Let’s not take a kneejerk reaction to recruitment in 2023

Panic ripples prolifically. Add in the word ‘recession’ and it snowballs. For employers, reaction to an upcoming recession brings its own set of reactions. Unfortunately, a common kneejerk reaction is to pull back on hiring new talent, freezing or limiting recruitment, and clamping down on providing the very incentives that motivate and attract the best performers.

Here I explain why a Happy New Year in a recession year requires holding fire on the kneejerk reaction and instead seeking out opportunity when uncertainty strikes.

Budgets tightening

Having been around the block in recruitment through several recessions before, I know that there’s a common theme to the news of a recession. Businesses tighten their belts, bracing themselves for what’s to come.

In real terms, this means things like reduced or frozen recruitment, stricter rules on flexible working (requiring less give and more take), reduced employee wellbeing programmes and lower spending in skills development and training. This creates an us-and-them divide between employees and candidates who want (and have come to expect) the opposite. For example, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends revealed that, for UK employees, flexible work is the most important attractant, even greater than salary. It’s worth noting that skills development also ranks highly for employees.

All of these approaches may make good sense, at times. The problem comes in that many employers see them as a blanket ‘must-do’ at the mere mention of recession, rather than considering their individual circumstances and the opportunities they may be missing.

This kneejerk reaction can cause a cascade of worsening problems for a business during recession at any time. During a skills crisis, the result could be catastrophic. Indeed, it is your talent and its development and engagement that will enable your business to thrive during the months ahead and also place your business on a much firmer footing for weathering any storms.

Slow down and look for opportunity

It’s normal to want, and need, to do something when faced with turbulent financial times ahead, especially with the lure of a new business year. However, rather than take a one-size-fits-all kneejerk response, let’s start 2023 by reflecting on what might be best for our individual businesses faced with the current economic outlook. Let’s also frame it correctly, without panic. For example, all existing data from both the Office of National Statistics and the REC’s latest Report on Jobs, demonstrates that the recruitment market is very active. Employer confidence is relatively high and with the wider picture of skills shortages, holding fire on recruitment and skills development is likely a mistake.

When you add in that candidates are also reticent to make changes during a recession, the last thing you as an employer wants to do is put them off even further. Instead, you want to actively attract, engage and motivate the talent that could help you thrive. Employers are already struggling to attract candidates, don’t let a kneejerk reaction make it even harder.

So, what can employers do?

The good news is that when you remove any kneejerk reaction, we can actually reveal opportunities for savvy employers.

We can’t shy away from the fact that it is a tough hiring landscape due to candidate shortages. But you can succeed over other businesses when it comes to finding, attracting and retaining the best talent – if you know how.

1.     Understand candidates

First, rather than widening the gulf between employer and candidates, it’s time to narrow it. You do this by understanding what your potential candidates want and what will attract them to you over any competitor or staying put. The worker of today is quite different from the pre-pandemic world and you, as an employer, need to know what makes them tick.

As explained above, flexibility is an important driver. Employees want and expect a flexible work model that enables a good work-life balance.

Additionally, employees want and value employers who clearly invest in Learning & Development. Don’t fear that you waste money on training employees for them to leave. Instead see that skills development is an investment and is central to improving retention, not the reverse.

2.     Skills, skills, skills

It can’t be emphasised enough: it will be your talent that sees you through the recession, hopefully thriving along the way. That means skills are central to your success, even above and beyond experience and qualifications.

When it comes to recruitment, this means looking to candidates for the skills they offer in a very clear and qualitative way. If the right candidate with the right skills is out there, take them for their future potential without waiting for a specific role. Don’t prevent recruitment because of an arbitrary hiring freeze. Now is exactly the time to cherry-pick the best candidates while your competitors miss opportunities due to their kneejerk reaction.

3.     Shout about your values and foster an excellent culture

Your contemporary candidate is quite a different beast compared to previously. They care deeply about choosing to work for an employer that aligns with their personal values. This means they take a greater interest in the organisational culture the values of the business. They want to know they will fit in and feel good here, as well as work towards something they believe in.

As such, as an employer, you need to intentionally foster and develop a culture that attracts and retains the kind of employees you want. Then you need to let candidates know about it by making it a central tenet of any recruitment process. This is particularly true if you want to develop a diverse workforce – which all businesses who want to succeed should want to.

Central to creating an excellent organisational culture will be things such as your approach to employee wellbeing and what you offer above and beyond salaries. Think of what you offer from your employee’s perspective.

Get the right support

Lastly, businesses need help to spot opportunities and thrive during a recession through recruitment. Using dedicated and experienced search experts is a valuable way to thrive during periods of uncertainty. Choosing the right support, like First Executive Recruitment, is the strategic way to hunt down opportunities and thrive, rather than add to your chaos through a kneejerk reaction.

We are here to support you over the coming months. Give us a call on 0161 359 3111 and let’s navigate your future with a strong talent and skills base.

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