Why a Total Hiring Freeze Might Not Always Be the Best Idea

When finances are tight, and the future is uncertain, many businesses natural reaction is to freeze hiring completely. With millions of companies around the world currently having to make difficult decisions about the future of their staff, the threat of a recession and rising unemployment rates, it’s understandable that now may not be the ideal time to think about welcoming a new cohort of recruits.

What is a hiring freeze?

Hiring freezes give a degree of protection to your workforce. When you’re not hiring, it’s considered that you’re conserving revenue for essential business operations. It’s a way of controlling budgets to ensure you look after your people first. In the interest of protecting loyal employees and maintaining budgets, putting a stop to future hires seems to be the first instinct.

A hiring freeze also gives an employer the chance to consolidate their current workforce, consider restructuring and ensure that essential work can be completed. It provides breathing time. Pause, think and reflect upon your business. Particularly after a pandemic, when things are changing rapidly, putting a pause on recruitment will give you a chance to evaluate the state of your industry and the jobs market.

Can you replace existing employees?

During a hiring freeze, businesses do not replace staff that leave in order to reduce costs.

Some will turn to freelancers to help carry the workload once employees leave, but others run a higher risk of employee burnout as workers are faced with excess workloads and less support. This may lead to employees working overtime, facing stress and mental health issues as well as a lack of productivity across the business.

Overworked employees can negatively impact an employer brand and employee perceptions of your business. Last year, burnout touched almost 50% of the workforce, and hiring freezes are proven to exacerbate these pressures with 40% saying that workplace stress would be reduced if employers took on more people.

Some believe that turning to work experience and unpaid internships during a hiring freeze is the answer; it can relieve staff without the cost. However, tactics like this will reflect poorly on your employer brand. Although shifting the workload from your team, it’s seen as an unethical solution and shows a lack of respect for both your existing employees and early-in-careers candidates.

If these unscrupulous tactics were highlighted on social media, your business would face backlash and your employer brand would be tarnished. If you can’t afford to hire more staff, don’t expect someone seeking a foot in the door to do it for free.

Instead, employers must ensure their team know that the pause on recruitment is only short-term and their extra work will not last forever. Hiring freezes are meant to be a temporary solution while your business concentrates on other areas and moves budgets to operations that need it most.

Should I stop thinking about recruitment altogether?

Right now, the hiring freeze may be in place while you recover from the impacts of COVID and strategically plan your next move. It’s a way of putting a hold on recruitment, so you have one less issue to worry about, but it doesn’t mean it should be forgotten about completely.

During turbulent times, putting recruitment to the back of your mind isn’t always the smartest move for businesses. The COVID-19 crisis has reshaped almost every aspect of our culture; companies need to adapt as their customers and clients do the same. We’re relying more on online services and technology, but priorities have also changed, and consumer habits are likely to follow suit. While you may not be hiring for a specific role at this moment, the industry you work in will be changing by the day, so it’s essential to keep an eye on the skills and talent you may need in the future, or you’ll run the risk of being left behind. We’re preparing to enter a new normal, and it will be naïve for leaders to think their business as is will work successfully in the new reality. The war on talent waits for no one, and with the most in-demand skills changing continually, you need to ensure talented people don’t forget about you in their job search.

With a record number of unemployed individuals around the world, now is the time to consider how to move your business forward and the people that will help you get there. There is a huge number of talented people looking to find work; talent which you could utilise to move your business forward into a post-COVID world. A hiring freeze may mean you aren’t recruiting right at this second, but it doesn’t mean that hiring isn’t going to be essential soon. It could be that you need to attract specific skills to successfully adapt your business model to align with a post-pandemic world.

How can HR teams and recruiters make the most of the time they’re on a hiring freeze?

1. Nurture Your Employer Brand

Just because you aren’t actively hiring, it doesn’t mean you can’t work on your employer brand and both internal and external perceptions of your workplace. Build the right reputation for yourself now, and the talent will come to you as soon as you have an opening.

Your employer brand not only impacts your candidates’ decisions, but also your employees’. Employees will choose to stay with companies they respect and feel happy with. Conduct some internal and external research to gain a better understanding of how you’re seen from all perspectives. Understanding how both your employees and future candidates see you can be achieved through creative research methods and can help to enhance your EVP and employer brand. You’ll find out what employees want from you and how to accomplish this.

Social media is a great tool to promote your employer brand on a mass scale to potential talent. It allows you to be creative when celebrating what makes you stand out and to tell your story your way. Storytelling is a crucial element of your employer brand, and when done well, combined with the power of social media, could help you attract candidates for years to come. Perhaps you could use your time to build a designated careers page on social media, or simply find stories within your business to share.

2. Refine your candidate experience

From finding a job on a careers page to the interview process, the candidate experience is a vital part of recruitment. When you’re hiring in a hurry, you don’t have time to perfect it, it’s a job that is always saved for later. If your business is in the middle of a hiring freeze, you finally have the time to refine the candidate experience. Still, it also fills your overworked employees with confidence that you do plan to recruit again.

Look into automating any elements of the recruitment process that you can as this will save you costs down the line. Consider creating job description templates to ensure they all carry your tone of voice and use inclusive language. This will encourage more diverse candidates to apply and give an impression of your employer brand from the offset. There are so many things that can be done now to provide you with a competitive edge when it comes to talent attraction in the future.

3. Re-engage employees

When you’re avoiding hiring new people, the last thing you want is to have your employees leave. It’s likely that during a hiring freeze, your employees will see an increase in workload, pressure and stress as they may need to take on new challenges and pick up any slack. You will need to find ways to re-engage employees that are carrying the load, or you risk a negative impact on your employer brand.

Maybe you could review your employee benefits. Offering an expensive benefit may contradict your cost-saving during the hiring freeze; however, things like the opportunity to work remotely and flexible hours are some great options that will improve their work-life balance during stressful times.

Without thinking about recruitment, you can look at your business as a whole and consider what needs to change. It gives you a chance to look at your existing people and their talents, which is something employers overlook. You can find training options or mentor programmes to help your current employees progress, to become your leaders of tomorrow. Investing in your employees during a hiring freeze will enhance your employer brand and fill them with confidence that you want them to stay.

While hiring may not be a realistic business goal right now, a complete hiring freeze will only set you back. Think about recruitment on a larger scale and refine both your EVP and candidate experience, and you’ll be in a much better place to recruit. You may find a lot of businesses talking about a hiring freeze, and think it’s a great idea to conserve funds, but avoiding the topic for the foreseeable future could set you back in an ever-changing world. From building your employer brand and EVP to recruitment marketing campaigns, our team is on hand to help.