SMEs need a new talent strategy
Whenever storm clouds appear on the economic horizon, one of the first decisions businesses take is to put a freeze on hiring.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote a steady stream of economic bad news is, sure enough, putting paid to many hiring plans. An IoD survey in June found that a quarter of UK companies were stopping recruitment as a direct result of the vote. The City has recently cut job postings by 27 per cent and the tech sector is sure to follow.
That doesn’t mean businesses have eliminated the need for new talent, or that they can get by for long without strengthening teams and skill sets. But the short-term requirement to protect margins can’t be ignored.
Caught between conflicting requirements, hiring managers need a third way to resource projects and achieve business objectives.
Hiring freezes are a blunt instrument
Many executives believe that putting a hold on hiring will help contain costs. In the short term that’s true but longer term those costs can boomerang, or create unintended consequences with costs if their own.
A hiring freeze can actually hurt SME’s by:
- Stopping change initiatives in their tracks
- Overworking current staff leading to burnout and then turnover
- Leaving vacancies in revenue producing roles, leading to missed revenue targets
- Missing out on talent opportunities
- Diminishing innovation
- Damaging the employer brand and making it harder to recruit when the economic picture brightens
To avoid falling victim to corporate self-harm, hiring managers should to get in front of any coming freeze and start making the business case now for a re-think of how talent acquisition is conducted. A new post-Brexit hiring strategy is required for seeing projects, targets, and ongoing initiatives through to completion during the expected downturn.
Embracing ongoing churn
Having just begun to come back from one recession and a new one staring us in the face, the established carousel of hiring freeze, followed by redundancies, followed by staffing-up again when things improve, should be broken.
We all work in a global economy now where corporates need to be nimble, able to change quickly, and make hiring plans in an environment where ‘gig’ and highly-skilled contract working is on the rise. The new model is for firms to identify many key hires as necessarily temporary, with clear objectives around change or innovation, to be delivered on an established timeline.
Smart managers must learn to continually add workers in areas of growth and innovation, then release or re-deploying them when their objectives and deliverables are complete. In the post-referendum fog facing UK businesses over the next 6-10 months, it’s a strategy that can satisfy the demand for cost control while allowing the business to continue improving, evolving and innovating.
Rise of the special ops employee
While short-term employees have always been an option to help companies get through a crisis, a new breed of worker has developed over the last 7-8 years who embraces the challenges and benefits of contract work over the relative ‘safety’ of permanent positions. Contract and interim roles are a new career format for many highly skilled and senior people. That’s an opportunity for HR.
Many find contract roles more challenging and interesting than permanent jobs, or feel that they bring better work-life balance and flexibility. Some top performers find they can earn better money than they would in a permanent position.
It takes a special person to embrace a role that often comes with an evolving brief, leading an initiative that might be on the brink of failure. Technology, changing attitudes to work, and a volatile global economy are bringing more and more of these exceptional people to the fore. In our current Brexit uncertainty, they could be an essential part of your plans.
–Rorie Devine is founder and CEO of interim.team