On and Off Hiring: How to Use Hiring Downtime To Your Advantage

14 October 2021

In the growth stages, there can be pressure to maintain your hiring momentum to demonstrate your success. Hiring more people means more demand for your services, which means your business is thriving. However, as a growing business, you cannot hire all the time. There isn’t the capacity, and there isn’t always the demand to hire new roles. Hiring freezes are sometimes essential as your business progresses.

However, traditionally a hiring freeze is a scary thought for both employers and employees. For those businesses who continually hire talent to fulfil certain areas of their business, stopping all hiring raises a major red flag. Slowing down hiring is often synonymous with slowing down your business efforts. If people leave and aren’t being replaced, it can create cause for concern. Employees may wonder why you’ve stopped bringing in talent and trying to grow the team; if you’re not prioritising hires, will their jobs be around in 2 years, or is it time to look elsewhere?

Luckily, startup businesses and scaling businesses do not have the same level of hiring to maintain. They aren’t under pressure to continually grow and recruit talent like bigger organisations. Growing companies have a much more agile and flexible approach to recruitment. However, this doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy the benefit a hiring freeze can bring.

When done strategically, freezing or pausing hiring can create much-needed breathing space for your HR teams which can help give your business a competitive edge. Especially in today’s competitive talent market, you can be caught up in the rat race of recruitment, trying to bring in qualified candidates as quickly as possible regardless of their cultural fit or expectations. Aspects of the hiring process and employee experience often get lost or overlooked during intense hiring periods, so giving yourself time and resources to reflect and evaluate these processes could help refine your hiring process. Instead of recruiting quickly and without a real strategy, you can ensure you’re planning ahead for future hires, creating better experiences for new and existing employees and build a more tactical approach to hiring, which will set you ahead of the competition.

Here are just some of the aspects that you could use a hiring freeze to consider.

Slow down to focus on more complex c-level hires

Hiring at scale is fine for specific roles. For example, if you need to build out a Sales or DevOps team quickly, you need to find tactics that will soon connect you with relevant talent. However, for more senior hires, slow and steady often wins the race. Therefore, if you freeze your hiring or scale it back significantly, you can ensure that you really consider these influential roles. C-suite executives are not roles that just anyone can fill, they have a significant impact on the running of your business, so you cannot take them lightly.

If you pause other hiring, your teams can take the time to think about exactly what the senior role requires in terms of skill and personal qualities so that you know who you’re looking for. You’ll also have time to research and map talent to identify where potential candidates are located, as well as consider how you can bring some diversity into these senior roles. When hiring for someone with such influence, taking time out to plan and research will result in a better quality hire and, therefore, a better future for your business.

Think about your employer brand

When you need to build a team quickly, t’s easy to get caught up in high volume hiring without thinking about how candidates perceive your employer brand. However, in a candidate-driven market, your employer brand is essential. It’s the key differentiator between you and your closest competitors. Therefore, when hiring slows down, it should be a top priority for your teams. It’s the perfect time to speak to past candidates and current employees and discover both positives and negatives of working for you. It’s also a great time to assess your company culture, benefits and the type of employer you wish to be seen as. Once all of this has been established, you can work to communicate it to wider audiences. Whether it’s on your website, you create an employer brand film or social media content, find a way that tells the story of who you are as an employer to relevant and engaged audiences. If you do this well and raise employer brand awareness through recruitment marketing and digital talent attraction, you should have an engaged talent pool that is ready to apply when it comes to ramping up hiring again. What’s more, they’ll feel connected to your brand mission and values, and therefore should be a better quality hire.

Focus on referral programmes

Employee referral programmes are a valuable tool for any business, but they take time to set up effectively. Having your current team recommend your open vacancies to their friends, family, and former colleagues is a great initiative to reduce your hiring costs and the time spent searching for talent. However, you need to ensure a strategy is in place to keep it fair and consistent. Put in guidelines and a system that explains the role and skills required in detail; this way, employees will understand what’s needed rather than refer anyone to the job. You also need to ensure that any incentive is level throughout the business. For example, you can’t offer higher rewards for data scientists just because they’re hard to find. Then, you also need to ensure these programmes are communicated throughout the business, that everyone understands the opportunity open to them and the benefits they’ll receive if successful. In doing this, before you’re ready to hire, you stand a better chance of gaining referrals when vacancies open up.

Refine the candidate experience 

The candidate experience can often be overlooked when hiring at scale. If you need to recruit urgently, you want to push candidates through the process without really thinking about the details. However, the candidate experience can have a massive influence on the number of applications. If it’s too long, outdated, or you do not communicate with candidates, they’ll likely drop out of the application process. In a candidate-driven market, candidates have so much choice over employment that they won’t spend hours on a single application or put up with negligent recruiters. Therefore, utilising any downtime to update and perfect the candidate experience is bound to work in your favour. Ensure all touchpoints are designed with the user in mind, personalise elements when you can, and put protocols that ensure candidates are communicated with regularly even if unsuccessful. Test all points of the candidate experience to ensure it reflects your desired employer brand image; talk to past candidates to identify areas of improvement. As tech moves on, any candidate experience could be updated to be more efficient and streamlined. In the race for tech talent, it’s never going to hurt to ensure you’re one step ahead of the competition in terms of the application process and going the extra mile for candidates. Therefore if you have time to evaluate your candidate experience, it could pay off significantly.

Refine internal processes

Whether it’s onboarding or performance reviews, internal processes often get forgotten when your business is hiring at scale. If you pause your hiring efforts for a while, it’s the perfect time to refine these elements, which could prove crucial to employee engagement and keeping your people happy. Retention is a top priority for many employers right now, as recruitment becomes more complex and competition for talent increases. Therefore it’s wise to use your downtime to ensure that any internal processes are streamlined, efficient and pleasing to employees. Perhaps this means talking to employees about which processes need work, or maybe you refine them all to fit with your employer brand. Either way, if you aren’t focusing on bringing in new talent, overhauling processes and systems will help to make future hires and current employees happier. It will also ensure that your employer brand runs throughout your organisation, maintaining expectations for culture and values.

Take time to evaluate the success of your hiring strategy

Finally, if you’ve been hiring at scale for some time, you can use some downtime created by a hiring freeze to ensure your strategy is successful. When hiring quickly, you don’t have time to consider the success of your actions, but taking the time to reflect on recent hires could provide crucial insight to inform your future recruitment strategy. Have all of your recent hires stayed with you, or have any left shortly after starting? Did you have offers rejected? Have the people you’ve brought into the team add value, and if so, what did they bring? There are many ways to look at this, but all will help establish the success of your hiring strategy. Perhaps you’ve been hiring for skill but are struggling to maintain your company culture, or maybe it’s the reverse. Maybe you only use job boards to advertise vacancies and aren’t seeing a wide variety of candidates. Using downtime to reflect and think strategically will help inform future strategies and ensure you can hire the best and most qualified talent in the future.

Talent Works’ flexible approach to RPO allows scaling businesses to make the most of the downtime when hiring slows down. We know that full volume hiring doesn’t last forever, which is why our employer branding or research teams are on hand to help you make the most of quiet periods and inform better strategies for when hiring ramps up again. Scaling businesses are agile, and their recruitment strategies should be too. Using this downtime to constantly improve will give you a competitive edge in the race for talent.

Talent Works’ flexible RPO is helping some of the most exciting scaling businesses to grow on a global scale. With in-house recruitment marketing, employer brand, market research and sourcing experts, we can help with all elements of talent acquisition.

To find out how we can help your business, contact us.

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