It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that this year is going to be very tough indeed for a lot of good businesses, both large and small. Costs of servicing debt, rising wage bills, inflation affecting the prices of raw materials and other inputs – you name it, it’s all going up. And if these higher costs can’t be passed onto customers, then it’s your business that is taking the hit.
We hear from our own clients that their outlooks are, at best, hard to predict, with many deciding to delay major investments until the picture is more settled.
And anecdotally we have heard that retail businesses relying on vital pre-Christmas spending say that consumer confidence is being hit by a sense that the worst is yet to come.
As the recession continues to bite, what does this mean for communications in 2023?
Well, one thing leaps to mind, employer communications are going to become more important than ever.
The problem with people’s low morale feeding into a depressed the economy is that your employees are going to fear, even dread the worst – even in the cases when they have no reason to.
The toxic effect of an organisation that is collectively worried about its future is obvious. Employees crave security, and they have to trust that their management is equipped with the right skills and judgement to see them through the downturn. They will also want to be kept up to date with current trading information and trusting that they’ll receive it in a timely fashion.
Otherwise, employees will understandably focus their attention on themselves – on their mortgages, food bills, car loans and other living costs, distracting themselves and potentially preventing them from being able to perform at a level that both they – and you – would like them to.
Worst of all, your most talented employees, who will remain in demand elsewhere, may well decide that they are safer in a competitor organisation and jump ship.
Here are four ways to counter these risks in any organisation, based on advice that we are already giving our own clients:
When business cultures become ruled by tensions of this nature, it’s important to understand that employees become hyper-vigilant. They look at the body language of senior management for clues, such as unscheduled meetings being held behind closed doors. These cause ripples in open plan offices and drive rumours.
Also, careless talk by senior leaders in the organisation to their own teams can cause a damaging level of half-truths and misinformation being accepted as gospel. People will talk to each other from different departments or parts of business, and human nature means often they will get the wrong end of the stick. This makes timely and accurate staff communication even more of an imperative.
Next year will be a challenge, but also an opportunity to ensure senior members of the team are creating a same sense of united purpose across the organisation. Lead from the front, and you will get through this with the best chances of prospering even in difficult times.
By Tom Buchanan, Founder and Managing Director of Paternoster Communications