Navigating the Downturn: Tips for founders from the Oak HC/FT Chief People Officer Guild (Part 1)

November 3, 2022

This is the first article of a four-part serieson how founders can help their businesses navigate downturns.  

The global macroeconomic environment suggests that we are in a moment to be thoughtful about what it means to be an organization that can weather a storm. It is indisputable that the considerations and decisions made now will impact businesses for years to come. We asked the members of the Oak HC/FT CPO Guild for four tips on how to successfully navigate a downturn.

Here’s tip number one:

Differentiate yourself with a strong employee retention strategy.

Data from the U.S. Department of Labor in August shows that there are nearly two open roles for every applicant, so while a recession may be looming, the war for talent has not yet abated. For early stage companies, it’s a war on two fronts–retaining staff and attracting talent and it can feel a bit like a juggling act to do both well. Organizations will be best served if they deploy a comprehensive retention strategy focused on effective employee engagement, which involves understanding the complete employee experience.


Culture is usually cited by employees as one of the top reasons they join a particular company and is certainly a reason why many stay. When the engagement, the culture and the experience are world class, it attracts world class talent. The word of mouth and brand recognition provide the needed lift to continually appeal to those looking for a new opportunity.

Mission and Purpose

Mission and purpose can be a real differentiator in both good and bad times. Leaders should communicate to employees about how they will continue to work to achieve the company’s mission and will not be short-sighted in making decisions that go against the purpose of the company. Employees want to believe that the company they joined is the same one regardless of the environment we are operating in and that they are following the same ‘north star’ even when decisions get more difficult to make.