In today's rapidly changing world, strong leadership is more crucial than ever. Senior HR leaders and their teams play a pivotal role in navigating through turbulent times marked by rising living costs, challenging geopolitical landscapes, and economic uncertainty. As redundancies rise and companies operate with leaner teams, the pressure to do more with less becomes increasingly intense. Workloads have skyrocketed, and the risk of burnout is higher than ever. In such a climate, effective leadership is not just a luxury but a necessity.

steering the ship: leadership’s vital role in crisis

Leadership is the backbone of any organisation, especially during periods of crisis. Strong leaders inspire confidence, provide direction, and create a sense of stability. They are essential in attracting, engaging, developing, and retaining talent. Here’s why leadership matters and how senior HR leaders can ensure their teams thrive even in the most challenging times.

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magnetic leadership: attracting top talent in tough times

In volatile times, attracting top talent can be a daunting task. Potential employees seek stability and growth opportunities, even amidst uncertainty. Leaders who communicate a clear vision and demonstrate resilience can attract high-calibre candidates who are looking for a company that can weather the storm.

insights: Randstad’s 2024 Employer Brand Research highlights the five most important EVP drivers for workers when choosing an employer: work-life balance, attractive salary and benefits, job security, good training, and equity. These are not just factors for attracting talent but are equally crucial for retention.

action tips: Highlight your company’s commitment to employee development and stability in your recruitment campaigns. Showcase your leadership team’s strengths and their strategies for navigating tough times. Emphasise the top EVP drivers in your job postings and employer branding materials. Share success stories and testimonials from current employees that reflect your company’s positive culture and resilience. 

keeping the flame alive: engaging and developing your team

Employee engagement often suffers during periods of instability. Leaders need to actively work on keeping their teams motivated and invested in their roles. This includes providing ongoing development opportunities and recognising employees' efforts.

insights: According to Randstad’s Employer Brand Research, 13% of workers feel they do not receive adequate opportunities in their role. Those who perceive a lack of opportunity are notably more inclined to seek new employment (45%) compared to their counterparts who feel they receive sufficient opportunities (27%). Reskilling is deemed important by 60% of the workforce, with men (77%) and millennials (80%) particularly emphasising its significance.

action tips: Create a culture of continuous learning and growth and invest in training and development programs that equip employees with new skills relevant to the changing market.  Schedule regular check-ins and feedback sessions to ensure employees feel heard and valued. Encourage cross-departmental projects to keep work dynamic and engaging, providing opportunities for employees to explore different areas of the business. By actively engaging your team and prioritising their development, you can maintain high levels of motivation and commitment, even during challenging times.

anchoring talent: strategies for employee retention

Retention becomes a critical issue when employees feel overworked and undervalued. The stress of increased workloads and the pressure to perform with limited resources can lead to high turnover rates. Effective leaders can mitigate this by fostering a supportive work environment and maintaining open lines of communication.

insights: Randstad’s Employer Brand Research indicates that work-life balance remains the most compelling factor for potentially leaving a job (41%). Other significant reasons include low compensation (32%), lack of career growth opportunities (27%), poor leadership (23%), insufficient flexible work options (22%), and poor relationship with their manager (21%).

action tips: Implement flexible working arrangements and prioritise work-life balance. Regularly check in with your team to address concerns and provide support where needed. Develop comprehensive wellness programs that include mental health resources, stress management workshops, and physical health initiatives. Ensure transparent communication about company goals and changes, so employees feel informed and involved. Provide clear career paths and opportunities for professional growth to help employees see a future with your company. By addressing these key areas, you can build a supportive environment that encourages loyalty and reduces turnover.

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cultivating a winning culture: the role of leadership

A strong workplace culture is the glue that holds an organisation together during tough times. Leaders play a key role in shaping and maintaining this culture. A positive, inclusive, and supportive culture can significantly enhance employee well-being and productivity.

insights: In Randstad’s research, the five additional EVP drivers potential employees prioritise when choosing their employer include: a pleasant work atmosphere, strong management, career progression, convenient location, and being financially healthy. The 10 EVP drivers differ to the factors employees perceive their employer offers. Understanding the gaps between what employees want and what they think employers offer provides valuable insights into building a stronger employer brand.

action tips: Promote a culture of inclusivity and support. Encourage collaboration, celebrate diversity, and ensure all team members feel valued and respected. Create employee resource groups to support diverse communities within your organisation. Regularly solicit feedback from employees on their experiences and use this information to make meaningful changes. Host regular team-building activities and events that strengthen bonds and foster a sense of community. Ensure your company values are clearly communicated and embodied by leadership, creating a strong, unified organisational identity. By fostering a positive and inclusive culture, you can enhance employee satisfaction and drive overall organisational success.

balancing act: prioritising well-being and work-life balance

Burnout is a significant risk when employees are pushed to their limits. Leaders must prioritise their teams' well-being and ensure that work-life balance is not just a buzzword but a lived reality.

insights: Randstad’s research reveals that many of the reasons employees claim to leave their employer could be attributed to a lack of strong leadership. Work-life balance remains the most compelling factor for potentially leaving a job (41%). Low compensation (32%), lack of career growth opportunities (27%), poor leadership (23%), insufficient flexible work options (22%), and poor relationships with managers (21%) are significant issues. Additionally, 38% of employees reported not receiving any financial support from their employer to cope with the rising cost of living. These insights underscore the critical need for leadership to address well-being and work-life balance proactively.

action tips: Introduce well-being programs that support mental and physical health. Implement financial wellness initiatives to help employees cope with the rising cost of living, such as budgeting workshops and financial planning assistance. Offer flexible working arrangements, encourage employees to take annual leave and ensure managers lead by example. Regularly assess the work environment and adjust to reduce stress and prevent burnout. By prioritising these strategies, you can create a healthier, more balanced workplace that retains top talent.

empathy and resilience: the hallmarks of great leaders

Empathetic and resilient leadership can make a profound difference during challenging times. Leaders who show understanding and adaptability can inspire their teams to persevere through difficulties.

insights: Equity is a top EVP driver for workers in Randstad’s Employer Brand Research. There are areas warranting improvement, such as providing opportunities for the most deserving employees and addressing the pay gap between men and women. While 70% of men believe their employer offers equal pay for equal work, only 56% of women feel the same, highlighting the need for employers to address this discrepancy.

action tips: Lead by example. Show empathy in your interactions, be transparent about challenges, and demonstrate resilience by navigating difficulties with a positive attitude. Conduct a thorough equity audit to identify and address disparities in pay and opportunities. Implement regular training sessions focused on developing empathy and resilience in leaders. Create open forums or listening sessions where employees can share their concerns and ideas directly with leadership. By fostering an environment where empathy and resilience are prioritised, you can strengthen your team's ability to face challenges together.


The role of strong leadership is indispensable in managing through volatile times. By attracting, engaging, developing, and retaining talent, and by fostering a positive workplace culture and prioritising well-being, leaders can steer their organisations through the storm. Remember, in these challenging times, your leadership can be the beacon of hope and stability that your team needs.

For more valuable market insights to help you build your employer brand and strengthen your leadership, go to:

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