When the economic markets look grim, hiring is at a standstill, and budgets are frozen, perspective is what is important. As some have said, “When things are good, they are never as good as they seem. And when things are bad, they are never as bad as they seem.”
We should all use the pause in the hectic pace of the past few years to begin and frame the future we want when we emerge. And we will emerge. I am not sure when, of course, but within a few years we will be back at the global hiring process with renewed vigor and increased challenges.
The cry we all heard over the past five years has been that there was no time to plan, think, experiment, or implement new methods. Most of us used the methods we were comfortable with but just worked harder, longer, and faster than before. This is the opportunity to figure out how to do things differently.
Be Strategically Bold; Tactically Careful
The first step in dealing with the current situation is to sit down and plan out a 3-5 year strategic plan for the future of your recruiting function. Envision a new tomorrow where you can use the technology, processes, and learnings that have emerged over the past decade. Some of the technologies and tools include such things as social networks, blogs, wikis, and candidate relationship management tools.
The processes that have shown promise include less-restrictive internal mobility practices, real time candidate assessment, virtual job fairs and other virtual recruiting techniques, as well as more authentic candidate engagement using online communication tools.
This strategic planning process should be formal, should involve your team and other employees as well as outside people, if that is acceptable in your organization, and should be designed to force yourself and others to think outside the usual assumptions about talent and recruiting. If you have any budget, it would be wise to engage a facilitator who is experienced in this kind of activity. They can make the process robust and much more valuable.
By formulating strategies that use these tools and practices, you can emerge from our current morass with a roadmap for quickly trumping your competition.
At the same time, you need to act right now with fiscal caution and show your management that you are a responsible manager.
This means finding ways to conserve your budget by lessening the need for contingent labor, perhaps, or by reassessing your current practices and challenge why you do whatever you doing the way you do it. Try to find ways to be more efficient, without spending money. Cut back, but cut back where it will do you some good from a strategic perspective. For example, by reducing staff right now, you can position yourself to implement technology or bring in a person with a different skill set once things recover.
Your job is to balance today with several possible recruiting situations in the future.
Envision a New Workforce
The really best recruiting and talent leaders will sit down with management and have some open discussions about the desired workforce of the future.
Every recession is an opportunity to recalibrate, learn and decide on what skills and competencies are most likely to be needed as we emerge from this recession. I have lived through a few recessions now and one lesson I have learned is that out of each come new needs. As we emerged from the September 11 mini-recession, it was clear that security was the new issue and that we would need people with experience and skills not only in physical security but also in data and financial security. By anticipating these needs, recruiters could have had an edge on any competition.
Once you have even a blurry picture of the skills and competencies you may need, you can begin sourcing for these kinds of candidates and begin to populate a talent community with people whom you are getting to know and who are getting to know you.
Collaborate and Learn
Your third step is to collaborate and learn from your peers and from experts in the field. This is a golden opportunity to attend webinars, which are mostly free, catch up on the blogs you have wanted to read but didn’t have time to, and make a few phone calls to friends, colleagues, and others you may have heard of.
These calls can be partly social and partly learning experiences. Ask what they are experiencing, what they are doing to use this gift of time wisely, and what tools and practices they are considering. I have always found this kind of networking to be one of the best ways to learn about emerging trends and to get a calibration on where others are.
Everything you hear and learn can be used as part of your strategic planning process. You can get these colleagues to demonstrate what they have done and you can even experiment with many of the technologies for free or for a small amount of money. One of the best things about the past five years is how inexpensive software has become. There is really no excuse to not try blogging, wikis, or even social networking tools.
Focus on Candidate Engagement
The final step in your plan for the future is to carefully, authentically, and regularly communicate with all the best candidates you have. Experiment with tools like blogs, email, newsletters, Twitter updates – anything that might engage and stimulate the many potential candidates you should already have in your talent pools.
If you neglect them or just tell them that there are no openings now, you lose a resource that you have spent lots of time and money finding and developing. Better to be honest with them, let them know exactly what your situation is, and keep them updated regularly.
Invite the best to join you in a monthly phone call update (just like your financial people do for the analysts) or hold a quarterly webinar. Anything you do to maintain the connection with your candidates will pay itself back when times get better.
Economies will recover and the emerging world will be different and more challenging than ever. Use this precious resource of extra time wisely and well to frame the future you want.