There are two certainties about the next recession. 1) It will happen. 2) No one knows when. The good news? We can offer a few ideas to help you and your organization survive and thrive.
As background, let us take you back to the last economic downturn (from Dec. 2007 to June 2009). We were hard at work, partnering with a large research firm to conduct a 300,000-person study to understand what was helping some organizations achieve high-performance business results in the worst financial climate in decades. We published those findings in All In, a book with Simon & Schuster, showing a key differentiator for the best organizations was the strength of their cultures.
Specifically, if employees were engaged, enabled, and energized, a company had a much greater chance of success during hard times. In fact, cultures with high levels of engaged, enabled, and energized employees saw average annual operating margins of 27.4 percent for the three years from 2007 through 2009—twice as high as companies with just high employee engagement scores (but low enablement and energy) and three times higher than those with low engagement.
Our next step was to discover the steps a leader must take to create that kind of winning culture. That’s when things got really interesting. As we asked managers about their team cultures, we were often told they had a strong one, but it was hard to define. Sorry for being blunt, but that’s rubbish. If it’s so hard to describe your culture, then you don’t have a great one. Culture isn’t indefinable. When you walk into a great culture, it smacks you in the face with its concreteness. We knew there had to be very specific steps people must take to bring about a true cultural transformation; and we dug into the data to identify those that are the most crucial.