Putting a Freeze on Recruitment in Uncertain Times - Knee-jerk reaction or responsible management?


The first thing many companies do in times of uncertainty is to put a hold or freeze on recruitment, however before you publicly announce a recruitment hiatus, consider the impact it might have on your existing employees.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve been approached by and invited to connect with candidates on Linked In who I’m sure wouldn’t have felt the urge to do so previously.

So what has changed? Is it purely the Brexit vote? – Possibly. However I strongly suspect it’s the messages and signals they are getting from their current employers that the drawbridge has been raised and the career opportunities and job security they thought they had 4 weeks ago have now either disappeared, or are in danger of doing so.

Whether real or imagined, what’s probably far more worrying to your employees is the threat of what often comes soon after a recruitment freeze and that’s redundancies.

Even as you read this article, it’s quite possible that those of you that have put a recruitment freeze in place will have good people who (fearing the worst) are busy updating their CV’s and are starting to be that little bit more active in the jobs market.

So what do you do if one of your high-performers resigns while under a recruitment freeze? Do you try and persuade them to stay and if you try and fail, do you look to replace them, or do you keep the hiring freeze in place?

Whether you replace, or whether you don’t - be aware of the messages and signals your decision will send to the rest of your people, who will act on what you do, and what they see and feel.

The difference between recruiting and hiring

Through effective candidate engagement and employer branding, Recruiting is the continuous process of ensuring that top talent see you as the employer of choice in your industry sector/locality when they are in the market for a career move.

Hiring is the act of employing people you have succeeded in convincing that you are the employer of choice.

Former GE CEO Jack Welch said; “One of my main duties as CEO was to be ALWAYS on the lookout for new talent to bring into the organisation”. Notice he didn’t say some of the time (depending on favourable economic conditions etc.) – he said ALL of the time.

Put another way – even in these uncertain times, if one your competitors’ top performers became available, and approached you while you had a recruitment freeze in place - would you be interested in talking to them? Of course you would – it would be foolish not to.

In summary

I’m not saying there won’t be situations that dictate that you should put in place a hiring freeze – what I’m saying is that hopefully sooner rather than later, you will begin hiring again and this being the case, I can’t ever see a reason why, or a time when you shouldn’t always be working to attract and engage and being open to meeting with, or interviewing top talent.

Not only will a process of continuous recruitment insulate you from the impact of a sudden and unexpected resignation, it will reduce the inertia of having to recruit from a standing start every time and will send positive and reassuring messages to your existing people that you are open for business.

It will also provide you with opportunities to recruit other companies’ top talent that might not have been available to you previously.

If you do decide however that a hiring freeze is the right course of action for your business, make sure you communicate to your people (preferably 1-1 with your high-performers) your reasons for doing so, that it’s responsible management, that it’s (hopefully) a temporary situation and you will be keeping a close eye on how things develop post-Brexit and as just soon as things become clearer and the situation allows, normal service will be resumed.

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