The state of the economy is up in the air. Market challenges continue, uncertainty abounds, and global analysts agree that a recession – in some form – is likely. In this environment, business leaders are at a crossroads on how to move forward.

Navigating a downturn of indeterminate length is challenging. Some experts predict a cycle under 12 months, while others forecast a more turbulent timeline. Many CEOs are advising talent leaders to take a slow-and-steady approach by pausing hiring and conducting layoffs as they focus on the next few months. For those organizations and their HR functions, it’s difficult to pivot from the hypergrowth mode of the past two years to advising on reasonable next steps.

With so many unknowns, it’s tempting to hold back on any strategic preparation, opting to brace for impact instead. But seeing the broader picture and engaging in long-term planning will help limit the consequences of a challenging market – especially post-recession. Here are five questions to consider as you think critically about your business strategy and the role of talent:

  1. What support do you need to sustain the overall business?
    Examine and decide if you have the key components in place to remain profitable no matter the market state. Planning for a variety of scenarios can play a large role in coming out the other side of a downturn – because projections can be hard to rely on.

    Building a resilient business operation provides a dual advantage: a thriving culture that attracts top talent and a team that ensures your business bounces back from hardship. Part of creating a strong team involves strategic hiring decisions – deciding which roles you need to hire for now and which to wait on. Remember, while short-term resources can fill current gaps, they’re only a temporary solution that may not sustain the company long term.

  2. How did successful companies survive past downturns?
    Businesses that held strong through previous declines didn’t sit idle. They made bold moves and implemented changes where needed, looking ahead to the next five years instead of the next five months. Taking measured risks and carving a new path forward may be what propels you beyond the competition in the post-downturn world.

    Talent acquisition teams have helped create buoyancy through former economic dips by boosting internal culture and investing in nontraditional approaches to hiring. Think about which parts of your business could use a refresh – whether it’s your employer brand, DEI practices, technology or other areas. Winning and retaining top performers requires a brand that effectively communicates your culture and values, and digital capabilities that improve innovation, agility and efficiency. Evaluate your company’s identity and current TA technology for opportunities to better captivate both candidates and employees.

  3. Will your current employees have the necessary skills both now and in the future?
    Skills gaps are prevalent across all industries – about 45% of companies currently report gaps and anticipate more moving forward. With shifting industries and merging businesses, the need for talent is even higher in certain disciplines like life sciences, technology, engineering and manufacturing.

    By gaining more insight into business needs, you may find that some – or many – current employees don’t have the necessary skills to advance the organization. If so, you can:
    • Reskill or upskill team members through skills development programs or other learning opportunities. You’ll gain more dedicated and loyal employees who’ll scale with your company.
    • Hire strategically for specific roles and proficiencies. Niche talent is in high demand with low supply, so bringing these individuals onto your team full time is beneficial in a competitive market.

  4. Do you have the executive-level talent to lead your business through and out of volatile times?
    Executive leaders are your guiding light through uncertainty. The best ones are dynamic change ambassadors with healthy risk tolerance. But they’re some of the most difficult roles to fill due to scarcity and the length of the executive hiring cycle. Searching for your company’s leadership should be a continual focus, even – and especially – during challenging times.

    Acquiring top-tier leadership talent takes effort and skill, and landing the best candidates to lead your business may require outside, expert help beyond the scope of your team. Whether you choose to collaborate with a third party or not, this ongoing enterprise ensures your business enters a post-downturn landscape with a set strategy and senior team in place.

  5. Are you equipped to engage the talent needed through each core recruitment step?
    Candidates want a personalized and efficient recruitment experience. Delivering on this, especially when competing against other companies for the best talent, calls for investing time and resources into your talent acquisition function. As your talent leaders look to build the team for resiliency and success, ask whether they can provide the consistent communication it takes to net top talent while future-proofing the business.

    A strategic talent acquisition partner can offer everything from standalone solutions for specific parts of the recruitment process to end-to-end recruitment process outsourcing (RPO). Working with the right external collaborator can provide the technology and expertise needed to create a positive and comprehensive TA strategy – all while protecting your brand and values.

Thriving through an economic downturn and beyond requires planning and evolution. Assessing your current state and future goals can provide you the insight to make changes that’ll strengthen your business – whether on your own or with a talent partner. Looking ahead will help you get ahead and bring you closer to a brighter tomorrow.


Connect with Greg on LinkedIn.