Back to the Future: January 2010

May 15, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Fast forward to January 15, 2010. What are some of the hiring challenges you’re now facing?

As you put the list together, consider these assumptions:

  1. The trough of the economic downturn was reached in April 2009.
  2. Job losses continued through October 2009, but at a declining rate, with job gains finally turning positive in November 2009, at around 20,000 or so.
  3. The unemployment rate peaked at 9.7% in September 2009 and although still at 8.5% in January 2010, it is forecasted to drop to 7.0% by June 2010.
  4. The number of searches on Google with the words “jobs” (e.g., “jobs nurses Seattle”) peaked at 7.3mm/day in April and has been declining by an average of 10%/month since then, but started inching up again in October 2009.
  5. An article by Lou Adler on ERE in November 2009 suggested that this pickup was due to people who are fully employed but now getting itchy to leave. He contends that the pent-up demand for a new job is finally being seen and that this is a new group of people entering the job market. Note: this will be unexpected for unprepared companies.
  6. Hiring for critical positions will begin in earnest three to four months before a general improvement in the jobless rate is seen. This will be exacerbated by an increase in voluntary turnover.

These assumptions are pretty realistic. The question is, are you ready for this scenario? If you are, here are some of the things you’ve probably been doing over the past six months:

  1. You’ve developed and implemented a sourcing strategy that emphasizes how top talent looks for new career opportunities, rather than how average people look for new jobs. This is a huge shift in thinking that required some understand and significant selling to your executive and entire hiring manager team.
  2. As part of your shift to a top talent hiring strategy, you’ve created a decision matrix based on how these top people compare and select job opportunities and have built this into your sourcing and recruiting process.
  3. You developed a rolling workforce planning system highlighting your hiring needs for all critical positions, including a tracking system to identify potential turnover problems.
  4. You’ve developed a multi-pronged sourcing strategy, including increased reliance on your employee referral program, more Web 2.0 channels, the grouping of similar jobs into talent hubs, and the use of niche boards instead of major boards coupled with an emphasis on search engine marketing and consumer marketing concepts. Part of this is the wholesale elimination of using traditional job descriptions as the basis for advertising purposes and incorporating messaging that ties directly to what top people are looking for.
  5. You’ve put together a succession planning process to tap into some upcoming stars to deal with the anticipated turnover or whenever unexpected promotional opportunities arise.
  6. You developed a means to tap into employee satisfaction to ensure you’re not caught unaware by an upsurge in turnover. As part of this, you created a new retention program to minimize the possibility of any business disruption.
  7. You’ve started training and rebuilding your existing recruiting team including lining up enough contractors and full-time recruiters to handle the hiring increase. You’ve even developed a short list of retained and contingency recruiters to handle some of your real critical positions and given them some insight on possible positions that will need filling.
  8. You’ve set up programs with your hiring managers to fast-track any top performers you identify before reqs have been formally approved. As part of this, and the expected hiring increase, your managers are now trained in using tools like the two-question performance-based interview to assess and recruit top performers.
  9. New analytics program have been installed to track in real time recruiter productivity and effectiveness, sourcing channel effectiveness, candidate quality, quality vs. cost, and hiring manager recruiting performance.
  10. Not only have you now using the LinkedIn and ZoomInfo premium packages, but your recruiters know how to call everyone they find and get at least two to three top referrals on every call. After just a few months, you’ve fully realized that these tools offer connections to the best people on the planet, not just sources of names.
  11. You’ve assessed your technology and have started a major upgrading effort to ensure that you can track quickly prospects, you’ve installed a robust CRM system, you have everyone using the new analytics program, hiring managers are fully versed on using the process, and you can create new talent hubs in days. Bottom line: you’ve used the slowdown to convert your technology from just a data management and reporting tool into a full-fledged productivity improvement system.
  12. You’re now building a huge pre-qualified prospect database with a drip marketing program already in operation. You know this is working since it’s growing in size by 5%-10% per month. Much of this build-up is driven by new employee referrals, Twitter feeds, pushed advertising to appropriate blogs and social networks, and an increased focus on getting prospects for future openings rather than finding candidates for current openings. This is another huge strategic shift in thinking for you and your company.

If you’ve done your job as a recruiting leader, the hiring challenges you’re facing in January 2010 are significant but manageable. In the past six months, you’ve probably done everything listed, and more. Here’s a reasonable recovery checklist to get started, but feel free to email me if you’d like the latest version.

Now back to today. If you want this story to be yours, you need to start this stuff right away. And if you haven’t yet started implementing most of the things listed, there’s not enough time to make it.

Consider, while the unemployment rate won’t start declining until late 2010, the demand for the best talent will start increasing three to four months earlier, driven by both business needs coupled with a modest increase in turnover. This means you’ll start feeling the heat by late summer 2009. Anecdotally, we’re already hearing the best third-party recruiters are now – in May — getting more assignments. This is clear evidence that the market for top people is starting to recover a bit right now.

The key to being ready is being more strategic than tactical. The strategic issues involved include a shift to thinking about how the best search for new opportunities, the conversion of technology into a business system, and the idea that building a top prospect database driven will replace posting requisitions as the primary means to fill positions.

If you’re ready for it, January 2010 will be an exciting time.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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