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HRD 2009: Three rules to sustaining performance in a downturn, says expert


Solidarity, energy and autonomy are the three rules for creating organisational resilience during a downturn.

This is according to Richard Reeves, director of the think-tank Demos, who was addressing delegates at the CIPD’s HRD conference in London this week. In his seminar examining how to sustain performance in a downturn, Reeves outlined the concepts around these rules, as a means of ensuring higher levels of performance and loyalty during a recession.

He explained that solidarity captures two elements of an organisation – sociability, which can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction; and a sense of purpose, in which employers must create a clear line of sight for employees so that they can connect their own job with the overall purpose of the organisation.

In terms of energy, he said: “A successful organisation has a sense of purposeful energy. Ask your people what are the things that we are doing to increase your energy, and what are we doing to drain your energy?”

Reeves added that, by giving people autonomy and allowing them more control over their jobs, they will be more productive and display higher levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing. “In a downturn, you want to grab people tighter and allow less flexibility, but employees who have more flexibility are more productive and loyal. Managers may find it hard to let go, but you need to trust people to do their jobs.”

Reeves also stressed the importance of handling a redundancy process correctly. “There is the opportunity to become a more productive organisation through the way you handle redundancies,” he said, adding that the way a redundancy programme is handled can effect turnover three or four years later, in terms of the people who are left behind. “If the process is done badly, you break the psychological contract and your key talent will remember this and could leave at a later date.”

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