Noooo! Don’t Let This Recession End. Not Yet!

I saw this headline last week in Business Week: Why I don’t Want the Recession to End Yet… and call me crazy, but I might be in the same boat as this writer because as much as I want to see us climb out of this mess we’re in, there are some good things that have come out of this crazy recession. Right? Think about it…

  • Less recruiting = more process improvement. I’ve been recruiting less these days as similar to Recession-2many organizations, we’re being prudent and only filling mission critical roles. Naturally, fewer reqs to fill has meant I have had more free time on my hands to do all those other things we’ve always wanted to do but haven’t had the time to do. There’s been process improvement, system upgrades, audits, special projects including revamping our total reward statements and launching our social media recruiting blitz… We would have gotten around to all of this stuff eventually – I think, maybe, I guess we’ll never know – but this was totally the opportunity for me to dive in and get more stuff done.
  • Greater clarity on who the A-players are. I know all of you won’t agree with me on this one… but for the most part, I think those who are still employed are those who you can’t live without. A-players aren’t being let go and so when I’m looking for passive candidates, I feel a bit more confident about these passive candidates. If you’re still employed, it’s more likely that you’re mission critical and a top-shelf employee. Simple.
  • Employees are quieter – and more hungry. From an employee relations perspective, there’s something about a recession that makes people behave and act more… how shall I put this, um, rationally. Maybe it’s fright and that people don’t want to cause a ruckus for fear of becoming a target for a layoff. Maybe it’s humility and gratitude that’s settled in and is causing folks to be a bit more placid… but I’ve observed less employee relations issues. People are simply complaining less. And not only are people behaving more, I’ve seen that people are hungrier. They are overcompensating and working harder than ever so as to be indispensable.
  • Smaller budgets = more creative solutions. Who hasn’t been asked to cut back? I’ve been asked to cut down my recruiting budget and as a result, I’ve re-evaluated a lot – how we’re using temps, frequency of using third party recruiters, job board packages. And, of course, I’m using social media more to recruit, which is almost completely free. Sadly, sometimes you forget to trim the fat and aggressively look for cost savings when times are good – at least that’s the case for me. Cutting budgets has forced me to be more creative and frugal. I’m trying to save a buck everywhere I can.
  • So called millennials are getting a reality check. Now, I’m not one to make sweeping statements about an entire generation. And as a gen Y-ish gal, I hate the generalizations made about how we’re spoiled, have entitlement issues and are too focused on work life balance – you know all the stereotypes. If you subscribe to those beliefs, fine… I’ve seen my fair share of millennials who fit the bill and many who don’t – but for those who are “classic” millennials, I’m seeing a reality check happen right before my very eyes. And given the struggles that the class of ’08 and ’09 are facing finding jobs… I think even more so, we’ll see the pendulum swing a bit and the negative traits assigned to millennials will become a bit more dull.

It’s an interesting time. Coming into 2009, I was freaked out about the economy and how I might be impacted – this being my first time going through an economic crisis of any sort… but it’s kind of been a good experience for me. Call me a glass-half full kind of gal. So, what are you thankful for in this recession? What has it allowed you to do? And maybe most importantly, how are you planning on sustaining this once we’re officially out of this?

Stay hungry friends.

FOT Background Check

Jessica Lee
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don't be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she's still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life... she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat. Talk to Jessica via EmailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook... See Jessica's riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here...

10 Comments

  1. Puf says:

    Great perspective, and I’m glad I’m not the only one being asked to do more with less! Your point around more creative solutions really hit home. I think often we look to the huge companies with vast wells of recruiting dollars for the solutions to our problems (how many time has someone from Microsoft been on a Kennedy panel?), when, just like in the market, it’s the small innovators that are making the difference.
    Thanks, that’s a real eye opener.

  2. Jean says:

    Interesting perspective but it sounds like your corporate culture is a lot different than ours. Although the recession does mean trimming out the fat out of the workforce, it also means our A-list workers are having to work even harder. The amount of travel may increase or number of hours that someone has to work goes up. Work-Life balance becomes MORE important, not less in this environment. Workers are now getting burnt out and I’m concerned about a mass exodus once the economy turns around and it becomes easier to find jobs. Your employees may not be complaining to you, but they’re probably complaining to each-other.
    From our perspective the approach is to make sure that as the company shows growth and profitability, that the employees are getting rewarded for sticking it out ahead of the curve rather than behind. Core-competency only helps your bottom line if your core team stays in place.

  3. Great post and always take advantage of slower times to fix what’s broken and implement new processes. However, you are correct I disagree with your perception that all “A” players are gainfully employed. I have family, friends, and neighbors that have lost their jobs and many situations weren’t due to reduction in force (they lost their job but someone else is still performing the same position in the company) but rather situations where all players were let go or circumstances that had nothing to do with the employees performance. For example, we have company closures, (the company no longer exists), consolidations or centralization of departments or functions, (you can keep your job but you have to relocate to Wichita, Kansas) acquisitions and mergers (the politics involved during integration of companies should be enough said on this topic)
    On the flip side; there are unemployed “A” player passive job seekers. These are those people who have no interest in working for your company or your opportunity doesn’t seem compelling enough where they decide not to submit their resume. You can find these people through various channels. However, a good recruiter, who knows how to listen and ask the right questions,  could easily persuade this unemployed “A” player to at least talk to the hiring manager so the person can be sold even more about the opportunity.  
    To end this post, let’s take an example where you called a passive “A” player candidate but they weren’t interested in your position. However, since you always ask for referrals, especially from “A” players, the person gives the name and number of someone else. You call this referral and they meet your “A” player criteria expect they tell you at the end of the conversation that today is their last day since the company they work for just filed for bankruptcy; does that “A” player just become a “B” player?
    On flip side; I hope you aren’t saying that everyone who is gainfully employed is an “A” player?
    In general, if you apply the 80/20 rule you are correct; however, looking at the current state of our economy, keep an open mind.

