Hiring & Retention
January 24, 2023

How to Build a Positive Company Culture Amid Economic Uncertainty

Covid-19, The Great Resignation, global inflation, quiet quitting…the world of work has been transformed in massive ways over the past several years. Rising energy prices (up by 200%) and the general cost of living creeping up each day means employees’ financial pressures are only continuing to increase. Understandably, this economic uncertainty is taking a toll on their mental health.

In this article, we’ll explore how you can build and maintain a positive company culture in spite of this uncertainty. Doing so is not only mission-critical to ensuring the wellbeing of your workforce, but the survival of your business, too.

Benefits of a Positive Company Culture

Let’s take a look at the top three benefits of building and maintaining a positive company culture. 

Retains top talent 

A whopping 87% of HR professionals have placed employee retention as their number one priority for the coming years. Rightly so, as 75% of companies reported a talent shortage in 2022—the highest it's been in 16 years. A positive company culture can help your business attract and retain top talent you simply can’t afford to lose during uncertain times in the economy. With the average exit cost sitting at around 33% of an employee’s annual salary, the financial loss for any company speaks for itself. 

Supports employee wellbeing  

A positive company culture can help you look after the heart of your company: your people and their wellbeing. A survey found that around 20% of employees are unhappy with their role—this low employee morale is a sure-fire sign of staff turnover on the horizon. At the same time, over 70% of employees rank good team spirit as the number one factor for workplace happiness and way to boost employee morale—which is not as hard to create as you may think. 

Boosts employee productivity 

A positive company culture means happy employees and happy employees are 12% more productive. If you’re struggling to prioritize building a positive company culture, then this research should quell any doubts as to why this strategy should be at the top of your list for 2023.

Each of these benefits to a positive company culture can ultimately help increase your bottom line. Improved morale creates happier employees, and workspaces for them to flourish in; it retains staff; and it attracts new talent at the same time. It’s a win-win-win for businesses and employees alike. So, let’s get into ways you can build a positive company culture when times are tough. 

11 Ways to Build a Positive Company Culture in Economic Uncertainty

This list is not exhaustive, but one thing we have made sure of is that a lot of these tactics work across all types of team cultures: from on-site teams, to fully-remote, to hybrid working teams. These tips apply to all types of workforces with a few tweaks to make them your own. Let’s dive in.

1. Host open and honest two-way communication

It’s essential that CEOs and founders lead with transparency and provide employees with an always-open channel of communication. This doesn’t mean leadership needs to respond right away, however, employees will want to feel like they’re in the know, and they can quell any doubts should they pop up. 

Having this ability to communicate openly and honestly with HR is great, but you’ll win more respect if employees can raise their concerns to C-suite staff, and for C-suite l staff to show they’re listening. 

2. Provide mental health benefits

Times of great uncertainty can—and will—take a huge toll on your employees’ wellbeing. Oftentimes your workforce will lean on HR, however, HR can get burned out with the influx of work and carrying the emotional burdens of so many others. Try introducing employee benefits around mental health and wellbeing to your staff, and make sure they’re clearly communicated. Here are ideas to get you motivated.

  • Codility has made “World Mental Health Day” a company-wide holiday in 2023. 
  • Oliva provides instant-access service to therapists for workforces 
  • Headspace is a fantastic on the go wellbeing & mental health app 

Find the mental health and wellbeing benefits or apps that work for your budget and your workforce. If you’re ever unsure what would be most meaningful to your staff, ask them.  

3. Foster creativity and innovation

Good ideas can come from anywhere, yet they only come when people feel comfortable and empowered enough  to be creative. This means that even in an economic downturn, you’ll want to be facilitating risk, failure, and rapid learnings. 

Creativity and innovation takes risk, meaning there will be failures along the way. It’s how your management handles and recovers from those failures that will determine how your team continues to innovate in the future. Make sure everyone at your company feels empowered to speak up when they have a new idea and feels encouraged that out-of-the-box thinking is welcomed.

4. Create feedback loops

Employee feedback is crucial to learning and improving company culture, and it works both ways. However, you’ll need to create feedback loops in order for employees to feel like they’re in a safe space to speak their mind and provide honest, yet constructive feedback—even in a time in which they may think their role is at risk.

Consider anonymous surveys, digital drop-ins, or more formal 1-1s with employees to make sure feedback isn’t forgotten, no matter how busy your business gets!

5. Offer career development and growth opportunities 

A report by McKinsey found that the top three things frontline workers really want from their employers are: job growth, pay, and learning opportunities. Opportunities for growth ranked higher than the amount of money someone’s making at a company. The takeaway is clear: if you’re not providing your workforce with the chance to grow, there’s a high chance they’ll be looking elsewhere. 

It’s important to understand what individual employees want from your business. Your idea of career growth may not look the same as theirs. Perhaps they’re looking to pivot altogether, and what you actually needed to offer was a reskilling opportunity rather than an upskilling opportunity. 

