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Business, Corporate Strategies

How to Shift Your Talent Strategy During Economic Volatility

General Assembly
May 26, 2023

Today’s talent market is undergoing a major shift, and organizations are rethinking their talent strategies. After a period of massive hiring and growth, some companies are taking a step back and reducing their workforce, such as through layoffs or hiring freezes. Many organizations are taking a more thoughtful approach to hiring, selectively filling only key roles. Other companies still in growth mode see this as an opportunity to recruit top talent in a tight job market. Yet all businesses have one thing in common during times of economic volatility: a desire to shore up and future-proof their workforce against whatever comes next. 

While investments in employer branding and talent development efforts can easily fall to the wayside during economic slowdowns, companies that are in it for the long haul can’t afford to press pause. Here are three things to consider as you evolve your organization’s talent strategy in the face of uncertainty. 

Adapt Your Messaging for Reality

If your company has recently gone through layoffs or is on a hiring freeze, it’s time to adapt your messaging for reality. Employees who remain may feel distrustful and experience “survivor’s guilt.” Historically, layoff events lead to low morale, low engagement and lower productivity. According to one study, employees experienced a 41% decline in job satisfaction, a 36% decline in organizational commitment and a 20% decline in job performance after their company went through a layoff.

It’s important to provide your managers with messaging that meets your employees’ needs for stability and security when things feel volatile. Employees might be feeling anxious about their job security, or that there’s little opportunity for advancement due to the circumstances. Ensuring managers are equipped with consistent talking points to help them shift their perspective and focus on the positive can make a meaningful difference. 

At some point you are bound to have roles to fill again, and it’s important to maintain a strong employer brand and candidate experience. If you are hiring selectively, make sure you are transparent with candidates about recent moves, and ensure that the interview team gives consistent responses regarding what happened and the company’s performance.

Ramp Up Internal Mobility Through Upskilling and Reskilling 

Employees often leave when they feel stagnant in their role, and many employers don’t encourage internal mobility enough. However, internal mobility can be critical for weathering a hiring freeze or slow down by ensuring that key roles are filled and that top performers are retained and engaged. If you can’t hire externally, how can you promote from within? 

The first step to ramping up internal mobility at your company is listening. What are your employees’ professional goals? What are the skills gaps that your managers are struggling with on your team? 

Once you have this information, you can begin to put a plan in action to address these gaps. For example, you could partner with an educational organization on training courses to upskill your existing technology talent. Software engineers in particular are still highly motivated by new challenges and continuous learnings, with 69% reporting it’s what attracted them to the career. If they don’t see a future filled with new challenges at your company, they very well might leave. 

Another option is to reskill your non-technical talent. It’s likely that there are high potential employees who are eager for a new challenge working in non-technical roles at your organization. Someone who works in accounting, for example, and is already proficient with spreadsheets and math, could become a data scientist. Someone who works in customer success and has a passion for improving customers’ experience could be a UX designer. You can work with managers to identify these employees, and then train them on skills like coding, data science or UX design to get them ready for an entry-level tech role that needs to be filled. 

Develop a Nurture Program for Your Talent Pipeline

Even if you aren’t hiring en masse right now, you need to maintain a strong talent pipeline if you want to future-proof your talent strategy and ensure interest from a diverse group of candidates. For example, you might have top performers ready to move up, but lack a pipeline of junior tech talent to backfill their entry-level roles. Instead of approaching recruitment on a role-by-role basis, how can you build a consistent and steady pipeline of diverse junior talent? 

One way to do this is by developing a nurturing program. Not every candidate is ready to quit their current job today, and not every role you’ll need to hire for in the next couple of years has been identified yet. Keeping a wide pool of talent aware of and engaged with your employer brand can be beneficial in the long-term, because when you are ready to hire again, you won’t have to start from scratch. 

Nurture programs can be especially helpful when it comes to recruiting non-traditional tech talent. The typical tech hiring process and requirements are outdated, and they eliminate people with high potential. People who, with the right onboarding and training, could be very successful in tech roles. The traditional approach, such as requiring a college degree, limits companies to a very competitive small pool of talent. Building a diverse talent pipeline can help you pursue alternative hiring strategies, such as skills-based hiring, when you’re ready to expand your workforce again. 

So what exactly does a talent nurture program entail? It might include various tactics, such as: 

  • Virtual candidate events offer an opportunity to talk about your culture and examples of projects you are working on, while allowing candidates to hear from real employees. These can be great for bringing more diverse candidates into your pipeline, as you can tailor them to specific audiences, such as women in tech. You can collect prospective candidates’ emails and stay in touch with them in the coming months and years. 
  • Community partnerships can also be valuable partners in building a pipeline of non-traditional junior tech talent. 
  • Digital marketing, such as through email newsletters, blogs and social media can help you stay top-of-mind with prospective candidates. These channels are great for going beyond your values and brand statements, and showcase people that actually work at your company. It’s an opportunity to highlight those who are living your values, and provide insight into what the culture is like once inside. 
  • Apprenticeships or Recruit-Train-Deploy programs, which can help you train high-potential non-technical talent for new roles.  

Need help improving your talent pipeline? General Assembly can help. Contact us today for tailored recommendations.

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