With news headlines shouting about economic uncertainty, recession, job losses and the like, it’s clear that the UK needs to brace itself for challenging times ahead.

If the latest grim financial predictions come to pass, businesses will need all hands on deck, working harder and smarter than ever before – coasting and presenteeism just won’t cut it. From the CEO to entry level roles, everyone will need to focus on finding and capitalising on opportunities to keep their organisations afloat.

culture to see opportunity adversity

Businesses often look to HR to help manage culture – to define, set and implement it. HR are expected to drive top/down culture changes by influencing senior leadership teams, and embed culture bottom/up through smart hiring decisions and rewarding valued behaviours.

So, what are the characteristics that HR will want to recruit for and promote, to strengthen their culture and therefore their business going forward?

People with the following attributes will be increasingly valuable in the workplace.


Being entrepreneurial, at its heart, is about attitude. It’s approaching work with the desire to solve and overcome problems, to look at things creatively, and have the courage to strike out in new directions.

Entrepreneurial employees will generally be high energy, resilient workers, ready to challenge the status quo. Channelled into the right projects, and complemented with the right team members, an entrepreneur’s energy and enthusiasm can be a real asset.

HR can help by making sure their business gives entrepreneurs the freedom and resources they need to succeed; for example, championing assigning budgets and head count to new ideas, and providing forums where these ideas can be put forward. HR can also educate managers on how best to motivate this type of worker – entrepreneurs tend to need a lot of flexibility and autonomy to be happy in their work, and this can be challenging for linear hierarchies and traditional management styles.


A patient, analytical mind is invaluable in finding solutions that others might miss. Like an auditor who checks nothing has slipped between the cracks, someone who is naturally analytical can help squeeze the most out of current and potential opportunities.

To work effectively, an analytical person relies on evidence and measurement tools. Businesses that haven’t previously invested data analytics, or that have a history of secrecy around key insights, might want to reconsider their approach so their analytical employees are able to work more effectively.

Through talent mapping, HR can make sure their organisation has a good spread of analytical skills across the workforce. HR can also help by promoting secondments, moving analytical skills to where they’re most urgently needed in the business. Sometimes it might simply be a case of matching a one-off problem with the right problem solver – HR, with their knowledge of the workforce is well placed to do this, too.


Inspirational people raise the energy of everyone around them, inspiring people to perform better. They do this by setting the bar high with their own achievements and encourage others to do the same through a sense of comradery (and healthy competition). Having a culture where people are regularly inspired is important for driving innovation and hard work.

Inspiring or being inspired by others is harder when people aren’t in direct contact with each other – for those who have been working from home for some time now, not having others physically close by might have had a notable negative effect on mood and energy levels.

HR can remind managers, and indeed the whole workforce via internal comms how important it is to act as inspiration for each other – and they can then help share inspirational stories on. HR can also look at their workforce to check they have people with that je ne sais quoi that makes someone inspiring. If their workforce is lacking in this area, it’s an opportunity for HR to look out for this attribute more keenly in the hiring process.

To find opportunity in adversity, your workforce needs to embrace this ethos and find the energy to sustain it. As custodians of talent, HR are at the forefront in ensuring their business has what it takes to survive during difficult economic times.

This blog was first published in September 2020 by Shandel McAuliffe.

Shandel McAuliffe author image

Shandel McAuliffe

Now based in sunny Australia, Shandel is prolific writer and editor - particularly in the world of HR. She's worked for some big names, including the CIPD and the Adecco Group. And more recently, she's been the Editor for new HR publication HR Leader.

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