What If the Economy Does Slow Down?

It seems like every few years we go into one those cyclical slowdown periods when the economy takes a dive or executives think it might and recruiting slows. Sometimes there’s a total hiring freeze, once in a while it’s just a hold on certain positions, and frequently recruiters are just asked to slow down.

In my conversations with recruiters around the country, most are still scrambling to find enough candidates and things are good. However, there is a growing sector where requisitions are on hold and things are looking slow.

Some of this is a result of the housing market and sub-prime lending, and some is due to increased oil prices. I don’t expect that we will have a major slowdown and the government’s employment figures are strong. But it never hurts to have a backup plan if things change.

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In the event that you have fewer requisitions and a less frenzied day, what will you do? How can you best make use of this precious extra time that most likely won’t last very long?

Here are four things to consider:

  1. Know the labor market. Keep your management team focused on the continuing shortage of skilled people. Use this time to research the labor market in your sector of the economy. Learn what the employment picture looks like and find out what the supply of your hardest-to-find candidates is going to look like over the next few years. Conduct briefings, hire speakers, distribute reports, and do everything you can to counter any tendency management may have to think that things are loosening up and they don’t have to pay as much attention to recruiting as before. There is going to continue be fierce competition for people, especially those with skills and experience. Service jobs will continue to grow, although we will see spots of weakness and lots of fluctuation. As always, the unskilled or poorly educated will suffer, but those with skills and ambition will prosper. It is your job to make sure that the hiring authorities keep well aware of this.
  2. Develop talent pools and communities. This is more important than ever, and a slower time gives you the breathing room to create a social network, try out a blog, or improve your candidate relationship marketing materials and processes. No slowdown should stop you from building relationships and nurturing the ones you have already developed. Get in contact with everybody you know and update them on what’s happening in your company and industry. Continue to ask for referrals and contact each of them. Pre-screen more candidates than you ever have before and even ask managers to pre-interview choice candidates. Invest in technology to help you build these talent pools. Take the time to get your website in shape. As I have written many times, your recruiting site is the heart of your efforts and can always use a refresh or, in most cases, a complete redesign.
  3. Begin to focus on workforce planning. Spend time with hiring managers and department heads to get some idea about their future growth plans and any new projects that may be on the horizon that will require some specialized talent. Find out or develop ways to look for these people within your organization. By going through this exercise, and by applying your knowledge of the supply side, you should be able to predict where you will have trouble in finding the right people. This knowledge should then help you develop a proactive plan to build relationships with those kinds of people. For example, if you find that you are going to need more engineers of a particular kind than ever before, you should be building your internal referral programs asking for recommendations, attending events where these kinds of people go, and finding out how difficult it might be to promote someone with lesser skills into these jobs and backfill with a more easily found skill level.
  4. Start developing a college recruiting program. College programs can feed less costly but highly educated and energetic people into an organization. College hires are a great way to round out the staff of startups that have focused on attracting only experienced people, or for mature organizations that are getting a little long in the tooth. College programs require time and creative energy to work well, and can be nicely developed when there is a lull in the incredible pace most of us have felt over the past few months. The best place to start is by collecting some benchmark data about what others are doing in this area and about what is working well for them. Then start involving some of your hiring managers in a brainstorming session and put together a modest, locally oriented program to start. Many firms start by putting together internships or co-op programs in the beginning. Recent articles on internships and college recruiting here at ERE should give you some foundation for making this year a great one for improving or starting your college program.

Finally, rest assured you won’t find it that slow this year. In fact, I’m not sure you will see any slowing at all unless you are in the real estate sector. Even if you do it will be short-lived, so get to work implementing some of these ideas before it’s too late?again!

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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