Are you doing enough to make your employer brand “recession proof”?


The pandemic and the war in Ukraine will see HR departments reducing their talent teams, says Celeste Sirin.

Recent articles, webinars, ongoing conversations with clients, talent and employer branding specialists, beg the question of how individuals and organisations plan to remain relevant wedged between navigating the uncertainties of the post-pandemic recovery and a threatening global recession.

Worldwide, the Great Resignation turned many talent markets upside down, although some countries experienced the whiplash more than others. We recall how companies scrambled to double up on their recruitment teams with LinkedIn reporting a seven percent phenomenal growth in recruitment roles.

Our global talent market remains in a state of flux, and we are beginning to witness a slowdown or hiring freeze by the likes of big employer brands such as Uber and Meta. Coupled with this, some companies like Apple and Google are requiring employees to adopt a strict hybrid model with others calling everyone back into the workplace (Goldman Sachs and Tesla).

In a recession, people start pulling in their belts and their needs begin to change dramatically as inflation and the cost of living start gnawing holes in their pockets. People scale down on entertainment, luxury items, travel and holidays and shift their focus to more basic needs; this, in turn, also affects these recovering industry sectors.

With this in mind, companies, employees and job seekers cannot escape the knock-on effect that the Russian-Ukrainian war and the pandemic has had on the present global inflationary pressures, all of which is creating rising food and fuel prices and disrupted supply chains.

In the face of change, we will continue to witness the shift in global talent markets with the likelihood of companies placing pressure on their HR departments to reduce their talent teams, cut their recruitment budgets and/or reduce or place a freeze on their hiring. This will require both internal and external agency recruiters and talent leaders to repurpose themselves and to level up through these headwinds.

Resilient, determined, influential, confident, versatile, opportunistic, solutions-orientated – these are just some of the common recognisable behavioural qualities wrapped up in the DNA of a recruiter. What does this mean? It means that recruiters are survivors and can reinvent themselves to remain relevant.

While some of these practical guidelines might sound obvious and/or you might have them on your radar, consider fast-tracking these action items as the precarious inflation starts to become a reality, and your lead time begins to run out.

Uncertain labour markets call for a reality check of the company’s business objectives

With people at the front and centre to the success of any organisation, insist on your senior leadership team to provide you with an accurate as possible understanding of their business objectives, goals, and projections for the remainder of the year, and into 2023 with a view to you closely aligning on your forecasted talent strategies.

Pre-empt possible budget cuts (doing more with less), a freeze on headcounts, possible layoffs, placing certain projects on hold, implementing stronger retention strategies, fine-tuning and relooking talent acquisition of certain/ new roles, etc.

Revisiting your present role to see whether you are adding enough value

Irrespective of whether hiring stops or not, ask yourself the question whether you are doing enough to demonstrate added value. Nowadays, to remain relevant and indispensable, one needs to be a lifetime learner, realising that you need to continuously upskill, train, and develop your knowledge to grow personally and professionally.

This includes remaining knowledgeable of PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental factors), global and local affairs, and the effects on the fluctuating needs of both jobseeker and employee. Attending webinars, reading articles, listening to podcasts and keeping abreast of ongoing research/insights/trends is all very necessary if you want to remain relevant.

Through your learnings and arsenal of progressive innovations/ interventions you can confidently demonstrate your professional self-worth and be equipped with value-added skills which your company will be seeking in you. Especially when recruitment is not a priority, your advisory skills can assist your organisation to navigate through choppy waters.

Validate, internalise and amplify the relevance of your employer brand to retain your employees

Recruiters and talent leaders remain at the forefront of being incredibly important to confirming whether employees’ needs are being effectively met, especially now as employees continue to adjust to remote/hybrid work environments, requiring financial, mental and wellness support and flexibility.

Being deliberate in holding ongoing real-time discussions with your valued workforce, together with ongoing pulse surveys, can reduce the likelihood of employee disengagement, non-productivity and risk of attrition.

At the same time let us not lose sight of the time and cost involved in recruiting and onboarding, and the effect it has on production upon replacing an employee.

Creating a competitive employer brand that differentiates you

Companies need to be clear on how they present themselves to the candidate market. While hiring might decline, the ongoing war for high demand tech talent will persist, as well as the need to address the appetites of the emerging generations entering into the workplace, many of whom are seeking a sense of purpose, belonging and impact, accountability, flexibility to work from anywhere, career growth, environmental impact/climate change, DE&I etc.

While employer brands remain fluid through these precarious times, it is certainly worth investing time to create and/or validate whether you have a unique and attractive employer value proposition and memorable candidate experience to address your talents’ needs. LinkedIn confirms that a strong employer brand translates to 43 percent cost savings when hiring.

With change being the only certainty, it is a given that recruiters and talent leaders need to remain razor focused on global talent markets trends. Remaining future-proof will provide relevance to not only you personally but how you can add value and direction to your organisation professionally. Don’t wait to “recession-proof” yourself!

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