Whether we are heading into a recession or, as some experts predict, we’ll “narrowly avoid a recession”, there is undoubtedly an air of malaise about the current economy.
Sure, the past two years have been a nasty roller coaster ride for everyone. Having said that, the last thing a founder, business owner, CEO, people leader, recruiter, or talent acquisition specialist should be doing right now is jumping on the bandwagon and adopting an even more pessimistic or defeatist mindset than may have been prevalent during the pandemic.
This isn’t the first time we’ve found ourselves in a situation like this, and without wanting to add any further fuel to the fire of uncertainty, it’s not going to be the last.
I remember running a recruitment business in Hong Kong in the height of the Global Financial Crisis. I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t pleasant at all. In fact, it got pretty damn nasty. But we pulled through, albeit somewhat battered and bruised, and learned a lot.
For me personally, running a remote business wasn’t a new concept at all. I’d done it for over 10 years before it became ‘a thing’. But for most companies around the world, the idea of having everyone operating off-site was a daunting concept at first, but eventually became the ‘new normal’.
In fact, many of us even found a silver lining in all the craziness and began to embrace the new way of working. After nearly three decades in the recruitment game, I’ve told literally thousands of employers and hiring managers how to consider candidates’ previous experiences and their responses to specific situations in order to predict their future performance.
So, let’s consider what we’ve learned from weathering past storms and charge full steam ahead with a more proactive mindset, fully prepared for whatever is waiting for us up ahead.
Tips for hiring managers and talent acquisition experts
There’s so much information available at our fingertips that it can feel overwhelming. But if you know where to look (and what to look for), you can find the advice you need to make your job easier in tougher times.
Find great candidates who were impacted by layoffs
Sites like Layoffs.fyi are an amazing opportunity to find great talent. In this instance, you’ll find a list of tech company layoffs (in real time) along with the names and email addresses of impacted employees. No need to spend hours or days sourcing for profiles and putting on your cyber sleuth hat to find a candidate’s contact details.
Seize every opportunity to find amazing hires
The way Klarna handled its recent organizational restructure was criticised fairly strongly in the media, particularly around how the news of the job cuts was announced to staff, but also the fact that the CEO shared a list of those whose positions had been made redundant on LinkedIn. Whilst some employees had agreed to have their details shared, others were certainly caught off guard seeing their details put out there for all the world to see.
However, Klarna’s CEO wanted recruiters to reach out to his displaced employees. He wanted those impacted to be snapped up asap. There’s something to be said for this gesture despite the clash of opinions in the aftermath of the announcements.
Hiring managers and talent acquisition specialists need to have their finger on the pulse and can’t afford to lose focus. It’s important to know exactly what’s happening out there in the market and to seize every opportunity to find amazing hires.
Always protect your employer brand
Whilst some would say Klarna’s CEO was trying to help those who were let go, Klarna’s employer brand was negatively impacted, with some people viewing the LinkedIn post as tone deaf.
During a downturn, many founders, CEOs and business leaders will be faced with the difficult decision of when (not if) they’ll have to reduce headcount.
You should try to keep your employer brand top of mind as much as possible when preparing for a restructure. How you maintain your position as an employer of choice is critical, particularly during times of uncertainty. Figuring out how to build a positive employee experience during a transformation (for both impacted employees and those remaining in the business) is more than just a nice-to-have. It’s essential.
In an ideal world, you want all your employees to feel cared for, supported, and safe. Remember, a poorly handled or insensitive approach to layoffs (whether in-person or remote) can damage your employer brand and reputation, particularly given the number of terminated employees who may then go and post scathing reviews online.
Just as you place an emphasis on creating a positive onboarding experience for new employees, it’s important to consider the offboarding experience, too. If possible, providing an impacted employee with an outplacement program, or at the very least, a few sessions with an expert career coach can help a lot, especially during today’s uncertain market. It will give them a confidant and partner to help them traverse an incredibly emotional journey.
I know I’d sleep better at night knowing that a team member who had always been 100% committed to me and my business was now in safe hands.
‘Ideal’ candidates might not be where you’ve always thought they were
In today’s rapidly changing hiring landscape, hiring requires some adjustments. One thing the pandemic taught us was that business life could carry on without team members all being in-person. However, for many companies, the concept of ‘remote’ still meant having everyone in the same city with the plan being to bring everyone back to the office as soon as it was safe to do so. Even in today’s ‘hybrid’ workplaces, there’s an expectation that people will come into the office a few times a week.
Employers can certainly save on the cost of office space and focus instead on hiring the best available talent, regardless of where they are in the world. You can take advantage of attracting A-grade talent who may have made the conscious decision not to live in a big (expensive) city. That way, you get the quality you want without the hefty price tag.
And while you may not be able to stick to your hiring plan in terms of the volume of hires you make; you shouldn’t need to shut off your hiring funnel completely. It’s just a matter of tweaking your approach to hiring.
Think outside the box and embrace flexibility
We’ve all learned to become more flexible in many aspects of our professional lives. Prior to the pandemic, who would have thought it OK to see kids or pets in the background on a conference call? Or to take a client call while doing a supermarket shop between home-schooling stints?
Many of our trusted professional partners have also ‘flexed’ the way they operate in terms of the way they have unbundled their service offerings and tweaked their pricing plans (eg to subscription-based pricing) to make it more cost effective. That way it’s still possible to engage in their services, but perhaps just not the way you may have been accustomed to working with them in the past.
Companies of all sizes have had to pivot in so many ways. What this has proven, is that even in a downturn, many businesses can continue to grow. It’s about being open to new ideas, flexible in how you choose to operate, innovative in the strategic decisions you make, and not letting uncertainty push you into hibernation.
Always be on the look-out for the silver lining. Some founders, CEOs and business leaders might get caught up in all the doom and gloom, batten down the hatches, and simply choose to ‘ride it out’ while living in fear. But others can shift their mindset, take advantage of the current market conditions, and proactively navigate a path to set themselves up for success, continue to find A-grade talent, and maintain their employer brand that they have fought so hard to develop.
Paul Slezak is a proven global business builder, talent acquisition expert, entrepreneur and highly experienced coach and facilitator.
He has had his own startup, built international businesses, opened new markets, launched new business streams, successfully led globally distributed teams, and has been described as an inspirational leader, coach, facilitator, writer, and speaker.
Superior commercial acumen, business credibility, a high level of emotional intelligence and cross-cultural awareness, along with proven negotiation and conflict resolution skills are in his DNA.
Throughout his career, he has always demonstrated his ability to bring out the best in others, inspire key decision-makers, executive management, clients, colleagues, students, and team members alike.
Paul obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Sydney, his Master’s degree from Macquarie University, and is a faculty member with the University of NSW Business School and the Australian Graduate School of Management.