The Myth of the Economic Downturn: Abundant Resources

Economic downturn equals abundance of excellent employees, right?  Business folklore holds that times of distress are an excellent opportunity to pick up great employees at a fraction of the cost.  However, this business fallacy can be a dangerous mindset for leaders.

Who Gets Let Go?

In economic downturns, companies must carefully consider their staffing levels.  They will often use the opportunity to weed out unsuccessful programs and refocus on market share.  During this process, companies will review their staff, reload activities, and make head count decisions.  As they do this, they consider each staff member and decide which ones are no longer adding value to their organization.  These people are the first to be let go.  In this type of event, typically employees will be downsized based on non-performance, outdated skills, and poor attitude or teaming skills. Rarely are the cream of the crop downsized.  Solid organizations typically will shift excellent employees into more profitable business areas to ensure retention of valuable skill sets.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

As a result of the realities of the downturn, some good people get let go, but they aren’t as thick on the ground as many employers think.  In order to find excellent talent, employers will have to sort through far more unqualified candidates. The difference in responses to job postings can triple and more as people who have been seeking work apply for jobs for which they do not possess the skills. In order to find good candidates, employers should ensure that they:

  1. Clarify the necessary skills in the job listing, be very specific and detailed to ensure that candidates can quickly determine if they have the requisite skills.
  2. Review resumes for accomplishments, rather than positions held.
  3. Check references to get a good sense of why this person was selected to be let go, was it truly lack of work or was this an opportunity to off-load a mediocre performer.
  4. Understand that to get top-talent, whether in a downturn or not, they will need to offer appropriate salary and benefits.

Moving forward

Understanding the limitations to the business dream of cheap, top-quality talent will help leaders in organizations appropriately set their own and their teams’ mindsets.  Expecting to pay for quality in order to receive quality is always the best policy.  If the leader should find a top-quality talent for a fraction of the cost, they should count themselves lucky and make the decision quickly.  After all, if someone is good, they won’t sit around long, downturn or not.