Recession-Proofing Strategies for Small Businesses and Their HR Teams

Recession-Proofing Strategies for Small Businesses and Their HR Teams

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Amid a recession, organizations of all sizes and sectors usually experience decreased sales and profits stemming from changing consumer behaviors. An economic downturn may also limit an organization’s credit capabilities and reduce their overall cash flow as customers take more time to pay for products and services.

While these behaviors can threaten the financial stability of any organization, large businesses are often better positioned to weather a recession because of their substantial revenues, excess reserves and privileged access to a wider range of credit markets. Small businesses, on the other hand, may be particularly vulnerable during an economic downturn, as they generally lack the additional capital necessary to offset extended periods of loss. As a result, when a recession occurs, small businesses are more likely to have to make difficult financial decisions to avoid issues such as insolvency or bankruptcy.

Recessions can’t be prevented or avoided but the strategies that HR teams implement can great impact whether organizations are able to withstand the downturn. Specifically, HR teams can ensure their organizations are sufficiently prepared for a recession by taking steps to limit related ramifications and maintain financial stability. Today we’re going to talk about how a recession impacts small businesses and explores what HR teams can do to adequately prepare their organizations for an economic downturn.

Tips to Prepare for a Recession

To promote financial stability among their organizations during an economic downturn, HR teams should consider the following recession-proofing tips:

1. Revisit compensation and benefits strategies.

Many employers have responded to recent labor challenges by increasing workers’ salaries, providing substantial bonuses and expanding employee benefits and perks. However, with the possibility of a recession on the horizon, HR teams may need to rethink how their organizations will address attraction and retention struggles. This may involve curtailing salary increases and reducing employee benefits. After all, recession-proof organizations tend to develop their budgets with an eye toward the future.

2. Automate internal processes.

The more efficient organizations are, the more resilient they will likely be during a recession. In particular, recession-proof organizations tend to stay one step ahead by optimizing their resources and automating where possible. As such, HR teams can improve organizational productivity by automating processes and implementing new technologies. This may entail automating recruiting, onboarding and payroll operations to bolster efficiency.

3. Try to minimize layoffs.

When organizations’ financial capabilities become uncertain, their immediate plans may be to reduce costs through layoffs. However, layoffs should only be considered a last resort, seeing as they can create additional risks (e.g., legal liabilities, lower morale and employee distrust) and negatively impact business operations by decreasing productivity and proficiency. Instead, HR teams may be able to minimize the need for layoffs within their organizations by implementing voluntary reduction-in-force programs or choosing to slow hiring or pause it entirely.

4. Stay transparent.

The possibility of a recession can bring uncertainty. Employees will likely be concerned about their futures. They may question the long-term viability of their respective organizations. With this in mind, HR teams need to find ways to keep employees informed without fostering their worries. Creating transparent workplace cultures can help organizations limit recession-related ramifications.

5. Prioritize employee engagement.

Employee engagement can be vital leading up to and during a recession. During periods of economic uncertainty, employees are likely to feel stressed. When organizations are forced to lay off employees, the remaining employees tend to shoulder additional responsibilities and greater workloads. As a result, these employees feel overworked and unsure about their futures. According to industry experts, highly engaged employees can help limit recession-related labor challenges among organizations. Engaged employees are more likely to accept negative work changes and remain loyal. HR teams can increase employee engagement by meeting with employees regularly and addressing their concerns early. By increasing employee engagement during difficult times, HR teams can help maintain staff morale and productivity.

6. Manage health care costs.

As healthcare budgets shrink during a recession, searching for cost-effective solutions can allow organizations to maintain affordable benefits for employees. Implementing effective strategies to manage health care expenses can help HR teams keep their organizations’ reduced benefits budgets intact without sacrificing employees’ needs. This can include reevaluating plan designs and offerings, directing staff to cost-effective services, and improving employee health care literacy.


A recession can have serious impacts on small businesses. Fortunately, by properly preparing for an economic downturn, HR teams can help their organizations be better positioned to minimize financial hardships.

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