We’ve all heard the stories, and we recognize the signs, that the world economy is facing challenges. Prices are rising worldwide, layoffs and hiring freezes are across the news. Wall Street says a recession is incoming, or it might already be here. There is no denying that we are entering a difficult economic period. Does that mean that it is all gloom and doom? The past has shown that start-ups can really thrive during a recession! Regardless of whether you’re thriving, struggling or somewhere in between, it’s clear that it is more important than ever to stand with your team and lead them through these concerning times. Our CEO and co-founder Maria Wlosinska truly believe companies should focus on building culture, especially through potential troubling times. Here are her tips on building a winning culture to help your team thrive despite the bumpy road ahead:

🎯 Focus on your mission and values

Hard times are when the words in manifestos are tested more than ever. As Warren Buffet famously quipped, “when the tide recedes, you find out who’s been swimming naked”. Leading by example is crucial, and it’s helpful to always remember (and remind others) of why you’re doing what you’re doing to begin with. When times are tough, it is easy to go into crisis mode and forget the essential things of a company. Therefore it is extra important to spent time focusing on the mission of the company and its values. Make sure everyone is aligned and focused on the common goal.

📖 Be as transparent as possible

Rocky times mean rocky emotions and feelings. Many employees might be feeling worried or even doubtful. It is a great time to make the team feel safe and secure, and steer away from a culture of fear. Share what is going on with the company, and make sure an open dialogue is possible. We do a weekly company-wide update about what is happening at Unlock and the market. There are no secrets, and asking questions is encouraged. This is our way of building trust and psychological safety.

💪 Be opportunistic about wins

A recession is always negative in our minds. Yet, shifting markets always present opportunities — from a struggling competitor to great talent becoming available, to being able to launch a new product or offering that’s more relevant to shifting tastes. Finding those opportunities and taking some wins when you can get them can do wonders to energize the team and prove that you’re committed to making. Even when times are tough, sharing wins boosts morale and confidence.

🌟 Recognise and reward behaviours that correlate to business success

Survival success depends on being agile, adaptive and cohesive, and focussing on what matters. Be candid about why you’re cutting certain costs and how it’ll help the business. At our #appreciation-station on Slack, we openly share our recognition for each other, especially the ones that correlate to business success. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Feeling recognised by your co-workers is one of the best confidence boosts one can have.

💳 Shift spending to initiatives that increase meaningful engagement

Turbulent times mean turbulent changes, it is therefore extra important to focus on the human side of the company. Have regular check-ins with your co-workers and encourage others to do the same. Investing in your team (especially the ones remaining if you’ve done lay-offs) is one of the best ways to show them that you are committed to their success now and in whatever lies ahead. A strong culture with engaged employees will help your company maintain its motivation in times of economic uncertainty, and maintain a sense of community.

💬 Talk to your peers and to experts

Remember, you are not alone in your situation. There will be others that have experience with what you are going through. Be open and share what is happening. The more you talk to others in the same position, the easier things will be. The more you’ll be able to come up with ideas and execution strategies. We’re always learning and sharing about these topics, so reach out if you’d like to talk!

Difficult economic times are never fun for anyone. Yet, it is a fact of life and building a business. We hope these tips will prepare you for potential troubling times. We hope that everything goes well and that the potential recession doesn’t affect your business. In the end, it is always best to be aware and being prepared and having a plan will make it easier if the troubling times come.

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