The Winning Formula

F(h)iring in recession times – Be an ant, not a grasshopper (2/3)

April 3, 2021

In the first article of “F(h)iring in recession” series, “What brought you here, won’t bring you there”, I covered the challenges of keeping in mind the future business needs of the company when firing and hiring talent during this recession time.

In this article, we will move the focus towards talent attraction highlighting why a recession is the best time to build strong talent relationships and share some tips on how to do it.

II/III Be an ant not a grasshopper

The famous story by Aesop about the ant and the grasshopper is widely known. As I grew up I realized how often that story I used to listen to as a kid can serve as guidance and inspiration. Talent attraction is one of those areas where being an ant who takes advantage of the prosperous times, pays-off both in the short and in the long term so let me introduce you shortly to the ants and the grasshoppers of talent attraction.

The Ants

The ants of talent attraction are all those employers that tirelessly work on building their talent pipeline and employer brand even when everything seems to go well for them.

Many of our clients like McKinsey or Google are ants; they do not settle on their leading position because they know that the talent landscape is changing fast and the desired employer can turn into a second-tier one in a matter of few years. The benefit of being an Ant who constantly work on building a brand that is able to attract the best talent, as demonstrated by this Gallup research is clear:

  • 10% increase in productivity (can be higher depending on the role)
  • 20% increase in sales
  • 30% increase in profitability
  • 10% decrease in turnover and a 25% decrease in unscheduled absences

This is why I have a high consideration of all our clients because they proactively invest in building long-term relationships with the best talent, they really put talent first and this is why we love to work with them knowing that our members will not be disappointed and could potentially start a great career with any of the ones who will fit them best.

The Grasshoppers

Many other employers, the Grasshoppers, alternate between an urgency-driven phase where they desperately chase talent, with a relaxed phase waiting for the next urgency. The negative results are evident and measurable:

  • They hire driven by urgency and often end up with second-tier talent who might not be a good fit
  • They spend a lot of money on headhunting and communication campaigns which aim at pushing as many people as possible through the funnel increasing the cost and time invested in irrelevant candidates
  • They fail to build a consistent employer brand

I still get very surprised when employers do not approach talent attraction proactively and hope that massive platforms will satisfy their talent needs as they emerge (reactive recruitment is the fastest way to failure, but that’s a story for another time).

Now that you know the benefits and costs of being an ant or a grasshopper: who do you want to be?

The good news is that this recession is leveling the playing field allowing some employers who were left behind to gain some ground. Let’s understand why and how.

Recession: the best time to build talent relationships

It is important to realize that, during this crisis, many of the best digital profiles you had a hard time attracting as a traditionally perceived employer or as an unknown fast-growing venture, will be looking for new opportunities because many companies will, sadly, not make it through the recession or at least they will need to lay-off some of their best talent (i.e. Airbnb announces a 25% lay-off).

Only by looking at the Nova network, a whopping 31% of our members have started to proactively look for new jobs across Europe as a response to the recession, and all of them fall in the broad definition of high-performing digital talent.

A whopping 31% of our members have started to proactively look for new jobs across Europe as response to the COVID-19, and all of them fall in the broad definition of high performing digital talent.

You can clearly see how, even if you are not urgently looking for talent, this is a prosperous moment to be an Ant and attract those high potentials you have been trying to poach from other companies for many years.

Some tips and tricks on how to be effective

If you are, by now, fired up and willing to be a diligent Ant going out there to build relationships with the best talent, keep in mind these quick tips we at Nova have seen working well over the years.

1. Involve inspiring leaders from your company in talent attraction

Communicating a distinctive EVP via engaging campaigns is cool, but let the talent see how the values you stand behind are captured by the leaders of the organization is another thing.

Over the years I have seen clearly how talent join and leave organizations mostly based on its leaders, so involve your brightest people and build around their personal brand. Some of the activities with the highest return and with little or no costs:

a. Encourage your leaders to talk to seminars/webinars: let them share insights and inspiring thoughts rather than openly sell your company as a great employer. The best talent will want to join causes and teams, not pet-friendly offices and ping-pong tables.

The best talent want to join causes and teams not pet-friendly offices and ping-pong tables.

b. Require your key leaders to build their personal talent pipelines: ask your leaders to work proactively in mentoring young talent and connecting with future leaders. Each key person at your company should be constantly nurturing their successors inside and outside the company. One of the most recurring suggestions I got from investors is that I should always be hiring regardless of the open positions available. Make talent attraction a shared responsibility, not an HR exclusive topic.

2. Make sure you have the tools to maximize the return on your investment

Finally, as the number of your talent relationships increases make sure you have the tools to store all that information and monitor the status of your talent pipelines, and easily communicate to them over time.

We at Nova offer to our client TRM (Talent Relationship Management) software to manage, in a GDPR compliant way, all the relationships they build over time with our members. So they can measure the ROI of each activity, filter talent based on skills and backgrounds, and communicate via pre-built email templates so they can keep nurturing the relationships with no effort and in a semi-automated way.

We only offer this software to manage relationships with Nova members, however, if you are not our client, Wintrgarden and Beamery are some examples of the tools available out there which will help you build and nurture relationships at ease.

I am sure you feel like an empowered Ants by now, willing to go out there and leverage this recession to your advantage and start building your talent pipelines. I hope this article gave some extra food for thoughts on firing and hiring during a recession. The third and last article will dive deeper into talent career preferences based on the Nova Survey 2019 so you can fine-tune your communication and EVP based on data coming from 5.000 of the best talent in Europe.

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