- Nearly half of employees aren't sufficiently agile, persistent or self-starting to handle an economic downturn, according to 89 executives spoken to by corporate training firm VitalSmarts.
- VitalSmarts asked all respondents, including 964 employees, to rate their organizations on skills considered important to surviving a recession: change mastery, productivity, open dialogue, leadership and accountability. More than half (52%) of employees surveyed said their bosses didn't have the skills necessary to navigate a recession.
- "As the threat of a recession looms, executives question whether their people have the skills to adapt, candidly speak up, and hold others accountable," David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, our research shows leaders who find their teams and organizations to be on the short-side of these skills during a recession may not only struggle to weather the recession well, they may struggle to weather it at all."
Executives pointing to skill deficiencies in their employee bases is in line with projections that the skills gap is growing: a survey of HR leaders by Wiley Education Services found the gap had grown 12% between 2018 and 2019.
Inadequate or poorly trained managers may be one contributing factor to skills gaps and general unpreparedness. More than 80% of employees in a March 2019 survey by VitalSmart cited "glaring flaws" among their company's managers ranging from poor listening and being disconnected to more discriminatory characteristics. Some managers even admit feeling overwhelmed and lacking in training specific to their role. If managers are unprepared to be leaders in their organizations, they're unlikely to be ready to handle a recession.
Forward-thinking HR leaders might assess areas of organizational deficiency and strategize training around them. The U.S. economy has shown signs of stability, and current layoff numbers aren't as high as past pre-recession totals. In fact, record-low unemployment has continued a trend of aggressive hiring. But preparing for a recession can be an effective exercise for HR teams. This can include looking ahead at possible shifts in business needs at the job title level, as well as planning communications strategies — from being open about company performance to informing employees about organizational decisions and actions, including layoffs.