Career cushioning: What to do when your employees are looking for a plan B
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Career cushioning: What to do when your employees are looking for a plan B

Have you ever felt the urge to have a backup plan, just in case things take an unexpected turn? Well, you’re not alone.

In today’s changing economy and unpredictable labor market, employees are increasingly embracing the concept of career cushioning.

But what exactly is career cushioning? And what can you do as an employer to recession-proof your business and retain top employees? Let’s dive in and explore this topic together.

What is career cushioning?

Career cushioning is the practice of exploring alternative career options while still employed. It’s a strategic approach people adopt to navigate uncertainty. It’s a backup plan that helps them maintain a sense of stability in their professional lives.

Career cushioning may involve:

  • Exploring alternative career options
  • Participating in upskilling and reskilling programs
  • Building up their professional network and connections
  • Maintaining an updated resume and portfolio
  • Developing a contingency plan for career changes
  • Seeking mentorship and guidance
  • Exploring entrepreneurship and side projects

These strategies help people navigate uncertainty and prepare for the future.

Career cushioning: What to do when your employees are looking for a plan B

Why are employees seeking career cushioning?

Career cushioning is not about loyalty (or the lack of it). It’s more about individuals proactively preparing themselves for the future.

The current economic landscape fueled this need for a “plan B.” People are preparing for potential challenges and opportunities it brings.

Here are some reasons employees are keeping their options open:

  • Anxiety about the future: With the term “recession” trending everywhere, people want a safety net. They want to know they’ll have options in case they’re subject to layoffs or downsizing.
  • New opportunities: Advancing technology and the shift to remote work made existing opportunities more accessible. Without the restraints of physical location, people can pursue a much wider variety of roles.
  • Poor work/life balance: The rise of remote work has helped redefine the work experience. And many are loving the newfound flexibility. Many are willing to look elsewhere if their current employer doesn’t offer that flexibility.

How employers can build job security

As an employer, you may not have control over macroeconomic factors. But you can play a vital role in creating a work environment that fosters job security. You can start by knowing what employees want in today’s workplace and meeting them where they are.

Here are five strategies you can implement to support your employees:

1. Encourage skill development and a culture of continuous learning

It may seem counterintuitive to invest in training during an economic downturn. Or when people contemplate leaving. But providing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling shows commitment to your employees’ growth.

Encourage employees to pursue professional development opportunities. These may include attending industry conferences, registering for webinars, or enrolling in online courses.

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For example:

  • A marketing agency offers training in digital marketing to help employees stay ahead in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
  • A retail company offers a tuition reimbursement program for employees who wish to pursue higher education.

Supporting employees in their professional growth demonstrates your commitment to employee development. It also equips employees with valuable qualifications. It makes them more resilient and adaptable to changes in the job market.

2. Facilitate internal mobility

Allow employees to explore different roles within your organization. That may mean advancement into a new role. Or it could mean letting them participate in cross-departmental collaboration or job rotation.

For example:

  • A big consulting firm asks employees to work on short projects in different parts of the company.
  • A multinational corporation implements a job rotation program where employees have the chance to work temporarily in different regions.

Mobility within the company doesn’t only provide opportunities for career growth. It also helps employees diversify their skills and adapt to changing job market demands. It will allow them to explore new career avenues without leaving their current job.

3. Be transparent

Regularly update your team about the organization’s performance, changes in the industry, and any potential impact on their roles. Knowing you’ll keep them updated can reduce anxiety. It will help employees feel more secure and stable in your organization.

For example:

  • A tech startup conducts monthly town hall meetings where the CEO shares updates on the company’s financial health, plans, and potential challenges.
  • Managers hold regular one-on-one meetings with team members to discuss performance, goals, and career development.

Transparent communication helps employees understand the context behind strategic decisions. It reduces uncertainty about their own job security. And it allows you to build trust.

4. Foster safety and inclusion

Create a place where employees feel valued by building a culture of safety and inclusion. Establish communication best practices that help employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns and aspirations.

Make sure they’re heard by supporting policies around diversity and inclusion. Make your office a place where people feel seen, and every voice is valued.

For example:

  • An HR team creates a process for conflict resolution that helps people talk through problems with respect and understanding.
  • A growing company includes diversity and inclusion courses in its training to support policies that establish an LGBTQI+ inclusive workplace.

Create security with an environment where people can focus on their work without fearing discrimination or exclusion.

5. Support employee wellbeing

Help employees feel supported by promoting wellness and a healthy work-life balance. Wellbeing efforts may offer flexible work arrangements. They may also include wellness programs and employee assistance initiatives.

For example:

  • An employer with teams across locations and time zones offers flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, to accommodate the diverse needs of its employees.
  • A company that implements lunchtime wellness programs that include activities like yoga sessions, meditation breaks, and mental health workshops.

Give employees the flexibility and support to manage their personal and professional lives. They’ll experience less stress and will be more likely to remain committed to their jobs.

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How you benefit from helping employees create a plan B

Even when the economy is good, people might still need to expand their horizons and try different things.

Supporting their efforts with the above strategies can help employees feel more secure in their jobs. But it also benefits your company. Here’s why.

Enhanced adaptability and agility

When employees actively engage in career cushioning, they become more adaptable and agile.

Exploring alternative career options and acquiring diverse skill sets makes them more adaptable. This, in turn, helps your company stay competitive and resilient in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

Talent retention

Supporting employee career cushioning shows a commitment to their professional growth and wellbeing. When employees see that you genuinely care about their long-term success, they’re more likely to remain loyal to the company.

Stronger employer brand and reputation

Even when people decide to leave to pursue their dreams, your support in their pursuit will pay off for you in the long run.

When former employees still feel connected to the organization, they become brand ambassadors. They’ll showcase their positive experiences working for you, which can attract top talent in the future.

Build a workplace for better employee retention

By using these strategies, you can create a workplace where employees feel important, safe, and motivated to contribute.

Career cushioning doesn’t mean employees are being disloyal. It means giving them the power to navigate the changing work world. Embracing this idea will help you retain top talent and create a resilient and adaptable workforce that can thrive in uncertainty.

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