When the official announcement of recession came, there was real concern about the depth and length of this economic crisis. At the current time of writing, analysts are optimistic that it may not be as bad as first thought. However, having navigated similar downturns in his recruitment career, our Commercial Director Rick Purcell still urges caution:

“We’re currently in economic limbo and uncertainty is the biggest barrier to progress. Having worked in recruitment for three recessions now, I can confidently say that the businesses who’ve had a resilience plan for key projects are the ones who’ve come out the other side winning.

From a recruitment perspective, I’d always suggest looking at how you staff your business across the lifespan of the recession. Recruiting smarter, not harder can make the difference on how your business climbs or bounces out of recession.

Many businesses see recession as a time to cut costs, delay projects and reign in all spending, but that’s missing the bigger picture. Absolutely it’s time to be reviewing spending and projects. But forging ahead with the critical projects – the one’s which give competitive advantage, or release something new to the market – is what sets a business apart”

When we spoke to Rick, he identified 5 key areas to ensure business resilience:

Forecasting and Planning your Headcount

What’s your headcount for the year ahead – split into contract, temp and perm? Does it take into account projects or initiatives that may be delayed or brought forward? You’d be surprised how many UK businesses don’t update these forecasts based on performance, economic impacts, or other external forces.

Are you staffing your teams with the right type of workers? Do contract lengths need to be contracted or extended and do you have the ability to do this?

There’s currently a skills shortage in the UK – driven by Brexit, the war on Ukraine, post-pandemic career changes and the recession. It’s almost the perfect storm. If you’re going to recruit in any way in 2023, let your recruiter know now. They can work to your schedule up to 12 months in advance – nurturing the talent that would suit your business best, setting expectations on availability, and line up the process so it’s painless for you to scale up when you need to.

Using Data to your advantage

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand for Data Analyst, MI Analyst and Data Engineering candidates. Thrown in to the unknown, business and project leaders realised they didn’t have the data (or meaningful data presented properly) to make informed decisions around new situations. If you haven’t yet got a grip on your data or how it can inform your recruitment plans, get started now.

Your staffing data can be hugely telling. Sickness rates, internal engagement scores, exit interviews, retention rates, 121 frequency, contractor attrition, extension times – these are all key data sets that can help build a bigger picture of your workforce.

Product Diversification

Throughout and after the recession, will your product or service still be relevant? Will it be market leading, ground-breaking or a must have for your customer? If the answer is no, it’s time to reassess. A decent product manager can help, and you can also use your data and analysis (see above) to review your customer feedback, market gaps and competitor analysis to find your niche within your market. 

In less than a decade ‘Product Management’ has become one of the faster growing business development areas. Typically sitting with the sales and marketing teams or within the strategy function, their role is central to the business in developing its future.   

Assessment of salesforce performance

No, we don’t mean ‘streamlining’ your workforce!

Reducing your headcount should be the last resort. Your first stage should always be on retention and ensuring productivity and input levels are realistic, achievable and sustainable.

Performance targets, KPIs and goals are all linked to business objectives. And, if your business objectives are changing, even short term, to become recession-proof, then the metrics that your workforce work towards should flex too. Plan these in tandem with your forecast planning and with the data that MI Analyst provides you.

If you’re spreading workload over fewer people, don’t expect them to double their delivery. Be realistic and retain their value within your business.

Workforce engagement.

The contracting market has been as buoyant as ever, but the number of readily available skills has become more of an issue for companies. We’re in a candidate driven market, and the ability to retain those people with the knowledge and experience of your business can be the difference between success and failure for some businesses. It’s important to make sure that includes your temporary and contracting colleagues too – secure your contractors for longer and look after them.

Rick concludes

“Put your recruitment and retention plans front and centre when assessing your project’s needs for the next 2 years. Don’t assume you’ll be able to diversify or increase productivity without new workers and new skill sets. And make sure you’re briefing your recruiter with longer lead times than ever before if you want to hire the very best”.


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