Talent management in a recession

by 03 Feb 2009

Organisations need to retain and develop their talent to meet the competitive demands once the recession has ended, writes Allan Schweyer

Many HR and talent management lead ers are being asked to handle reduc tions in force and to help choose who stays and who goes – perhaps for the first time in their careers. And while some organisations intend to take advantage of the bounty of talent that is now in the market, most will struggle with the challenges of selective hir ing while letting others go.

In every case, initiatives that centre on retaining and developing talent, purchasing necessary technology and maintaining the employer brand will come under greater scrutiny during this recession. Whether organisations are retrenching, struggling to maintain the status quo or (in rare cases) expanding, the current economic crisis promises to be a challenging time for HR and talent management professionals.

To help individuals and organisations through a challenging period in talent man agement, Taleo Research and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) conducted a survey involving hundreds of HCI members world wide in December 2008.

Surprisingly, more than two-thirds of respondents reported no recession-related layoffs at all so far. Moreover, a full third do not believe any recession-related layoffs will occur in 2009.

Nevertheless, few would argue that the US and many parts of the world are in a deep and difficult economic recession. Accordingly, we sought the opinions of hun dreds of veteran leaders, practitioners and experts to understand best practices in tal ent management during a recession.

Recession tips and opportunities

The top five tips during layoffs are:

1. Zero sum budget, eliminate all non-core work and retain profitable businesses

2. Be sure you understand the competencies you need to execute your business goals

3. Retain and engage top performers within core functions – think through who adds value and who’s hard to replace

4. Communicate, communicate, don’t let people think the worst

5. Following a layoff, start immediately rebuilding the team and plan for recovery

The top five opportunities in a downturn are:

1. Take advantage of talent that becomes available on the market

2. Use the downtime for training, develop ment and implementation of technology to become more productive

3. Listen to employees, harness every per son’s ideas and enthusiasm about how to use the situation to become better

4. Best companies redouble efforts, pull their talent closer, communicate, invest in talent for future growth

5. Look for leaders, not just doers

At the time of writing, the recession is a year old in the US. It has eclipsed the previ ous two recessions in duration already and we appear to be a long way from recovery. Ramifications will be felt for a long time, but organisations must use this time wisely.

Talent managers need to evaluate their workforce with an eye for the future to ensure they have the skill sets essential for the business of tomorrow, that they have knowledge retention plans that preserve the intellectual capital of the company in the face of future retirees, and that they retain their existing, critical talent – and develop it to meet the competitive demands to come once the recession has ended.

Human Capital Institute members can download a complete copy of the white paper at: www.hci.org