Five Reasons to Focus on Recruiting in 2009

Here we are entering the worst recession in more than 30 years, reading about layoffs, downsizing, and restructuring in almost every industry. So why would I start our 2009 research with a discussion about the need to focus on recruiting? Well, contrary to what many may believe, even in times of job reductions recruiting must take a top priority. Let me give you five good reasons: I Want You

1. Even in times of an economic slowdown, many organizations still suffer from severe skills and leadership shortages. Our Fall 2008 TalentWatch® research shows that 36% of organizations have severe shortages in line managers; 17% cite major shortages in technical roles, and industries like healthcare, government, and professional services still have shortages in many line positions. While the pool of job candidates is much greater now, organizations must still focus on identifying and selecting the best candidates and this must be accomplished with fewer dollars for recruiters, headhunters, and job placement advertisements.

Bottom line: recruiting teams must continue to seek out top candidates, despite reduction in budgets.

2. Job seekers become more desperate, making the recruiter’s job more difficult. In today’s economic climate, job-seekers will aggressively seek out positions — meaning that you will receive more applicants and a much higher job acceptance rate than normal. Managers must carefully decide if today’s passionate candidate really believes your organization is the perfect fit or if he or she is just desperate to find a position. And in some cases the pool of highly qualified candidates may have shrunk: in tough economic times top candidates may want to avoid a risky relocation, making it hard to attract a highly qualified candidate from another geography.

Bottom line: recruiters must slow down and screen candidates more carefully than ever.

3. Downsizing initiatives may cause an increase in turnover and reduction in engagement. Many studies show (and common sense bears this out) that organizations which go through severe or sudden downsizing then get a “double whammy” — an increase in voluntary turnover and a reduction in engagement. I distinctly remember going through sudden layoffs at two of the high-tech companies I worked for. In both cases the good people immediately started looking around for jobs, knowing full well that they could be the next ones to go. And those who may not have as many opportunities start to lay low and hide, hoping to avoid the next round of cuts. The employees who survive a layoff often feel like “survivors” – and often feel less committed to the company and its turnaround efforts. This is why so many companies go through multiple rounds of layoffs: the first cut seems deep, but problems get worse if the process is not handled carefully.

Bottom line: any downsizing effort requies a heavy dose of communication, vision, and strategy to bring people together. Read our brand new research, A Manager’s Guide to Successful Downsizing, for more tips and examples.

4. A strong recruiting program brings new ideas and excitement into an organization. The toughest challenge to deal with during a downturn is the need to create a strong sense of commitment and focus to rebuilding the business. We ask people to take on new roles, work longer hours, and often lead change programs which are new and challenging. We want our people to be committed to restructuring and growth. One of the greatest ways to build such a spirit is to see key new people entering the organization in critical roles. Not only does it give people a sense of excitement, but it brings new ideas and creativity into the organization.

Bottom line: do not be afraid to bring new pe0ple into the organization during a restructuring — the right people can create the urgency and change needed to succeed.

5. Remember that recruiters must continuously recruit existing people into new roles. When a company restructures, downsizes, or goes through a reorganization there is a tremendous need to “recruit” people into new roles. I distinctly remember the terrible feeling I had when I had to “take over” a role from a sales group which had been downsized at one of my prior employers. Rather than being “recruited” into the position, I was “assigned” the job. It took me many months to get excited about the opportunity and build a network of people to support the reduced function. In retrospect, if someone had professionally “recruited” me into the role I would have been far better prepared and excited about the new opportunity.

Bottom line: stay focused on your internal recruiting and job migration efforts, as these changes will be as important as ever.

Sourcing, recruiting, onboarding, and employee lifecycle management are vital parts of high impact talent management. Stay focused on this important part of your organization and you will be well prepared for growth when your business cycle turns – which may be sooner than you think.

PS, as part of our continuing efforts to provide you with world-class, highly actionable research and advisory services I am very excited to introduce Madeline Tarquinio Laurano, our new Principal Analyst focused on sourcing, recruiting, and workforce planning. Madeline comes to us most recently from ERE, where she was the primary recruiting analyst among their 80,000+ readers, and research experience at Linkage Group and Aberdeen where she studied leadership development, succession management, and onboarding. We welcome Madeline to our research team — and her new blog “All Aboard” will focus exclusively on the important and rapidly changing areas of sourcing, recruiting, job boards, and the use of social networking in talent acquisition.

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