Week Four: Running Your Business During an Economic Downturn

It’s the last installment of our four part series: Running a Business During an Economic Downturn. This week we’re finishing up the series with Evaluating Your Staff. We talked in week one about the importance of your Marketing Budget and Planning during economic downturn. Running a Business During an Economic Downturn – Week One | Localmize. Week two we focused on Adjusting Your Brand to fit your consumers needs and reorganizing your branding to better align with your target audience’s spending habits. Week Two: Running a Business During an Economic Downturn | Localmize. Week three we discussed Finances and Getting your Financial House in Order. Week Three: Running a Business During an Economic Downturn | Localmize. This week, we’re discussing Evaluating Your Staff. As small business owners, this process looks a little different from corporate America. We’re going to walk you through some ways to properly evaluate and encourage your staff. 

Week 4: Evaluate Your Staff

Week 4: Evaluating Your Staff can be a tough act for a lot of small business owners. Unlike a corporate relationship, the people who work for you often become like a family unit. Even in that atmosphere, it’s still important to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and areas for growth with your staff, especially during an economic downturn. Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a lot of conversation around evaluating staff. HR teams and small business owners have had to take a different approach to evaluating their workforce since the onset of the pandemic. With more employees working from home or job sharing, we’ve all changed our productivity, where we work from and even when we work. We are all more aware of family and work from home conditions. As small businesses, your employees may not have had the same options to work from home throughout the pandemic. Whether your employees have that option or not, every employer has had to be more understanding and flexible to the home life balance. 

It’s more important now than ever to truly listen and understand the needs of your employees. Yes, you’re evaluating your staff to make sure your bottom line is okay, but you absolutely cannot afford to lose a great employee because they’ve had to focus more this year on their home life, kids at home, working a second job possibly, etc. If your financial situation is tight, you have to be understanding that your employees are feeling that same pinch. They’re worried and trying to make ends meet right now too. Your fears are their fears, so you have to approach these evaluations and performance reviews a little differently. 

Step 1: Identify Your Leaders

Your leaders aren’t just your management team that you’ve put into place. We’re looking for your standout employees, the ones that do the extra steps, that motivate the team, the employees that put in that little extra effort while somehow balancing more and more. These employees are your leaders. Whether you’ve given them a title, a raise, or haven’t even realized it yet, you need to. You need to take notice of the employees that are getting it done and rallying your troops. Incentivise these key players and reward that effort. It doesn’t have to cost money to reward and incentivize. You can offer work from home options or workshare options that are very popular right now. You can offer additional training for systems or in house inventory management, etc. Allow your most valuable employees to gain a better work life balance; therefore, keeping them loyal to your company while helping them meet their needs and goals. 

Step 2: Track Everything

It’s hard to truly do a performance review when you don’t have performance numbers to go from. Use metrics to track and recognize performance. You’ll be able to see who is pulling their weight and who can take on extra responsibilities. Finding where you can better utilize your employees and where their strengths are will keep everyone working more efficiently. 

Step 3: Listen to What Your Employees are Truly Saying

Believe it or not, your employees really may know something that you don’t know. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but they see things through a completely different lens than you do. Listen to their concerns, listen to their ideas on how to better serve your customers. Ask them what they need to be successful, not just at work but in the work/life balance. Allowing your employees a safe space to discuss concerns also gives them the creative freedom to come to you with great ideas. If they feel shut out when discussing the hard things, they’re not going to feel engaged to come to you with an idea that may just save your business.

Step 4: Have the Hard Conversations

These conversations don’t have to be difficult if you go about it from a coaching perspective. Start out by asking your employees where they think their strengths are and where they could use some help. Don’t ask where they need “improvement.” Ask where they could use some help or additional training. You’re offering to be their partner and work with them. You’re not walking in and telling them where they suck, basically. This dialogue opens your employee up to being a part of your team and that you’re invested in their success. Their success is the company’s success. A little coaching and word play can go a long way in ensuring you have an employee that leaves a performance review knowing they’re valued, knowing what they’re appreciated for, and knowing what training they can look forward to utilizing to better their performance. 

Evaluating Your Staff is Week 4 of our series, Running a Business During an Economic Downturn. We chose to do Staff Evaluations as the last part, because it’s one of the most important things you need to do to run your business successfully, whether we’re in a recession or not. During a recession, if you’re looking for ways to cut costs and increase earnings, your frontline staff knows exactly what’s working for your business and your customers and what’s not working. Listen to them, have regular dialogues for open ideas and feedback and always give praise and ways to strengthen or train your staff. A happy employee that feels valued and is allowed to have flexibility and a sense of ownership is a huge achievement for any small business owner.