What Recruiting Will Look Like After the Recession

This is a strange recession.

It is not affecting employment across the board as many of the past ones have, but rather seems to be targeting specific sectors and types of work. Obviously banking and financial services, but also manufacturing and anyone in a semi-skilled job such as auto workers are especially affected. Needs are pocketed and specific. Talent shortages remain.

Yet, I have had calls from search firms looking for key sales and marketing people, and for R&D talent. Senior HR executives are in demand, especially if they have global experience. Sectors still largely unscathed by the recession – healthcare, gaming, entertainment, pharmaceuticals, and biotech – are still facing talent shortages and global competition.

The growth of global supply chains, increasing automation, and greater process efficiency means we can do more with fewer. New jobs are being created daily, but they all require education and skill beyond that of many current candidates.

This, combined with the different attitudes candidates and employees have about work and about how they live their lives, changes how we recruit and employ people.

The highly skilled, experienced, and educated will have an increasing edge in employment. And this recession should be a clarion call for an increased focus on education, training, and employment development. Everyone involved with talent will need to look at both development and acquisition as channels to meet their needs, rather than focus entirely on recruiting.

There are a number of permanent changes we will see.

Candidates Become Smarter, Warier

The first change is that many candidates will be reluctant to work under the same conditions as usual. Candidates have access to unparalleled information about a prospective employer through the Internet and its many sources. Reliance on a single firm for security has already eroded, and this recession will strengthen employees’ wariness about promises and deferred compensation. More top employees will seek employment contracts that include clauses that spell out layoff pay and benefits.

Candidates will probe positions more deeply and they will want more influence over the type of work they do. Prepare for candidates to negotiate what they will and won’t do.

Free Agency

Recessions have, in the past, increased the pool of people who decide to become free agents – contractors, consultants, and part-time workers. More people than ever are trying out life as independent workers. Many will not make it and return to the corporate fold, but they will be wiser and better prepared to abandon ship than they were before.

Many others will find they would rather work on their own than go back under the very insecure and fragile corporate umbrella. Companies will have to identify and take care of their key producers better than ever. While many firms do work hard to keep key talent, they will have to increase this effort and explore more creative ways to engage those people.

Charles Handy, a management writer and educator who has written numerous books on the organizations of the future, predicted that up to half of some company’s talent may eventually work as free agent, contracting to those firms as temporary staff, contractors, or part-timers. This will be a lasting change that is accelerated because of the recession.

Recruiters and HR staff will have to accommodate these free agents. Our internal regulations will have to be modified to make the use of contractors legal and compliant with IRS regulations and it may be necessary to lease employees, employ more employment contracts, and learn to share talent between organizations.

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These changes will be fought by the legal department and more HR leaders, yet I believe companies will eventually have to embrace these ideas to be competitive.

Values Rule

Gen Y candidates, in particular, but all employees to a growing degree, are seeking companies that hold values high and make and keep commitments to their employees and their families. They seek environmentally sensitive, charitable, and ethical firms.

Gen Y is the tip of a spear followed by the even more morally and environmentally committed Gen M. They will have even higher expectations than the Baby Boomers ever did. While shareholder value will always be a core concern of the management team, they will also have to understand how important employees feel that values are and how close a scrutiny they will give every corporate action and statement.

Recruiters have to understand the values of the firms they work for and find better ways to match people to those values. They will have to also convince the management of firms that what they DO is just as important as what they say and that this emerging candidate pool focuses on actions almost entirely.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees now want to work where they want. The Internet has made it possible for most services and knowledge workers to be located far away from the physical center of their company.

Designers, call-center staff, sales people, some HR folks, and most anyone who works with information, writing, or data can effectively work wherever they wish. Only a handful of people – those whose work requires their hands or eyes on the work being produced – will need to physically be present. Even jobs we cannot yet imagine being remote, such as that of a diagnostic physician, may soon be possible using instruments and video from anywhere.

Recruiters will need to encourage flexible work arrangements and lobby with hiring managers to make these arrangements normal.

Recruiting will be more challenging and those recruiters who like to “fill positions” will find themselves looking for other kinds of work. Recruiters will need to be proactive, great influences, technically savvy, and adaptable to emerging work trends.

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.


7 Comments on “What Recruiting Will Look Like After the Recession

  1. Very good article, Kevin makes some great points about changes in the recruiting market and some of the challenges employers will face. In particular, we’ve seen that the way companies attempt to deal with the issue of adapting internal regulations to cope with the expanding free agent work force can have a huge impact on their employment brand…be that positive, or negative.

    By the same token, while the candidates of today are all that much more informed via the use of technology, they should remember that the technology works both ways and the employers are using the very same tools to check them out, too. As an example, social networking sites can be fun on a personal level, but anyone even remotely considering the possibility of a job change should be very cautious regarding what kind of information they post (or even allow to be posted) about themselves on-line.

    We live in interesting times, indeed.

  2. A thoughtful article. I’d like to bring up a point, and expound on another:
    While the article deals with recruiting after the recession, it should be noted that during the recession (which may be longer and deeper than most in recent memory), many employers may revert to the traditional pattern during tough times of treating candidates and recruiters like dirt, because they can.

    Also, I commend the mention of virtual employees, which can also include many types of recruiting staff. What was NOT addressed is that if work can be done anywhere, it can usually be done quite well for a lot less money. Therefore, if the type of recruiting work you do is not high-touch and/or high value-add, you should expect to compete against recruiters that cost no more than around $2,500/month, and internet sourcers which cost quite a bit less than that.

    Thank You,

    Keith Halperin kdhalperin@sbcglobal.net 415.586.8265

    “In the 21st century, everything changes and you gotta be
    – Captain Jack Harkness

  3. Great article Kevin. I believe that we are already seeing these changes. It won’t just be after the event. The market has changed so dramatically and will continue to do so which is both daunting and exciting. I think we will see more transparency communication and respect from all parties.

    I also agree with Keith and the reality that those jobs that can be moved off shore will be – which is a risk for people whose roles are more process and information orientated; as we enter what Daniel Pinks terms the ‘conceptual age’ we will see why right brain thinking will dominate

    Kelly Magowan
    Six Figures http://www.sixfigures.com.au

  4. This recession is making people question corporate us management even more…If all the layoffs and hiring freezes…there appears to be no sacrifices by senior corporate executives to take pay cuts…..This market will never be the same again….Loyalty has been eroded even more………..same old solutions by the same old corporate executives who believe in entitlement at the expense of fairness to the workplace and employee trust and loyalty…..WELCOME TO THE FREE AGENT SOCIETY….

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