The 5 Employee Groups That Can Make or Break Your Recovery From a Recession
Groundbreaking new research from Great Place To Work® shows that experiences of Key Employees around inclusivity, innovation, fairness and integrity drive exceptional business performance during uncertain economic times like a recession.
* Our study of the Great Recession considers two entire years of stock performance, from Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2009. The official definition of the Great Recession is from Dec. 2007 to June 2009.
Key Groups and Critical Experiences
At Thriving companies, five Key Employee Groups were having positive, high-trust experiences around inclusivity, innovation, fairness and integrity. The key groups of employees are women, front-line workers, hourly male workers, long-tenured employees and people of color. 1
The daily work experiences of people in these groups predicted how well organizations fared during the Great Recession.
We also found that particular aspects of the work experience were vital for those Key Employees: feeling treated as a full member of the organization, management following through on promises, fair promotions and feeling welcome when joining new teams. Another critical experience is “Innovation By All” – a sense that everyone in the organization is invited to generate new and better ways of doing things.
5 Key Employee Groups
- Front-line workers
- Hourly male workers
- Long-tenured employees
- People of Color 1
5 critical experiences
- Treated as a full member
- Innovation By All
- Management delivers on promises
- Promotions are fair
- People are welcomed to new teams
1 By people of color, we are referring to people who identify as African American or Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or identify with two or more races.
Treated as full member
Innovation By All™
Management delivers on promises
Promotions are fair
New team members welcomed warmly
Why Are These Employees So Important?
- Many serve customers directly, so they’re plugged into the reality of how the business is doing on a daily basis
- Often first to suffer wage cuts, furloughs or layoffs
- Have been disproportionately affected as “essential workers” during the pandemic
- The most historically affected and disadvantaged by issues of sexism, racism, and class
These Key Employee Groups are likely to be the first to feel the pain anytime the business is in trouble. So when their experience is positive, the overall experience of all employees is likely to be positive.
At Thriving companies during the Great Recession, the Key Employee Groups had positive experiences overall. Those companies also had the smallest gaps in experience between the Key Employee Groups and the rest of their colleagues. Still, troubling gaps have existed.
We studied the experiences of the Key Employee Groups compared to that of their counterparts from 2006 through 2020. We found that Key Employee Groups had 6–11% poorer experiences between 2006 and 2019 across all the critical areas mentioned above.
But there is hope. In data we collected in 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic taking full effect, we noticed a smaller gap in the experience of the Key Employee Groups compared to their counterparts. In other words, many organizations were better positioned to thrive during the COVID-19 recession.
No matter the health of your company’s culture entering a recession, the formula for success today is the same. It involves the five action items mentioned above. And it includes a crucial sixth one: Listen continuously to your people.
Organizations must track the experience of their Key Employee Groups, as part of a wider strategy to monitor their culture.
The organizations that provide the most inclusive, high-trust culture for all their people are the ones most likely to avoid Flatlining during this downturn and beyond.
They are the ones most likely to soar.