The leaders you should still hire in a downturn

I was reading a business blog over the last few days, and one piece of advice was not to over-hire in the current downturn. From one perspective this is right, as hiring too senior a person, so that the job has to grow significantly before it fits, is clearly not a smart thing to do. Especially when the GDP of every major economy is shrinking faster than we saw even during the last recession.

But not hiring senior enough will cost you a lot more.

When I screen our clients job needs, I always ask the client to describe me the key ‘incidents’ that this person will likely have to manage. What does it look like when things go really wrong? What does an outstanding performer do in this moment differently? Because it’s not helpful to know how this person will cope when the sun is shining. The real value that quality hires add to any business, is their dexterity in managing difficulty, and still getting results.

Here the difference between average and outstanding is far, far greater.

Initially it doesn’t look that different, because everybody is buying less. But not having someone sufficiently skilled to lead during hard times causes at best, poor performance, but at worse, very lasting damage. Making good decisions both before, during, and at the time that the market rebounds, is essential. Otherwise time is wasted, and business is lost, and fast, nobody will know how it happened. Looking at historical data, previous recessions show that companies who performed well after the crisis, did not stop moving within it. They did not shut up shop and furlough their staff, or make mass redundancies of quality personnel. Wherever possible, they tried to keep going, tried to keep their key staff, and when the market returned, their business outgrew the competition at pace.

It is not uncommon for companies to be doing well when the whole market is doing well. But if you want to find a great leader, you should look for them in a downturn. They are still busy, probably busier.

What you may not know, is that it is an extremely good time to be recruiting.

I’m not saying go out and hire aggressively, so please be sensible. But if you know your business and the metrics to hire are there, the productivity and the clients are there, then do not delay. In order to maintain quality operations, staff are needed.

Now is one of the best times to find quality employees.

Competition is low, and people who are still moving during these times have a genuine motivation or need to move. They are sincere, not just moving because it’s easy, because it isn’t. The risks are greater, the choices are fewer. It takes courage. Courage is one of the most essential traits I find in top quality leaders.

A downturn is the best time to recruit your future leaders, good luck.

 

 

Written by: Rana Hein-Hartmann, EMEA Director.

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