3 Ways to Help Employees Weather a Business Storm Cycle


The modern economy is in a constant state of change, which means businesses – large and small – must move quickly in response to market shifts.

Even the strongest companies will cycle through good times and bad, says Dave Hopson, managing partner at the information-technology consulting firm Triumphus and author of Surviving  the Business Storm Cycle: How to Weather Your Business’s Ups and Downs (www.davehopson.com).

Bringing out the best in employees is a challenge at the best of times. According to Gallup, only 32 percent of U.S. workers felt engaged in their jobs in 2015 – which was a pretty good year for the economy and business growth.

So imagine the struggle of keeping the best workers happy when the business transitions through a down period.

And it will. Hopson says every business goes through four repeating phases: start-up, high growth (what he calls the “tornado”), declining growth (the “avalanche”), and consolidation.

Picture the employees sliding downhill in that avalanche, and you get the idea: It’s up to a company’s leaders to help them hold on, to turn the inevitable transition period from exhausting to exhilarating.

How does a business leader manage that through possible layoffs and pay cuts or, at the very least, major changes to the processes that are used to get the work done every day?

  • Start putting people in the roles that fit them best. “This is the time to ask some tough questions,” Hopson says. Who on the staff is so tired and discouraged they can no longer do their jobs well? Who has been moved outside of their normal roles, and how are they handling their new positions? Do they need to be moved back or not? “Once you’ve answered these questions, you can step back and take a more accurate look at your staff,” he says. “You’ll be able to add people where you need them – and remove people where you don’t.”
  • Expect resistance to change. If this is painful for you as a manager, think about how it is for staff members who have a lot less control over the situation. “How you and your leadership team present change to your staff can make a world of difference,” Hopson says. Employees who feel involved in the change and understand what’s going on demonstrate a more rapid recovery and may even perform better in the end.
  • Clear and frequent communication is vital.  “If you introduce processes that staff members don’t understand or haven’t learned, you’re going to slow things down rather than speed them up,” Hopson says. Invest in your people, he advises. Make sure they always have proper training and equipment.

During the consolidation period between high times and low times and back to high times again, a leader’s primary role is to rally those frazzled and frustrated troops.

“Make sure everyone understands you’re in the midst of a normal process,” Hopson says. “And keep waving that flag so that no one gets discouraged.”

About Dave Hopson

Dave Hopson, author of Surviving the Business Storm Cycle: How to Weather Your Business’s Ups and Downs, (www.davehopson.com). He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Sam Houston University and a master’s in international relations from Claremont Graduate School. He also has a doctorate in international relations and econometrics from the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management and School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation at the Claremont Graduate School.