Hiring Freeze, Not Recruitment Freeze

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A long time a go in a galaxy far far away…

I started working in Recruitment in 1997. Yep I’m that old. I can remember recruiting without the internet, receiving both resumes and job orders via fax, getting messages on pink slips of paper and writing line ads in the Newspaper. I started at a great time for IT. The Y2K was about to hit, GST wasn’t too far behind it and there was money EVERYWHERE.

It was awesome! That said, it lulled many into a false sense of security. Thinking that the markets were always this way. Training was minimal, sink or swim was the mantra and we had daily stats you wouldn’t believe.

Going back a little further, I had a relatively successful academic career, well I only failed one subject in my entire scholastic endeavours. Unfortunately that was Economics (I stooged myself on an exam where you actually lost points for the wrong answers! That was only nearly 30 years ago and I’m not bitter about it at all!). However, I can remember a couple of things. For business to be good, you want demand to outweigh supply and for every BOOM, there has to be a bust. It just happens.

I’m not really old enough to genuinely remember the market crash of the late 80’s. I was a teenager (and looking at my teenagers now, I understand why I don’t remember. Even though I knew everything, my world was very much focussed around me, my mates and the girls I was longing over at the time).

The Tech wreck after the y2k I felt though. I was working in the IT space and went from having a record month (for the company at the time) to a change of management/ownership, the “tech wreck” as it was called, then having a poor month and receiving a written warning! From chocolates to boiled lollies huh?  I exercised my options then. And landed eventually on my feet.

2008/9 arrives and man things were flying, my boss decides to tell the world in September 2008 (I think) that we would grow by 100 headcount by Christmas. The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit almost simultaneously with this announcement. I had a team of 6 Recruiters across the country at the time. Was an interesting time.

The market recovered, and so did my organisation.

Now 10 years on, whilst there have of course, been other ups and downs, this COVID thing has really hit me between the eyes. The good news is, experience tells me things will improve over time. The bad news for me is that my old role didn’t survive the initial shock waves of the virus hitting. My role was a really early casualty (OK it raised questions in my eyes, but that doesn’t help). I was in the middle of planning/implementing a Talent Acquisition survival plan when the news hit.

What do you do as a function when you have a hiring freeze? Well, it isn’t a Recruitment Freeze is it? Hiring is the end result of Recruiting, I believe the Recruiting still needs to be done. With as much openness, honesty and transparency as you can. At this time, people will most likely assume you don’t have much work, but we know it will turn. The smarter, savvier Recruiter should be preparing for this, like the Squirrel hoarding its acorns, fill up your talent bank. Get yourself ready.

Audit the function. Be brutal, be honest. Cut out all the waste, take the time to explore new technology which can streamline, improve and align your Talent Acquisition Strategy with the business goals. Ask yourself some questions.

  • What are the business goals? 
  • How can Talent Acquisition align itself better with these goals? 
  • What can be automated? 
  • What should be automated? 
  • Are there gaps? 
  • Are you aligned with the whole business? 
  • Do you need to educate stakeholders? 
  • Is there training required for you or your team? 
  • What’s our brand? 
  • Are we behaving consistently with this? If not. Why not?
  • Is your Recruitment Marketing aligned with your marketing team? 
  • Are the messages consistent?

The tap won’t be turned on gradually when it is turned on. There will be a flood. Talent pooling is essential now. Getting your brand to stand out from the white noise and every day COVID-19 messages, to messages adding real value to your audience is essential. Brands will be solidified in the tough times. Everyone is awesome when things are going swimmingly, it’s when things get a little messy, and how you react then that counts. Push your talent pool out to people your organisation has had to make redundant, keep these people involved and connected. One of the highlights of my career was being able to re-hire someone post a downturn and to see the buzz, that not only gave the individual, but the buzz it gave the company as a whole (and myself) is something I won’t forget.

I understand our company leaders have a fair bit on their mind, losing sleep over the state of the market, how to keep jobs and continue to give shareholder value, but still try to keep them involve in Recruitment. A message from a CEO, a genuine message, targeted to your talent pool will hold meaning. Get other leaders to be involved too, doesn’t need to be laborious, just enough to add value. Remember the term “Brand ambassadors” was en vogue a few years ago, utilise them. The beacons in your company that you want new hires to emulate, or the ones you think people will want to work with. Get them front and centre and involved. Be meaningful to your talent pool, not just more white noise.

Remind everyone that Recruitment is more than just Hiring. Hiring is the end result of a lot of little things, a larger function. Business’ need to be educated on this.

As a function you need to really highlight your value add, or you’ll be just seen as a cost centre and go the way of the dodo, easily cut and out to pasture. (like I was). Find a way to keep adding value to your audience, to your organisation. Keep yourself sane and good luck. We’d love to hear what others have done to keep relevant.

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