Panic at the HR disco

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Posted by Matt Rivera

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August 12, 2011

With all the debt ceiling crisis paranoia (which is not over yet), followed by the roller-coaster ride known as the stock market, things are set to get pretty interesting for the remainder of the year.

Raise your hand if you are in HR and you think it will get harder to find and keep people. Keep your hand raised if you think there will be more jobs put on hold, cancelled, or not approved in the first place. My hand is up, how about yours?

If you've been reading my posts on the growing talent deficit, this is not good news. The underlying problem with the "wait and see" or "hoard the cash" mentalities is that behind the scenes, companies will weaken from the inside.

The troubling thing now is that HR professionals are going to be faced with the grim task of making do with what they have (or less than what they have). Even more troubling is that this environment lends itself to managers and business units taking things into their own hands, often looking for ways to hire under the radar.

Now is the time for some HR leadership. If no one else in the organization has an appreciation for this situation, HR must step up and scream, scratch, and shake the organization into reality. Without talent, there is no recovery. Those with the right talent will get there first.

I know, it's easier said than done, but right now we are facing at least four months or more of the malaise. This is no time to let up.

What can be done? Here are a few things to think about:

Fight to keep key positions. Most companies are starting to lose high performers and those disenchanted with long hours, low pay, and reduced benefits. But it's crucial that companies retain high performers and make their company an employer of choice now, before everyone else starts hiring. In addition, many highly skilled professionals are shunning corporate America and becoming independent contractors. Don't lose top performers, only to hire them back as consultants at a much higher rate.

Bolster your employment brand now. While this might be a quiet time for hiring, it is the time to work on all aspects of your employment brand, including social media, employee engagement, and benefits. There are several generations in the workforce now. Make sure you understand the dynamics and take action to make your company attractive to workers of all ages.

Encourage use of temporary workers to fill gaps. Don't allow the talent deficit to widen in your organization. While there might be some resistance, temporary workers offer a way to keep the wheels moving before hiring resumes. This will help balance the workload among your surviving workforce and keep projects moving. You might also find your next employees in this population of workers.

Watch decentralization and independent contractor use. Make it easy for managers and business units to engage HR and/or procurement for hiring. This is the time that things start slipping away, resulting in higher costs, lower compliance, and greater risk. Speaking of risk, we particularly see the use of independent contractors rising. Elance.com reported a 61 percent year-over-year uptick in freelancers using their site to find work. That's a huge increase and is consistent with high performers leaving to stake a claim on their own.

We are entering a time that could be very dangerous, if we're not careful. Companies that efficiently manage talent acquisition processes and fight for the best talent now will be in a good position when the real recovery begins. Companies that don't will backslide into higher costs and higher risks, as more hiring starts to happen under the radar.

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Topics: HR Strategies

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