees. But such decisions carry significant consequences. Two questions worth asking are, why and how should organizations maintain great employee experiences during unsettling times?

It’s more important than ever to appreciate your people

When the future appears less positive and predictable, it’s even more important for companies to step up for their employees. The war for talent is not over. Unemployment numbers are still low, and good employees will always have options to choose from. Seemingly small declines in the employee experience can have a big impact on a company’s ability to recruit, engage, and retain its people.

The labor market hasn’t crashed. Some companies are still struggling to attract people and they’re having to pay.
—Andy Challenger of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The best companies always take care of their people and show appreciation. In challenging times, employees want to know where they stand, and they look to their companies to provide support, purpose, and community.

Cutting recognition during crisis leads to
  • 49% decrease in engagement
  • 20% higher intent to leave the organization
  • 38% lower employee Net Promoter Score
  • 23% decrease in likelihood employees feel supported by the organization
*2021 Global Culture Report, O.C. Tanner Institute

Uncertain times are the best times to appreciate employees

Employee recognition clearly communicates that your company values its people. Show you appreciate them and their efforts, and they’ll work hard to help weather any storm that may come your way.

Here are 3 great reasons to always prioritize recognition:

  1. Appreciation strengthens connection, community, and belonging. Even when everything else feels uncertain, you can connect employees’ work to your company’s purpose—much like American Airlines did during the height of the pandemic.  Peer-to-peer recognition and involving others in recognition moments shows employees that they’re a valuable part of your organization and they belong. Reinforce this connection and build a sense of community with recognition like Heritage Bank did when they closed branches and employees began to work remotely.
  2. Continual investment in your culture shows you care. Employees will feel greater loyalty and share their positive experiences with their networks, on social media, and through valuable referrals. Perhaps best of all, they’ll reflect that care in the way they treat your customers. See how GE Appliances improved recognition experiences for their people during the uncertainty of an acquisition.
  3. Your people are the key to overcoming current challenges. Appreciate your people for keeping the ship moving forward when the outcome is unclear. Your people know your company well and will steer it to success. You can stretch your budget throughout the year by using smaller, more frequent moments of appreciation that are still meaningful and impactful. And then celebrate when the hard times are over and continue to create ongoing peak experiences for employees.

In difficult times, don’t wait for the cavalry. The cavalry is already here. The cavalry is your people.
—Dave Peterson, CEO, O.C. Tanner

About O.C. Tanner
O.C. Tanner improves workplace cultures through personalized employee recognition solutions, so people feel appreciated, do their best work, and come to stay. Thousands of the most respected organizations around the world rely on O.C. Tanner’s software and services to ensure their employees accomplish and appreciate great work. They also rely on academic-grade research published in our annual Global Culture Report as we track, analyze, and forecast worldwide culture trends.