10 reasons to accelerate HR projects when the going gets tough

In 1988 I was transferred from the Defense & Control Systems division of Philips to the Consumer Electronics division. Jan Timmer had just been appointed as CEO of this division. Consumer Electronics was not doing well, and big restructuring and downsizing was planned. At Consumer Electronics there was a “Personnel stop”, that meant that no outside hiring was allowed. I had to come in through the back door. My assignment: develop attractive and challenging programs for the high potentials of Consumer Electronics around the world and make sure they want to stay with the company. (Read also: “30 years in HR part 4, Operation Centurion).
Jan Timmer applied a clever principle: when the going gets tough, accelerate HR projects. What you often see, is the reverse. When companies get in dire straits, HR expenditures are cut and programs and projects are stopped or not started.

10 reasons to invest in HR in difficult times:

1. In difficult times you need very good people

You have to make sure the best people stay motivated to give their best.
Your leaders and your high potentials should feel valued and should feel part of the inner circle.

2. Difficult times offer excellent development opportunities

When the going gets tough, it becomes easier to detect your talent. Use the crisis to offer your talent opportunities for growth. Move young people to the front line, they might come with surprising solutions.

3. Your organisation is more open to change

If difficult times, the organisation will be more open to change. This is an opportunity to implement some relevant HR projects that were long over due. There might be room for an innovative approach. Example: performance management. Throw away your long forms and introduce real time performance evaluation. Key question: are you contributing to getting the company back on track? ++ + ? – –.

4. When you take care of people in difficult times, they will remember that when you are back in growth mode

5. The relevance and the impact of HR programs is best tested in difficult times

6. HR is forced to develop high impact programs

Are the HR programs focusing on the most important current issues? Like: Improving teamwork at the top. Developing high potentials. Connecting people globally. Improving performance management, including feed back.

7. This is the time to test  and develop your team

HR can help.

8. You can negotiate better deals with suppliers

Difficult times are also a good time to test your suppliers. Who stays t your side? Who comes with creative solutions that really help you?

9. This is the time to hire some new people

New people, who are attracted by tough challenges, and who are sure they can make a contribution to get your organization back on track. These people exist, really.

10. Create room for reflection

Your tendency will be to go in crisis management mode. All hands on deck. HR can help to create room for reflection and make sure your teams stay fit.

P.S. The same applies for communications. The title could have been “10 reasons to accelerate your communication projects when the going gets tough”.


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