I have been feeling like a bit of a vulture – I’ll admit it. As soon as I heard about the fall of AIG, Bear Sterns, Freddie, Fannie and the others, my initial thoughts were not of concern. I simply saw opportunity. I imagined massive layoffs (read new talent on the market) and if not that, employees of those organizations likely, and understandably, would be freaked out and ready to jump ship… perhaps over to mine. It was like music to my ears, as I began thinking about what openings my firm has and how I could capitalize on all of this.
Not the warmest response, I know. But here in DC, I’ve got Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in my backyard. And friends of mine who work at both came to me almost immediately post-takeover to talk job search tactics… so how could my mind not go there? I also started seeing a greater number of resumes from current F & F peeps applying directly to my firm. Then there were the referrals from friends of clients or friends of my friends at F & F who are reaching out to their networks to try to see what opportunities were out there for them. And I’m pretty sure that recruiting and HR pros elsewhere are hearing and seeing the same from would-be candidates at WaMu, AIG, Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers.
The possible exodus at each of those organizations isn’t something completely foreign – we saw the same at other giants like MCI and Enron during their tumbles, albeit under different circumstances. It make me think back though to an HR pro who used to be with MCI who once told me about the retention challenges they faced when the ship was sinking. And as I began thinking about the current crisis in those terms, I couldn’t help but to feel for the HR pros at all of those organizations. I mean, talk about retention challenges! What’s more, recruiting efforts at those companies have to be completely dysfunctional right now. Imagine you have an opening one day, a hiring freeze the next, you’re owned by a new company tomorrow or the government is swooping in to now regulate your organization… Selling that environment to a candidate? Good luck.
The challenges of being an HR pro under those circumstances, and managing against all of that, are simply immense. No one is immune however, so even some of our fellow HR and recruiting pros at those organizations, or perhaps those who do business with them, are or will be affected too… So this vulture mentality, I have begun to recognize, probably isn’t the most appropriate response because that would only make me the equivalent of an ambulance chaser, right?
As I’ve had time to digest some of this crisis, I’ve realized that relationships and community, and doing everything in that vein, is probably the best response. For those who reach out to me, I’m happy to help. I will be as understanding as I can be of the fright they have had working for an organization that’s collapsed or is so-near collapse they’ve had to be rescued. But I’m not going to go in like a vulture and try to steal their talent. Instead, I’ll focus on using my relationships and leveraging our community to help in whatever ways I can. Dr. John Sullivan may disagree and say start raiding Wall Street… but me? I’m going a different route.
And I’m proud to say that one of FOT’s very own, William Uranga, is doing exactly this. Check out his effort to create a repository of recruiting and HR pros who are affected by this crisis and are on the market. This is exactly how we should be responding.
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.