Even in a recession, strategic hiring should still go on
May 6, 2009
Lately, it seems like every headline announces some sort of economic bad news: a tightening of consumer spending or another massive layoff or hiring freeze. Just last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 12.5 million people are unemployed nationwide. And while consumer spending edged up slightly in January – potentially good news for businesses that need Americans to open their wallets for their survival – these are still tough times. Consumer spending fell at an annual rate of 4.3 percent during the fourth quarter 2008, numbers we haven't seen since 1980. Considering these uncertain times, many hourly employers may be tempted to lay low and stop recruitment and hiring to save money. However, this lockdown approach may do more harm than good. While it may seem counterintuitive, companies who choose to strategically hire employees during the downturn are more likely to protect their bottom line over the long term; you can sail through these troubled waters by keeping your turnover low and maintaining customer loyalty. Plus, if history is any indicator, recessions typically do not last longer than a year. I hear from many hiring managers on reasons why they are not recruiting right now, but more often than not, they'd be better off to take a look at the facts instead of standing by common misconceptions. Top reasons companies aren't recruiting or hiring and why they should do so strategically: Myth: We are fully staffed. We don't need any more employees. Fact: Executing your recruitment strategy, especially in hard times, will fortify your existing staff with quality people as turnover occurs. In the hourly realm, turnover rates of up to 300 percent are common. Companies without a long-term recruitment strategy may find themselves suddenly short-staffed. Since applications typically go "stale" after 30 days, it's especially important to keep a pipeline of quality candidates ready to join your team. Myth: We have plenty of walk-in candidates. Fact: The customer is No. 1. Include a screening process in your recruitment plan and avoid wasted time that should be spent building relationships with your customers. While it's important to meet your potential employees face to face, your time with customers is just as critical. Employers who rely on the walk-in candidates to fill vacancies may be forgetting that while managers are interacting with them, they are spending less time with the customer. This is dangerous territory as poor customer service often signals internal trouble and causes severe damage to your business. Trying to manage walk-ins also diverts your attention from other critical tasks like training, upkeep and general management. To avoid being distracted by walk-in candidates, incorporate a standardized screening process into your recruitment plan to identify the candidates best suited for the position. Then, schedule face-to-face meetings with those candidates during low-traffic periods. Myth: Our applicant pool is more qualified than ever. Fact: Hiring overqualified employees for cheap may be enticing, but it's no bargain if you are left high and dry. Be sure to think about the qualities and commitment you want in an employee in the long term. We've all heard the stories of MBAs applying for hourly theme park jobs and former realtors clamoring to work in retail. But, if they are out the door once a better opportunity arises, are they always your best worker? No matter what kind of applicants you are receiving, you should be in the driver's seat about who you are hiring. Consider your company goals and priorities to ensure you hire the best person for the job. Myth: I can save the company money by hiring less. Fact: Spending less on recruitment could cost your business more in the long run. You can save thousands in turnover costs by hiring wisely. Many employers think that by cutting back on hiring, they will save money. But, by skimping on recruitment, you may end up creating even more expenses. Having three people responsible for a six-person job will quickly result in low morale and costly turnover, should any of the remaining staff choose to leave. Plus, customers who do not receive attention in a timely manner because your staff is at its max will look for services elsewhere. As companies struggle in this tumultuous economy, it is now more important than ever to implement your recruitment plan. After all, employees are the lifeblood of any business, the folks who deliver your product and develop customer relationships. Hire wisely now, and you will weather the storm. * Shawn Boyer, CEO of SnagAJob.com, America's largest hourly job Web site, has helped hourly employers find qualified candidates since 2000 within the retail, restaurant, hospitality and service industries, among others.