What To Do If Things Slow Down: A Few Tips for the New Year

Here we go: a new year, a new century (really this time), a new president, and an uncertain economy. Are things going to go soft on the people side? Will you find yourself with time on your hands or facing a hiring freeze? If so, what will you do? Here are a few things to consider. Keep you management team focused on the continuing shortage of skilled people. Conduct briefings, hire speakers, distribute reports and do everything you can to counter any tendency they may have to think that things are loosening up and that they don’t have to pay as much attention to recruiting as before. There is still going to be fierce competition for people – especially those with skills and experience. Many of the layoffs that may occur are going to happen in the manufacturing sector as jobs there continue to move offshore or become automated. This is a trend that may be accelerated this year, but it has been steadily happening for more than decade now. Manufacturing is going away. Period. Service jobs will continue to grow, although we will see spots of weakness and lots of fluctuation. Many will be out of work briefly, but virtually all will find new jobs in a matter of days. Silicon Valley’s much-touted recent dot.com layoffs have not increased the unemployment rate or had any impact on Christmas sales, which were significantly higher than expected in the Valley. Everyone who was out of work found a new job quickly. As always the unskilled or poorly educated will suffer, but those with skills and ambition will prosper.

  1. Develop talent pools and communities. This is more important than ever because despite the preaching I recommend above, you may find management feeling a little spooked by the economy. If so, they may put the brakes on hiring. This should not stop you from building relationships and nurturing the ones you already developed last year. 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. Let the candidates know that the minute a job opens, they have it. This should reduce your ramp-up time when things do improve to almost zero. Invest in technology to help you build these talent pools. I mention these firms in almost every column because I believe they are the way to go. The firm I like the most that fits this category is Hire.com that lets you build relationships and screen candidates.
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  3. Take the time to get your website in shape. Look at the research and weekly columns on websites that is found at the Wetfeet.com. Each week Wetfeet critiques a corporate website and gives tips on how to make your recruiting web site better. They also have a great research report available on best practices in corporate recruiting web sites. Wetfeet conducts all sorts of market research that let’s you become a better recruiter, and they also offer a product for applicant tracking and screening that’s worth checking out.
  4. Begin to focus on workforce planning. I know this is a “bad word” in many organizations, yet without some insight into future needs it will be increasingly difficult to find good people in the time frame that management imposes. If things do slow a bit, spend time with hiring managers and department heads to get some idea about their growth plans and any new projects that may be on the horizon that will require some specialized talent. Then work with HR and see if they have a way to find out who in your organization may already have some of those skills. By going through this exercise, and by applying some of 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 more 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.
  5. 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-programs in the beginning.

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 manufacturing arena. If you do, it will be short-lived, so get to work implementing some of these ideas before it’s too late – again! <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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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