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Who Dares Still Wins

Saturday, May 16, 2009   

"How come you've not posted an article for six months?" Asked an email I received a week or two back; the writer further venturing that maybe nobody was thinking about recruitment at the moment?  Well, that's not quite the case.......

For sure, it's true to say that actual recruitment activity in all sectors tailed off significantly in the final quarter of 2008 / first quarter of 2009;  but that's just what happens, isn't it?    Recruitment freeze, cheaper hotels for business travel and cancelling the biscuits in the boardroom; these are the staple reactions from firms who think they ought to be seen to be doing something in a market downturn, but aren't quite sure what?

As early as January this year, a friend of mine who heads up a significant professional services firm, was lamenting about how they'd followed this path of conventional wisdom, but were already seeing a negative impact in terms of  customer experiences that could, ultimately, cost the firm more than it saved from redundancy measures.

Others, meanwhile, have been taking a big step back to pave the way for capturing greater market share. So, the plain truth behind lack of activity from this author is that my firm has been so busy with client work that For The Want of a Nail, passionate as I am about the cause, has been forced to take a back seat.  


Size is irrelevant, honestly!

There are significant firms out there who are using this time wisely; preparing and paving the way to capitalise upon the mistakes of competitor organisations that, in their folly, seem to have totally abandoned the notion that people are their only real resource, and that virtually everything measured and treasured is a by-product of what people do.

When I say 'significant' I don't necessarily make this measure in terms of size of turnover or number of employees.  I refer to those firms that stand out irrespective of size, that are respected in their markets, and are the ones that observers just expect to do better than their competitors, whatever the climate.  Think about it for a moment and a few will come to mind. 


No coincidence

 It's absolutely no coincidence that the perpetually successful firms act very wisely in a market downturn and concentrate a great deal of effort into how they are going to capitalise talent-wise.  I know this to be fact, because I'm working with some of them right now to identify the talent opportunities in conjunction with the objectives of the business; advising on which competitors for skills are dropping the ball in terms of looking after their best people and how best to take the advantage. 

Contrast this with the attitude of those organisations who have already forgotten that, less than six months ago, they struggled like hell to retain and hire the people they needed in order to meet their business objectives - and in another six to twelve months they'll be in exactly the same position again!


Skills shortages are still with us 

Maybe you're reading this from just such an organisation where the powers that be, confident that they have the upper hand employment-wise, have stopped communicating with people effectively and managers will be taking the attitude that "there's going to be loads of people out of  work".

If you find yourself in such a situation, just remind them that there was previously a 30% shortfall of available talent (60% in some niche skills),so the fact that 10% of jobs have been cut, doesn't mean that skills shortages have gone away, just dropped to 20% in the short-term


It had to happen 

Let's just remind ourselves how we got into this current pickle in order to understand how we get out of it.  Fellow aficionados of Blackadder may remember the time when the captain tried to explain to private Baldrick why the First World War started, saying it was just too much effort NOT to have one.  The same applies to curbing the national hysteria whipped up by the media wanting to fill air time and column inches with speculation about what MIGHT happen; just too much effort (if not impossible!) to get them to see how irresponsible their actions are.

Sure, there are issues with the banking system and firms getting hold of investment cash.  But, think about this; how many cases where redundancies have been made are directly because Firm A can not physically get the funds from a bank to buy from Firm B, compared to the hundreds of thousands of jobs that have been cut as a result of firms and their business and retail customers hanging onto their cash "just in case"?

As the last post covers, it has been (and still is!) hard to escape the media-led all-out assault on public confidence.  Governments know, of course, the impact such behaviour has on the behaviour of the population at large.  So we might conclude that the powers that be are either happy to let the media cool the world economy or - if you're not one for conspiracy theories -concede, as Blackadder did, that it was just too much trouble to do anything about it.


The Magic Formula

Anyway, back to activities of those firms who are refusing to play victim to this and who will emerge far stronger than their competitors.   I'll break these down into two groups:-

A. Organisations that have been in a strong position enabling them to uphold their  people communication and long-term talent strategies. 

B. Those that, due to severe pressures have forced temporarily to lapse best practices, but realise that now is the time to carry out the recovery work in terms of employer brand reputation.

Group A firms are now stepping up their communications through a multiple of channels, getting their subtle messages out to the target audiences in terms of talent.  The existing workforces are fully aware of the positive behaviours the firm has adopted, whilst most of the market flapped and cut. 

Externally, the team who developed the competition's leading product, for example, have spent the past few months comparing their current employer's behaviour compared to company X.  They didn't get to hear about this by accident - and guess whose products they'll be developing before too long!

Group B firms are in crisis recovery mode.  Sure, they've made mistakes, but they are at least being proactive now in working with firms like mine to understand how this is likely to have impacted upon their talent strategies, and what actions to take to put it right. 

These two groups are the ones who are daring to think beyond the last doom and gloom sound-bite and are getting to work right now.    Like the closing scene from my favourite Only Fools & Horses episode, when they walk off into the sunset having made it at last, these firms will be enjoying their successes whilst pushing new goals out in front of them.  That's what keeps them ahead of the rest.

Who dares DOES win - and it's no lottery; it really could be YOU.  Spread the word in your organisation, share this article by clicking the 'send story to a friend' link at the top of the page.





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"Some firms seem to have totally abandoned the notion that people are their only real resource, and that virtually everything measured and treasured is a by-product of what people do"


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 "Cut early, cut deep they say - we did that and we're losing customers already and need to start recruiting again before we lose many more and kill the business"

Chief Executive commentating on following the normal patterns in a recession


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The way the media talked-up recession was enough to have us all saying "wibble"! 



Get in the media, give it a name, say everyone is worried about it...... and, hey presto everyone's on a downer!


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There are firms out there now investing in crisis-recovery work relating to their employer brand, or capitalising on the fact that they didn't damage it in the first place by bringing in top talent


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