  4. Tim Sackett says:

    JLee-
    Love the take. I am very interested in seeing how this recession impacts all generations. Just a few years ago, we had everyone defined so nicely and everyone was running around making their GenY presentations on “How to Manage them” – like they were a virus. I think historical events, like this recession, tend to reshape generations.
    My guess is we’ll see a generation that was viewed as not having much employer loyalty – become very much loyal (primarily because they had to struggle to get the job in the first place).

  5. Pete Radloff says:

    Bravo on the process improvement, and recruiting front points, Jessica. But about the A players, agreeing with Kirk on that one. Keep the open mind there.
    The other issue is that hiring managers and high level (c-level etc), think that since there is a recession, there is ALWAYS someone better, and “why can’t we get ‘this guy’ now?” they think recession means all the free bags of money are on the street. In reality, yes many good folks are laid off, but realistically, who’s the first to go in a RIF? Generally, not the A-player.
    Jessica, enlightening as always!

  6. jessica lee says:

    @puf – it’s amazing what you can come up with when you have little to no money, isn’t it?
    @jean – i think it’s interesting, the idea that maybe my company’s employees aren’t complaining to me, but they’re probably complaining to each-other. it’s possible… but i think the thing that i see in my company is that we’re in this together. we know that we all have to work harder, longer, faster to make an impact in this climate – but we know we’re all on this together, or else. and it’s really a mentality that’s coming from the top down and infiltrating throughout the ranks. don’t get me wrong – the complainers will always complain… but i just seem to hear so much less of it because we know we’re in this together.
    @pete, @kirk – ah, thanks for making me clarify. correct, i’m not implying that everyone who is still employed is an A player. i think i just have more faith that my A players are indeed A players when still gainfully employed. you’re right though, kirk, with the scenarios you outline… there are some circumstances where A players do get ousted. i shouldn’t make such sweeping statements, should i! and pete… your point, it reminds me of a post Ann Bares at Comp Force put up the other day. yes, hiring managers think there are free bags of money on the street! and they also think we can get everyone on the cheap too… which could have issues later on down the line. today’s cheap hire could be tomorrow’s equity or employee relations issue… read this one:
    http://compforce.typepad.com/compensation_force/2009/07/todays-cheap-hire-may-be-tomorrows-internal-equity-issue.html
    thanks for the conversation, all!

  7. jessica lee says:

    @tim so, i will be remembered for my loyalty, my ass kicking, my hunger, my thirst and such… makes me wonder, does it matter where that motivation came from? am i lesser of a person because a recession forced all that into play? i guess personally that makes me feel a little badly about myself. i’m not just self motivated in that way, i just want to become indispensable. lol. my own demons are talking… know what i mean though? 🙂 something for me to think about. i guess it’s the end i care about and not the means. maybe.

  8. Mark says:

    Good post and comments. My experience differs on the third point, at least part of it.
    I work for a Fortune 500 company and my experience is that more people are actually reacting irrationally. Some of my colleagues are saying the same thing. I’d be curious to hear what some others have to say on this point.
    Yes, the majority are buckling down and thankful for their continued employment. However, I’ve also seen a pattern of irrational reactions and disproportionate escalation in the last 6 months.
    The stress, burnout and general concern over the state of things has eroded the ability of some to step back for a moment and respond appropriately to situations.
    The result is that the margin for error is very thin right now. If issues are not addressed well at first exposure, too many are skipping the normal “I’ll talk to my manager or HR rep” and jumping immediately to sending an email message to the president/CEO, a letter to a media outlet, or the EEOC.
    Anyone else seeing this?

  9. fran melmed says:

    interesting discussion! like other commenters, i think that creativity and “more hunger” came come from leaner days.
    i’m going to be a downer here — i get points for recognizing this, right? a lot depends on leadership’s tone, focus, and approach. if they send a “we’re all in this together” message and applaud creativity, taking chances, and potential failure in the name of eventual gain — terrific. often times it’s just the opposite, with leadership hunkering down and forgetting any good people practices.
    i know of many colleagues who are functioning under extreme stress — trying to reach goals that have not been adjusted for the current economic reality and working with fewer resources, human and otherwise. they’re working hard, committed as ever, losing heart, and only getting a “do more…and faster(!)” response. when this is the environment one is working in, i think we’ll ultimately see what the other articles and reports talk about — a mass exodus as soon as the economic tides turn.
    f

  10. fran melmed says:

    that was to be “i think that creativity and ‘more hunger’ CAN come from leaner days.” where’s my proofreader?
    f

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