By Mike Klein on July 14, 2022



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6 Tips To Help The Internal Comms Profession Thrive During A Recession

There’s a bit of talk going on about whether or not we will be facing another global recession.   

Whether it happens or not - and the indications are that the US Federal Reserve Board may make such an announcement in the coming days or weeks - communication leaders need to get prepared for the range of emotions, decisions, and changes that can result from such a declaration. 

Communication pros may think that because of their positive impact on many organizations during the height of the pandemic, they may be less subject to cutbacks and other constraints that they faced in previous years.  But complacency is no substitute for preparation. So here are some things to do that could improve the odds or even strengthen your position in the days, weeks and months too. 

1. Sharpen Your Elbows

Resourcing in a recession is a competitive process. Not only do you have to be prepared to justify your budget and impact, you also have to be prepared to question the resources others propose to consume.  

Communication pros, and particularly internal comms folks, have a history of being excessively polite and deferential to “bigger–boy” functions like operations, finance, HR and marketing.  This isn’t the time for that.  

2. Challenge Fixed Big-Ticket Expenditures

Be prepared to challenge fixed big-ticket expenditures as they have the biggest potential to squeeze out the resources you need to help the organization weather immediate recession-related changes.  

The employee engagement survey and its related processes are a legitimate target, especially if your organization doesn’t have a great record of responding to the feedback.  It’s possible to replace a branded, benchmarked employee engagement survey with your own local alternatives - and those alternatives are much easier and cost-effective to tailor to the specific strategic needs you will have, to help your company win in tough times. 

3. Measure And Mobilize

You might not have been proactive about defining and tracking your own measurement metrics.  But that doesn’t mean it’s too late.  

Look at the issues you’ve focused on in the last year - actions, initiatives, priorities, and see if there’s any opportunity to use existing business measures to track the impact of your interventions.  Do any changes in performance coincide with initiatives you’ve started or helped to support? 

If you find any, game out the bottom-line impact and make sure you get the credit for it. 

Alternatively, do you have stakeholders, “internal customers,” who will vouch for the impact your support for them has had?  If yes, it’s time to mobilize your friends and get their stories into circulation. 

4. Start Streamlining

This is also a great time to take a hard look at your own range of activities and deliverables.  What has real impact, what’s there to look pretty, and what could you do if you weren’t focusing too much on the things that look pretty? 

Play the game of cutting your own budget 20% or 30%?  What goes, what stays? What do you have left over - perhaps even some extra time and attention to real work that matters? Show some initiative by proposing your own changes first.  And don’t be afraid to propose shifts in spending that will make you and your team more efficient and effective into the future (see #5 below). 

5. Fight False Economies - Especially Around Technology

Using bad or inappropriate technology might look “free” to the IT department, but it costs your business in terms of fumbles, friction, and frustration.   

Even in a recession, employees are unwilling to sit still for workplace technology that falls short in terms of user experience and transactional integrity compared to the consumer technology they use inside and outside the office.     

At the same time, consider technology improvements that align well with the existing platforms your employees like and are used to - rather than those that force them to learn new interfaces, processes, and practices. 

6. Start Superconnecting

It’s also time to strike new ground - to move into an area that’s not normally in the remit of communication leaders: to drive introductions between people in the business: Superconnecting.  

An intelligent, intentional approach to organizational introductions focuses on identifying gaps in the org chart or between employees and the peers and colleagues they need to engage to become effective, and then personally facilitate those introductions. 

Internal communication pros are well positioned to make a difference because of their awareness of organizational priorities and personalities, and because of their ability to create opportunities for people to connect online or live.   

In companies entering recession, understanding and closing organizational gaps may well strengthen the case for IC resourcing as superconnection can help reinforce the importance of key staff - or make it easier for the company to sustain the loss of an employee who’s currently critical to a range of important relationships. Superconnecting can also strengthen the overall community at a time when the broadcasting of feel-good positive messages might strain credibility more than drive engagement or alignment. 

It's Time To Be Prepared 

As communication pros, we don’t always have the power to select the best circumstances for ourselves and our profession.  

But we can always be prepared for whatever circumstances arise.  

The fact remains that we can continue to offer great support, and even improve that support, in times of financial challenge.  But we need to be able to make that case convincingly, both to the people we report to, and to ourselves.   

Don’t be afraid if you don’t have everything in order.  This year has been hard to predict and prepare for. But do try to make up for lost time.  And this is the time to be proactive - expect that everyone we compete with for resources will be ready to ride. 

It’s Time To Saddle Up  

Take the Right Steps to Stay Above Recession - Talk to Sparrow Connected today!  

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