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Chloe Mumford - 6 min read

5 Ways Talent Leaders Can Build a Recession-proof Talent Agenda

The talent industry today faces a peculiar challenge. Businesses are struggling to find talent in a market where job resignations have topped all records. In this article, we explore how talent leaders can rapidly change their resourcing mandate to prepare for what looks to be a dip in economic output.

Talent shortages – from bad to worse

In a 2021 report by Manpower Group, nearly 7 in 10 companies reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring. The lockdowns have led to a permanent change in attitude of workers. According to research from Gartner, the vast majority of HR leaders (95%) expect that at least some of their employees will work remotely after the pandemic.

The resulting dissatisfaction for rigid work structures is driving a shift in the talent market. People are more clear about their personal needs and aspire to take back control of their lives. They won’t stay if their employer fails to meet their expectations. Two years after the pandemic, and the market faces another disruption – this time a cost-of-living crisis that’s spiralling into stagflation.

For HR leaders, it’s never been more important to get a grip on talent sourcing and to reshape methods, systems, and attitudes in the way jobs get done. The good news is, you can achieve a win-win situation for both workers and your business. Here’s how.

1. Engage talent throughout your people agenda

Post COVID-19 workers are expecting more quality and purpose out of their work, and they desire to be acknowledged for it. Many more want to work with organizations that support their work-life balance better. It means a business like yours needs to compete on making employees happy. You need to make your brand a magnet for talent.

According to the 2021 Employee Experience Survey Report by Willis Towers Watson, more than 9 in 10 employers (92%) indicate that enhancing the employee experience (EX) will be a priority over the next three years. This shift in priority reflects that EX drives engagement (81%), employee wellbeing (80%), as well as productivity (79%), and overall business performance (78%), thus creating value for both employees and the business.

It’s critical that businesses like yours think about how to positively engage workers at every touchpoint:

  • Through social media before they join, gaining positive feedback stories from workers to publish on Glassdoor, Google, and other review sites to protect and projecting your brand reputation as a great place to work
  • During the interview and onboarding process—so you don’t burn bridges unnecessarily with good talent that doesn’t happen to fit the role you’re hiring for
  • While at work, making sure the promises made to workers are being fulfilled
  • During offboarding (or job changes)—so you maintain the options to promote, recycle or offboard.

Organizations that have invested time and resources to improve their onboarding process are consistently outperforming the rest.

2. Onboard better

There is a clear requirement to invest time into improving your onboarding process, and the time is now. The Brandon Hall Group High-Performance Onboarding as a Driver of Employee Engagement Research states that organizations that have invested time and resources to improve their onboarding process are consistently outperforming the rest.

  • 78% saw increases in revenue in the last fiscal year (1 in 3 saw increases of more than 10%)
  •  64% saw positive gains in the majority of their organizational KPIs
  • 54% saw significant gains in employee engagement metrics, including employee turnover, absenteeism, productivity, and employee satisfaction.

One way to improve your onboarding process is by providing extensive training, effective feedback mechanism, mapping out plans, and effectively aligning them with their personal goals. Effective onboarding is the key to employee retention as this is the time to make an employee feel comfortable in the environment. You need to settle them for the long term based on how they are treated in the very early days of their tenure.

3. Tailor your ‘talent magnet’

Provide workers with a package and opportunity that allows them to bring their whole personality to work, set them on a course to achieve their career ambitions (not just yours), and shape the job in a way that appeals to them.

The hard truth is that candidates today look to work for companies that are authentic and have values they can buy into. They want to work for companies that do what they say they do.

You might consider a review of the workforce experience you are delivering:

  • Revisit your pay bands and rewards if you feel they’re not clear (or fair)
  • Think about how you evaluate your people. According to research from Reflektive, eighty-five percent of professionals surveyed said they would at least consider leaving their company over an unfair performance review. More and more companies are moving away from annual performance reviews and moving more towards quarterly mentoring and G.R.O.W.-based appraisal sessions.

Candidates want to develop their career potential while they’re working for you.

  • Are you doing enough to offer them continuous improvement in their discipline?
  • The complete ‘wellbeing and financial health’ package matters to workers more and more today. And it’s not just about the individual, it’s about their family too. Forget your ‘brand magnet,’ are you doing enough to create a ‘job magnet’?

4. Think outside the box

Stay ahead of your competitors and research your best sources of talent. Try referring to a broader subset of talent by tailoring your recruitment strategy to accommodate neurodiverse applicants, who could provide new ways of thinking to your organization.

1 in every 10 people today are thought to be neurodiverse (although that’s hard to put a number on because many individuals are not clinically diagnosed, and some don’t want to be). By catering to different work style needs for non-neurotypical workers, you can access a creative and relatively untapped talent pool.

Employers need to create an accessible and welcoming work culture that provides ongoing support in an inclusive, friendly, and above all, genuine manner. Smart employers are working harder than ever to provide support for the psychological well-being of their workforce.

5. Source more gig workers

Mike Swigunski, author and founder of, argues in his Forbes article, that the pandemic, and the subsequent labor crisis it’s caused, has created the “perfect storm” for the gig economy. The gig economy is said to be the future of work.

By aiming toward flexible work roles, temporary contracts, and project-based talent acquisition with flexible working conditions, you can bring in talent from other areas of work and different locations to join you remotely and add value to your firm. Moreover, this would enable you to explore options where you can choose the talent based on the labor market rates that you are comfortable with and find talent there.

Final Thoughts

The key to adapting to any change is to move with it.

Talent leaders need to look beyond the obvious and carve a new way to find good-fit talent. This includes creating a people-oriented workplace to ensure existing employees get the most value out of what they do.

Research conducted by McKinsey & Co. of 70 CHROs in Europe indicates the vast majority of CHROs are eager to shift to a model that McKinsey labels “back to human.”

The Great Resignation has shuffled the talent market and talent acquisition demands. It’s not enough to engage candidates in the old way, with the old offer. If you want the best candidates, you will need to get your offer package in order. That means:

  • You appeal to a broader audience (global, diverse) and tap into the gig economy in smarter ways.
  •  Your brand has a high reputational score on review sites.
  •  Your ‘job magnet’ is working and your offer package is up to scratch.
  •  You’re delivering continuous improvement, useful and fair appraisals, etc., and candidates can see their career is safe in your hands.
  •  Your brand is transparently authentic in everything it does, such as caring for the emotional and physical well-being of your people.
  •  And you are delivering on your promises as a great place to work.

Diversity is a key ingredient not to be forgotten. Too many hiring agendas ignore neurodiverse candidates. Furthermore, they focus on a ‘backdoor territory’ and fail to take advantage of the global talent audience. Too many more hiring agendas fail to appeal to diverse candidates and focus on reflecting the incumbent workforce. We all get on better with people that think and act as we do, people that mirror our behaviours and attitudes. For managers, hiring people ‘not like themselves’ is one of the hardest things to do. They need coaching on how to do it, why do it, and adding more influencers on selection panels is a good way to help them find the talent they need.

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