Align with your employees on what growth, pay, and development opportunities look like to them, and then deliver on those needs. Amid economic uncertainty, giving your employees the opportunities to grow is necessary to keep them engaged and keep business running smoothly.

6. Improve your management-level staff

We often forget that some managers roll into these positions as it seems the next logical step in their career, and there’s a gap to fill above them. However, is your company giving them the professional tools they need to succeed and lead effectively? Are you providing them with the upskilling, emotional intelligence, and HR-related education necessary to become great managers? 

Just as you train entry level positions for new roles, ensure you’re doing the same with your management, even if you’re in a scrappy company culture. Learning opportunities should come across the board. Give managers the skills and knowledge they need to lift their team up, and keep them with your business in times of crisis. 

7. Reward and recognize employees

Sona’s report “Appreciation Matters” found that a lack of appreciation or recognition at work can be one of the leading contributors as to why employees leave. Rewards and recognition are, in the grand scheme of things, relatively easy to accomplish, yet only 6% of the care sector always feel appreciated.

That’s not to say that numbers like these are only relevant to the care sectors, they’re across the board. We spoke to Ray Slater Berry, founder at DSLX to understand how he rewards and recognizes DSLX employees, and strives to ensure his employees feel valued for what they do.

“At DSLX, we recognize and reward employees whenever we can in a way that we’re financially able to. We’re a small business, which means we can’t offer the world—especially in a recession. But, we can offer our time, and sit up when employees are talking. We send out small gifts every month or so, gifts that are relevant to wherever our employees are in their professional or personal lives. It’s a token of our thanks. 

It can be easy to be swept up in the heat of business and recovering from losses. I try to make sure we celebrate and show gratitude for wins too, no matter how big or small.”  

8. Understand why employees leave 

You would want to understand why your customers churn, right? So why don’t you do the same for your employees? Understanding why employees leave your company is essential to ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. 

Of course, there are going to be things beyond your control: personal matters, career shifts, a better offer that your business can’t financially beat. However, there will also be a lot that’s within your control. Perhaps they’re seeking a better work-life balance, maybe they don’t feel connected to purpose at work and are looking elsewhere. Understand why employees are leaving by hosting an exit interview. Get to the bottom of their reasoning for jumping ship, and assess whether it’s something you can change for your future workforce.

9. Walk the talk of workplace diversity

Businesses often presume diversity is an HR goal; believing that diverse and inclusive companies create happy workplaces and contribute toward talent acquisition and retention tactics. True. But, it doesn’t stop there. Diverse companies see a 2.5x higher ROI per employee. Why? Diverse companies help to build diverse products and services. When you build a business with diverse inputs, you’re able to build more inclusive end products and appeal to larger audiences. 

We spoke to Ruby Horn, Recruitment and Onboarding Consultant at Leonid Group, to hear her insights on promoting workplace diversity. 

“I’d recommend businesses focus on their job posts. We write job descriptions in multiple languages and ensure inclusive language so that we appeal to a broad range of backgrounds. It's been successful for us and often is for hiring companies too. Another great way to build diversity is by targeting ‘passive candidates’, who may not be actively looking for a new role but wouldn’t turn down the right offer. This is a purely skills and competencies-based search which enables businesses to collect a diverse pool of talent for each role.”

Once candidates are in your business, it’s down to you to build internal solutions to ensure they’re comfortable and included there. Things like Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), buddy systems, cross-team cultures, internal celebrations of cultural events, the list is long and it’s up to you to make it inclusive. 

10. Offer meaningful financial benefits

Seeing how we’re living through economic uncertainty it’s almost logical that one of the ways you can boost the morale of your workforce is by providing support where they need it the most: financially. Offering financial benefits doesn’t always come down to just increasing a salary or giving commissions; there’s a wide array of options available to improve financial stability and economic conditions for your team. 

Here are some ways Branch can help you boost your employees’ morale:

  • Grant earned wage access. By allowing employees to get up to 50% of their paycheck in advance they’ll be able to better navigate unprecedented expenses or the rising costs of living through improved cash flow.
  • Provide online baking. Access to banks for many workers is not always as easy as you might think; by offering free online banking you’ll be able to make all workers feel welcomed 
  • Offer instant tips and wages. Letting workers access their tips and paychecks as soon as possible–even right after the shift–can really make the difference in today’s economically uncertain times.

Additionally, offering financial benefits can help you improve morale, and retain not only traditional employees but also independent contractors who are part of the gig economy.

Support your workforce during economic uncertainty and see your business thrive

There you have it, simple ways you can strive to build a positive company culture regardless of external uncertainty. A strong foundation is built by an engaged workforce—and by applying some of these tactics into your operations today, you're doing your part to strengthen that foundation as we look to the future. A happy and engaged workforce will help your business to not only survive, but thrive in an uncertain economic climate.

Learn more about how earned wage access can benefit your organization here

Continue reading