Those involved in the research were all at board or senior management level, within the retail, luxury, and consumer goods sectors. How useful these tactics actually are is open to debate, but they provide a useful barometer of the current thinking taking place in top firms.
Tactics For Tough Times
1. Ride the storm - preparing for difficult times but not currently planning large scale layoffs.
Leaders of consumer, retail, leisure, and luxury industries are wisely shying away from kneejerk staff cuts or talking about culls of more mature staff. This reflects an innovative and creative approach to talent that other sectors would do well to observe.
2. See upside in downturn - the best business leaders see opportunities in turmoil.
Business leaders are focusing on the future, aiming to find new opportunities and disrupt existing markets with innovation, based on consumer insights.
3. Show me the value - rapid response and appropriate price promotion are working for some.
‘Extreme value propositions’ are working well with increasingly cost-conscious consumers. In an effort to grab market share, a race downmarket is developing, to capture consumer spending power with a ‘best-price’ message.
4. Pocket returns in pockets of growth - some sectors are positively booming, such as online, home entertainment and some luxury brands.
Online business continues to defy gravity. The results seem to indicate a ‘digital divide’ between companies who have older business models and those who have successfully incorporated e-commerce and new technology platforms. The latter are now benefiting from this shift in consumer behaviour.
5. Refocus on emerging markets - opportunities in Asia are attracting increased attention and investment whilst Europe and the US flounder.
Many respondents indicated that they are refocusing their businesses on the significant growth opportunities in the Middle East and Asia and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Europe.
6. Keep up with customers - businesses must find a way to match or exceed customers' increasingly agile changes in behaviour.
Customers’ behaviour is changing faster than businesses are able to shift their strategies. Consumer loyalty is not surviving the challenge of great deals and people are defecting to (own) brands that previously they would not have considered.
7. Hang on to talent - attracting the best talent is increasingly vital, but also becoming increasingly difficult.
Business leaders are not planning for the large-scale lay-offs that happened in previous recessions. Instead, they are focusing on whether they have the skills and talent to take them through the downturn. They recognise that it will be increasingly difficult to attract the best new talent into their organisations.
8. Empower your people - business leaders are recognising the value of experience, while also ensuring that their people have the right skills and training in place to survive and prepare for the upturn.
Internally, the focus is on having the right strategies in place to retain the best people, as well as managing under-performers in a tougher way. Incentives are being adapted to reflect these changed priorities.
9. Keep up morale - maintaining workforce morale will be a decisive benefit.
Businesses reported that they are redoubling efforts to demonstrate decisive leadership via more internal communication. For example, several companies are making increasing use of face-to-face communication to increase the CEO’s visibility, to set the right tone and convince employees that their jobs are safe. They recognise the need to avoid the creation of a bunker mentality within their businesses and build employee confidence and trust in their leadership.
10. Engage your staff - keep staff members on your side.
A high proportion of our survey respondents recognised that full employee engagement is needed to be able to shift strategy successfully. A minority of companies cited examples of the impact that this can have.