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The Competitive Advantage That Led to Strong Company Recoveries in the '08 Recession

Just a few months ago, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, LaSalle Network published a report on 2020 hiring trends and challenges based on responses from a survey to leaders of finance, operations and human resources. The number one hiring challenge reported at the time was finding skilled candidates. Now, with a record number of people at every level and in nearly every capacity currently unemployed, there is ample skilled talent available. 

Investing in key hiresis among the most strategic ways to gain human capital and take market share during this economic downturn. 

Lessons Learned: 

According to a Boston Consulting Group survey of 1,000 top-level executives following the 2008 recession, “hiring high-performing employees of competitors” was ranked among the top three most effective actions to drive revenuehowever, the same respondents also reported that their company’s No. 1 plan of action for handling the financial crisis was to cut back on recruiting. This is a pattern that some companies may have continued in the current financial crisis with the freezing of important revenue-driving roles, despite their need for talent and access to cash to fulfill these hires.  

In a Harvard Business Review analysis of 4,700 companies spanning the last three recessions, 9% were found to come out in a much better position than they entered because of a progressive focus, including eliminating “either/or” terms in decision makingFor instance, companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP) eliminated the thinking of “either hiring or downsizing” and brought on top engineers from closing labs even amid downsizing other departments during prior recessionsThe company attributed much of their success down the line to their willingness to invest in talent despite external economic factors. 


The Talent Pool: 

As competing businesses have furloughed or laid off employees, this talent pool is searching for their next opportunity with all the relevant experience, training, skills and industry knowledge to help add value to your company. Whether its investing in employees for research & development, technologists and software engineers, finance professionals or other roles, there is quality talent on the job market that could help companies come out of recession stronger and more agile. 

Similarly, while competitors may still be holding on to their top talent, many roles and responsibilities may have shifted along with changes to the business. Currently employed talent may be more receptive to a phone call from a recruiter because of these changes. Calling to gauge their openness to new opportunities could result in bringing on top new talent for your company.  


Communicating with Employees: 

If your company was one of the many that had to layoff, furlough or restructure a portion of your workforce, communicating to employees why you’re still hiring is key. While it may sound counterintuitive that some employees were laid off or working with salary cuts while new people are added to the team, discuss with employees why these moves are strategic to the company’s long-term goals. 

As many leadership teams are adjusting their business strategies to adapt to the evolving market for the year ahead, there may be certain employees or roles that are no longer adding the necessary value to the company moving forward. Leaders are evaluating what talent is needed to best equip the company for success in the future. If that talent is not currently on their roster there will be necessary changes and additions to the workforce in order to bring them up to speed.  

While there is still a great deal of uncertainty with how long the current economic crisis will last, one major difference between this time and many former crises is the cause of the downturn and knowing that this is not permanent. This time period of mandated closures will come to an end, and businesses must prepare to set themselves up for success on the other side. Creating a highly skilled team to help weather the storm now may prove instrumental in the company's future. 

There has never been more qualified and strong candidates with the right industry experience in the job market as there are now, and it may be well worth the consideration to invest in this talent as a way to kickstart financial recovery and sustain it long term. 


If you’re hiring for your team, we can help.