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The Upside of a Downturn: It's an Employer's Market

The Upside of a Downturn: It's an Employer's Market

You can recruit and entice top candidates - if you play your cards right.

June 23, 2009

Smart “investors” in talent markets find bargains during a business slowdown.

The “Engagement Cycle” helps employers take advantage of candidate psychology during a slowdown to attract top talent for the long term.

A slowing economy has tangible burdens, as employers become cautious in hiring (or even lay off workers). More subtle and insidious is the way even a gentle slowdown in consumption can trigger a well known vicious cycle: Lower corporate revenues lead to job insecurity, which causes consumers to tighten spending, which hurts revenues, which causes more corporate belt-tightening, and so forth until something (government spending, easier credit, unforeseen demand) halts the cycle.

This cycle offers a break in the fevered efforts to attract and acquire the most talented employees, a chronic problem that has beset booming economies for the past decade. To take advantage of a temporary lull in the chronic shortage of top talent, managers in HR and executives leading companies must adopt the longer-term practice we call the “Engagement Cycle.” The Engagement Cycle is a long-term practice combining employer branding, relationship management, and communication. It recognizes that an employer must continually attract, acquire and advance talent as brands attract, acquire and gain loyalty with customers over time. The Engagement Cycle creates strong bonds between employers and potential candidates before, during and after the brief period we call “recruiting.” Its practices ensure that when the economy strengthens – and talent once again becomes scarce – an employer has built a “bench” of talented individuals who are interested, open to discussion, and even grateful for the attention.

Poor hiring is like poor investing

Economic slowdown means top talent, usually rare and expensive, is briefly abundant and more affordable. Typical hiring techniques, however, won’t attract these talented individuals for the simple reason that they, as individuals, have become more risk-adverse, and those who are employed are less likely to switch employers.