Employees are more afraid a recession will change corporate culture than they are of layoffs

March 13, 2023, 11:07 AM UTC
Woman in team building session at startup office
Fifty-two percent of workers said they’re concerned about worsening company culture in the event of a recession, according to a new survey.
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Your workers aren’t as concerned about getting laid off as you think. A recently released Harris Poll survey on behalf of HR technology platform Justworks found that the biggest recession-related concern among workers is that the employee-first cultures developed during the pandemic will soon fade.

While 42% of the over 1,000 survey respondents say that they are, in fact, worried about getting laid off, a larger share of workers (52%) says they’re concerned about worsening company culture. Employees got used to workplace cultures prioritizing workers’ needs and desires for balance and flexibility. 

“Folks are asking what’s going to change,” says Justworks SVP of people Allison Rutledge-Parisi. “So those conversations are definitely underway, and that’s healthy. There should be a transparent back and forth between manager and direct report.”

Anecdotally, she says, many employees are asking their leaders for a heads-up about which cultural norms and workplace policies might change in the coming months, so they can better prepare or adjust.

Rutledge-Parisi says HR executives can assuage these concerns by speaking transparently about what’s happening in the macro environment. Hence, employees feel like they play a part in helping their companies navigate through potentially tough times. 

“The more that you can be transparent and open about the pressures and the path forward, the more folks will engage in the work and stop reading headlines and freaking out,” she tells Fortune. “As an HR leader, reminding business leaders how critical that is is huge.”

Worth noting: Employees care less about losing a few pandemic-era cultural perks if they know it could help them keep their jobs. Once people feel seen and heard, they tend to get on board with a company’s plans. 

“It’s a moment where companies that care to maintain culture are going to have to over-communicate, listen, and then respond, really reflecting back what they’ve heard,” says Rutledge-Parisi.

Amber Burton

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Everything you need to know from Fortune.

The new offsite. Corporate offsites have transformed from glorified, boozy field trips to meaningful team-bonding experiences. —Paige McGlaughlin

Jetsetters. A Montana construction firm found the employment crunch so bad it rented a jet to fly employees to one of its plants. —Eleanor Pringle

Women at work. The labor force participation rate for women is back to pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate for men, however, is still 0.3 percentage points lower than pre-pandemic. —Megan Leonhardt

Spite hiring. A Silicon Valley venture capitalist says Google intentionally over-hired to keep them from working at competitors. —Eleanor Pringle

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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