Use slowdown to build resilience, boost productivity

As companies come to grips with an economic slowdown, they should not overreact and unwittingly paint themselves into a corner.

While there is value in belt-tightening, such as reducing headcount, companies should not restrict their capacities to respond to challenges and limit their capabilities to grow their businesses (" MAS: S'pore economy to remain sluggish in 2017"; Wednesday).

While companies cannot predict or prevent an economic downturn, they can build a more resilient organisation to successfully undergo and grow through every evolving challenge and situation.

In the process of battling real and potential problems, top management should be mindful not to affect employees' self-efficacy, that is, employees' beliefs in their abilities to learn or accomplish their jobs at a desired level.

Research shows that self-efficacy has a major influence on employees' motivations, well-being and achievements.

Therefore, companies should continue to inspire employees to enhance their commitment, confidence and courage to plan and fight for a desired future.

Continue to help them develop a passion and ability to learn, improve and achieve better results on individual and collective bases.

When employees are cautiously optimistic about the business and its desired outcomes, they are in a better position to achieve better results and thrive in an unpredictable future.

Business is not just about expanding market size but also about enhancing market share.

Therefore, companies can capitalise on competitors' fear and cautiousness to entrench and grow their stakes in the market.

They can proactively identify business gaps that cannot be filled, or filled adequately, by their competitors.

Economic downturns can frequently offer some of the best opportunities for top management to motivate employees to redesign their business models and streamline and automate operations to improve productivity and results.

They can make use of lull periods to expand their range of offerings and expand into new markets and businesses, and prepare themselves to rise to a higher level during an upturn.

They would do well to remember: During an upturn, prepare for a downturn. During a downturn, prepare for an upturn.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Use slowdown to build resilience, boost productivity'. Print Edition | Subscribe