How to Balance a Possible Recession and the War for Talent

The fears of a recession mean that over half of CEOs have implemented a hiring freeze. Is a stable workforce plan possible at a time of constant change?

In a piece earlier this year, Josh Bersin pointed out the opposing forces pulling at today’s job market. On the one hand, he showed that more jobs are being created (528,000 in July 2022) and CEOs are investing in retention and tempting back talent that has left. On the other hand, the fears of a recession mean that - as a recent survey from PWC shows - over half of CEOs have implemented a hiring freeze. So what does this mean for those in charge of talent management? Is it possible to create a stable workforce plan at a time when things are constantly changing? 

Bersin suggests that a key employment trend for the next few years will be redeployment. Rather than the reduction of the workforce, smart businesses will be looking at how they can move their best talent into the areas where they need them the most. As organisations need the flexibility to adapt their business models to best suit the economic climate, they’ll want to reskill employees to make sure they have the right talent available. Just as for the past few years employees have been looking for more flexibility in their working lives – seen in the rise of the gig economy and the more recent move towards hybrid or remote work – employers are now seeking this flexibility for themselves.


At EnterpriseAlumni we’ve already seen businesses finding ways to bring more flexibility into their workforce. Whether this is through using their alumni network as a pool of talent that they can call on when business is busy – this is particularly the case for retail and hospitality clients which often rely on a seasonal workforce – or by bringing back talent for specific projects or short-term contracts (what Reid Hoffman calls “tours of duty”). 

We’ve also seen companies offering internal training programs to their alumni as a way of making sure they’re upskilling not just their current employees but future boomerang hires too. These simple tactics ensure that as the business needs change, the company still has access to key talent and can move it to where it’s most needed. 

As Bersin says, this is all part of a move away from HR isolated cycles of recruitment, retention, reskill or redesign, and into a new world where all of these modes happen at once. We talk about this as understanding that the employee lifecycle doesn’t start at recruitment and end when they leave, but continues for as long as that employee is active in the workforce. Forward thinking HR practitioners know that facing a possible recession is the moment to lean even more heavily into how you can engage your staff and retain the best talent – because when the economy picks up again, you’ll be glad you did.

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