How to retain your best talent through a recession

Retain top talent scaled

With a recession officially confirmed by the Bank of England, it’s a sign of harder times to come. Both businesses and employees will have to dig deeper to stay afloat, financially. That said, businesses must become agile and learn to make the best of the worst situation.

In an ideal world, this means keeping employees happy and making sure they stick around through thick and thin. What’s more, many businesses simply haven’t been through a recession before, so the coming months or years may be a challenging learning curve.

To better prepare leaders for the near future, we’re looking at how you can retain your employees, and why things like meaningful benefits, flexible working and a healthy culture can contribute massively — if there was ever a more timely guide, this is it!

It’s harder than ever to retain talent

Despite the recession, times are already harder in the recruitment sector. As the war for talent rages on and the Great Resignation shows no sign of slowing down, companies have felt the impact. Similarly, however, the ideas and techniques we’re going to share can counteract these problems.

Before we dive into those, what is the war for talent and the Great Resignation? Firstly, the war for talent is a reflection of the current recruitment and retention landscape. It’s a term coined for an intensely difficult time hiring and retaining employees.

Closely followed is the Great Resignation. An ongoing trend that has seen employees depart their jobs en masse in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

It was reported by theHRDirector at the beginning of 2022 that the Great Resignation had continued from the previous year. In a survey, almost a third of UK workers were considering a move this year.

To put it in simpler terms, times are harder for recruiters. In addition to a recession, there are other obstacles in the way. To help ease these uphill battles, let’s take a look at a number of ways to retain talent through a recession.

3 ways to retain talented employees during a recession

Below, you’ll find three ideas we strongly recommend you consider. If you head up a business, department or team, it is essential you review your employee experience on a regular basis.

It’s techniques like these below that can really make the difference to a good workforce, a great workforce or — in the face of a recession — a crumbling workforce.

Create a recession-proof company culture

First up, let’s talk about culture. Recession or not, your company culture is essential. It’s the backbone that supports everything from better retention to engagement and more. During a recession, your workforce can feel deflated and suffer from poor morale.

Everywhere people turn, there’s bad news around the economy. It’s times like this when leadership teams must rethink their approach. We recommend adopting a conscious leadership style.

Employee concerns and problems must be heard and addressed, and conscious leadership is about putting people first. Consciously listening and acting in the best interests of your team. Additionally, it’s about creating a culture of honesty and transparency and trust.

As a leader, it’s important to normalise conversations around money. Too often, employees won’t come forward for fear of being judged or frowned upon. A recession-proof culture is one where people listen and support one another.

A well-rounded benefits package

Alongside a healthier company culture, it’s also important to revisit your employee benefits package. This is where the real magic happens. Believe it or not, your perks and initiatives are one of the best ways to combat a recession and retain your employees.

Why? Think about it, with access to things like employee wellness programs, flexible working opportunities and learning and development, why wouldn’t they stay?

Typically, people cut back on spending during a recession; and gym memberships, fitness classes and general self-care experiences are one of the first things to be scrapped. This is because it is seen as a luxury rather than an essential.

The problem is, for your business, employee wellbeing is essential, and so offering access to health and wellbeing benefits can reinforce better retention against a recession.

Although flexible working isn’t specifically a wellbeing benefit, it does support a healthier work-life balance, bank balance (commuting costs) and has been a contributing factor to the Great Resignation.

As the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible working was banished by some companies, resulting in a high influx of resignations. Ultimately, how are you constantly adapting your workplace benefits to attract and retain talent in a recession?

Carry out regular meetings and stay interviews

Finally, let’s discuss why regular meetings and stay interviews can be powerful tools for retaining talent. One of the best ways, both in and outside of the workplace to combat the recession is communication.

People want to feel heard, especially when it comes to their concerns. While this point feeds back into creating a better workplace culture, it deserves its own spotlight. Weak communication is the fault of many businesses.

Not only does it fail to quash problems between leadership and employees, but can be responsible for consequent problems because of poor communication. In the case of a recession, leadership should become active listeners, and engage in regular meetings with employees.

This is best addressed in the form of stay interviews. A type of conversation that helps employers get a better view of the workplace from an employee perspective. It’s a great way to minimise attrition before it’s too late.

If your employees are concerned about anything, these conversations are where leaders can get some insight. Are you really speaking with employees about how they feel and think towards the workplace?

Our final thoughts on retaining talent during a recession

That’s not all! While our list covers some of the most essential ways to attract and retain employees amidst a recession, there are other options. It’s about thinking outside the box, getting creative and focusing on your workforce.

Remember, what works for one company, may not work for another. It really depends on your business, your people and how you prioritise supporting healthier, happier employees.

To conclude, the recession seems like it’s here to stay – for the time being at least. It’s an unavoidable truth that will inevitably hinder business growth. Therefore, leaders should take it very seriously and recognise just how important happy employees are to their business.


Alex Hind

Alex is the Co-Founder of Heka, a wellness platform that supports employees with financial, nutritional, mental and physical wellbeing products and services.