Navigating Turbulent Waters: Revamping Your Management Approach Amidst Challenges

2024 has been a challenging year. So far, we have experienced AI disruption, extreme whiplash going from a labor shortage to mass layoffs, and economic headwinds that may or may not foreshadow a downturn. Management techniques that worked six months ago may not work now. How can you adapt? Managing as if we are already in a downturn can be key to retaining employees and impressing your managers. Here are some strategies to consider. 

1. Trim Unnecessary Expenses

One of the go-tos for senior management in a downturn is employee layoffs. But there are other ways to save money. For starters, review your department’s budget to see where you can trim and offer that up before letting key staff go. Look at things like underutilized cloud tools, air travel for meetings that can be handled over Zoom, and other expenses which don’t have a provable ROI. You’ll want to enlist your team to identify expenses they think are unnecessary. 

When you’re making cuts, keep track of any savings realized so you can present them to your managers down the road if they suggest layoffs. While this won’t necessarily keep your department safe from attrition, it will show responsible fiscal management of your department and give you a stronger voice at the negotiating table if you have to argue for retaining key staff.

2. Get Employee Buy-In for More In-Office Days

So much has been said about the increased productivity associated with remote and hybrid work that we’re all a little tired of hearing about it. However, the people who make the final decisions about your team are executives who may have strong proximity bias baked into their beliefs about employee performance. If you’ve been advocating for more at-home days, it may be time to stop in order to build a firewall around your team. 

You may even want to consider asking your employees to spend a bit more time in the office, especially if they’re only spending 1-2 days in the workplace.

3. Avoid “Moving Too Close”

The Harvard Business Review points out that the first instinct for most leaders in challenging economic times is to schedule more meetings and have more involvement in day-to-day operations - in other words “moving too close.” 

This move may keep managers better informed, but it also busies their days with unnecessary details that staff can handle and makes employees nervous and less likely to do things they would otherwise handle without manager approval. The result is disrupted workflow, second-guessing, frustration and a feeling of mistrust.

If you do need to keep a closer eye on things, schedule regular standup meetings with your department to cover outstanding projects rather than a separate update meeting for each item. 

There is also an impetus to move faster, but this can turn into being frantic and making mistakes rather than completing tasks in a shorter period of time. Make sure your team has the tools they need to do work in less time, such as AI solutions that fit into your everyday work tools such as Microsoft Office and Google Workspace. Look for solutions from Microsoft and Google rather than third-party ones so that they are native to your everyday apps and can be easily used by any team member. 

Most importantly, tone-police your own management style to make sure you aren’t encouraging employees to be frantic and second-guess their decisions. Follow our guide to becoming a persuasive leader. Adopting this leadership style will help you get buy-in for things employees may otherwise view negatively, and help you to keep your cool in difficult situations. 

Data about employee performance helps you to do things better and faster and reward good employees for high productivity. In tougher economic times, having this data at hand could mean the difference between keeping key employees or laying them off - a decision that could cost your organization far more than their salary. 

How will visibility impact your business?