How to Adapt Your Hiring Strategy During a Recession

Tips for recession-proof hiring include adapting to workforce demands, training and retraining staff, and prioritizing culture fit over skillset matching.

Desiree Grosman
January 23, 2023

Finding and hiring the right employees is tough enough with a massive skill gap and an ongoing labor shortage. But when a recession hits, the uncertainty can make it even more difficult. This can be especially true in blue collar industries, where profits are likely to take a hit during tough times.

But that doesn’t mean you should give up hope of finding and hiring the right employees for your business… You just need to adjust your strategy accordingly.  Here are a few tips for recession-proof hiring.

Industries That Struggle During a Recession

During the pandemic, it became evident that some industries, such as plumbing, were more resilient than others. But there are many industries that do not fare well during economic downturns.

During the Great Recession (2007-2009), there were serious declines in construction and manufacturing employment. If a recession hits, there could be similar dips because of a lack of demand for goods or services. With the burden of bills and debt to manage, consumers will be hesitant to invest in big-ticket items such as homes, cars, or major appliances.

Because of this, a lot of construction companies, manufacturers, and even service-based businesses will feel the squeeze. That makes it even more important for these industries adapt their hiring strategies

riskiest industries to work in during a recession

Maintain a Growth Mindset

If the labor shortage has been an uphill battle for you, you might actually see some relief during a recession. During difficult times, many businesses resort to layoffs, which leads to an influx of experienced workers in the market. Experts suggest that economic downturns can actually provide blue collar industries with more leverage for hiring and retaining talented employees.

So keep your recruiting and hiring efforts consistent to create a talent pipeline. Whether you actually hire from this pipeline now or later, having a ready pool of qualified and experienced potential employees can help you come out of a recession prepared.

If you can't afford to add to your team right now, then it might be time to shed some of your underperforming employees and bring in new blood. Replacing the weak links  with experienced workers can go a long way toward improving your team's performance and overall productivity.

Plus, it can be costly and difficult to lay off and rehire. Think of how challenging it is to bring back seasonal employees from one year to the next…

But when the recession passes and you’re ready to expand, you'll already have a strong team in place.

To sum it up:

  • Don’t let the recession cause you to go into survival mode
  • Avoid layoffs if possible
  • Recruit highly-skilled candidates who have recently been laid off
  • Replace underperforming employees

Adapt to Changing Demand

In order to recession-proof your hiring, you need to be prepared for fluctuations in demand. Blue collar industries are no stranger to this – seasonality already tends to affect demand for certain services, but this could be exacerbated by recessionary conditions.

To prepare, you might need to focus on short-term contracts and part-time positions. This will allow you to quickly scale up or down with changes in workload.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Job seekers today long for a healthy work-life balance, making flexible, remote, and part-time positions an attractive option.

Job seekers today long for a healthy work-life balance, making flexible, remote, and part-time positions an attractive option in a recession.

Offering flexible schedules is possible in the trades, so employers can really appeal to workers who may not have the ability or desire to commit to traditional working hours. Doing this will undoubtedly draw in more potential employees while also providing them with some stability during these uncertain times.

And it gives you the ability to meet consumer demand without committing to hiring more full-time employees and increasing costs.

Focus On Training and Retraining

You don’t have to hire new employees when times are tough – you can also focus on upskilling and retraining your current team. Investing in the skills of your current workforce will not only help them develop but also reduce costs associated with hiring and onboarding new people.

Plus, it’s a great way to retain your current employees and make them feel valued. And when the recession ends, you'll be able to show future candidates that employee development is a priority in your organization. This is a unique perk that can set you apart from the competition.

Prioritize Cultural Fit Over Skillset Matching

When budgets are tight, you really have to get this hiring thing right the first time. So rather than focusing on just skillset matching, focus on identifying candidates who are a good fit for your organization’s culture and values.

The last thing you need in a recession is more turnover. If you can find employees who are compatible with your best talent, and who feel they are in an ideal environment to thrive, then they will be more likely to remain with you for years. This not only saves money by reducing turnover, but also ensures stability and productivity within your organization.

Here are 3 other crucial things you should look for besides skillset and cultural fit.

Use Automation to Streamline the Hiring Process

If your company does need to reduce costs, automation may be the answer. Automated hiring solutions can help you recruit more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Tools like Team Engine can streamline the hiring process by cutting out manual tasks such as:

  • Posting jobs on a range of job boards
  • Sifting through resumes
  • Pre-screening candidates
  • Scheduling interviews
  • Tracking and following up with candidates
  • And more!

With Team Engine, your HR team can save invaluable time, reducing labor costs in the process.

Recession or not, your hiring process should always be evolving and improving to keep your organization as productive as possible. If you're ready to level up on your recruiting and hiring methods, click here to get access to a risk-free trial of Team Engine.

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