Recession concerns drive focus on productivity for HR leaders

Achievers report shows 77% of HR leaders are concerned about a coming recession, with increasing productivity topping the list of objectives

Toronto, ON, November 8 — Three-quarters of HR leaders say they are worried about the coming recession, however only 26% of respondents state that their organization is prepared for and capable of managing unexpected challenges, according to the new HR Preparedness Report from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI). AWI is the research and insights arm of Achievers, the global leader in employee voice and recognition solutions.

Driving results with lean teams

When asked what they were doing to prepare for a possible recession, the number one answer from HR leaders was initiatives to improve productivity. This was followed by attracting the right talent and retaining existing employees.

“It’s been a tough few years for business leaders and the future continues to look uncertain. Our research shows that 15% of HR leaders are not preparing at all for the possibility of a recession, which could mean a difficult road ahead for those organizations,” says Achievers Workforce Institute’s Chief Workforce Scientist Dr. Natalie Baumgartner. “With most HR leaders concerned about a recession, the best thing businesses can do now is prepare their teams by implementing programs for productivity, resilience, and retention. These tactics will help support lean teams and equip leaders with ways to combat burnout.”

According to the AWI HR Preparedness Report data, four factors stood out as key drivers of productivity

Manager effectiveness

Supportive managers make employees feel the most capable of managing unexpected challenges. People who would recommend their managers are 2.1 times more likely to report being highly productive.


Employees who say their company supports them in creating and maintaining friendships at work are 2.6 times more likely to report being their most productive selves at work.


Employees were asked to rate their productivity at work and only 25% report being their most productive selves at work. However, when employees report being recognized at least monthly, this increased by almost 50%. Additionally, 44% of employees that are recognized weekly stated that they felt capable of managing an unexpected challenge as opposed to only 23% who are only recognized quarterly.


Employees who strongly agreed that their company takes meaningful action on feedback are almost three times more likely to report being their most productive selves at work.

Creating resilient organizations and supporting the dispersed workforce during challenging times

Resiliency is the ability to adapt to and manage unexpected challenges. It is a crucial skill during uncertain times, and as business leaders prepare for a possible recession resiliency is even more imperative. The HR Preparedness Report research shows that both individual and organizational resilience matters, with each being driven by different actions.

Employees who say their company allows them to work in the way they prefer are more than twice as likely to report being highly resilient and their most productive selves at work. According to the AWI 2022 Culture Report, work flexibility is the number-one reason employees left their job in the last two years, and employees who work remotely are 48% more likely to say this is why they changed jobs. Individuals who work at companies that allow them to work in the way they prefer to work – location, hours, flexibility – feel the most productive.

Additionally, organizations that foster individual resilience, with an emphasis on wellbeing initiatives, will also see a higher rate of employee satisfaction. Specifically, employees who feel supported at work in managing both their physical and mental health are four times more likely to say they feel capable of managing their stress, according to the AWI Empowering Employee Wellbeing in the New World of Work Report.

According to HR Preparedness Report survey respondents, there are three key drivers of individual resilience:

1. Supportive manager

2. Friends at work

3. A sense of purpose

Comparatively, three factors stood out as drivers of organizational resilience:

1. Acting on feedback

2. A culture of recognition

3. Culturally aligned decisions

Moving the needle on productivity and resilience

As executives and HR leaders wrestle with challenges they’re facing today, they are hyper focused on driving both resiliency and productivity. When looking at what correlates strongly with both, five action areas stand out – recognition, feedback, connection, manager effectiveness and culture alignment.

Organizations that can implement programs to improve in all five areas will be better prepared to navigate the challenging times ahead and effectively support their greatest asset – their employees.

About the Study

The survey of 5091 respondents from Australia, Canada, Singapore, UK, and USA was conducted in September 2022 and included almost 1400 HR leaders. See information about the 2022 HR Preparedness Report and additional data on trends in Australia, Singapore, Canada, UK, and USA.

About Achievers

Achievers partners with hundreds of organizations around the world to elevate their engagement and retention strategies through our employee voice, recognition, and connection solutions. Visit us at