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Staffing During the Recession

(December 2011) posted on Thu Nov 17, 2011

"Interestingly, it has never been easier to staff our company with star employees than during this recession period."

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By Craig Miller

During the great recession of 2008, our company reduced its staff from a high of 50 to 25, a painful experience for everyone involved. Fast forward to late 2011, however: We’ve expanded our markets and products, and company sales are now extremely strong, ensuring full production into the second quarter of 2012. It’s a significant milestone for us to report that we’re again in hiring mode.

We’ve always said we would rather have a first-rate employee running a second-rate piece of equipment than a second-rate employee running a first-rate piece of equipment. And we take this concept a little further in that we don’t just want first-rate employees – we want stars, people who bring extraordinary contributions to our team.

Interestingly, it has never been easier to staff our company with star employees than during this recession period.

Boomtime hiring
There’s an obvious answer to why it’s easier to hire today: The pool of available employees is bigger, because fewer competitors are hiring during this seemingly never-ending recession.

In contrast, let’s look at the challenges we all faced developing and maintaining our staffs during the previous boom times. The biggest difference, of course, is supply and demand. In a boom, if you’re vying with competitors for talent and expect to win, you have to become the most desirable employer in the market. This means offering the best salary, benefits package, working conditions, opportunities for advancement, environment, and culture.

The challenge after the hire – and in many cases the more daunting challenge – becomes retention. If your company is a bad place to work, people don’t want to stay. And if you do provide a good work environment, the possibility of having your employees poached by another company comes to the fore.

During the boom times, companies often resorted to actively seeking out employees of competitors. Although our company has always tried to be ethical about hiring people away from competitors, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid this situation when other shops’ employees come knocking at your door. We operate in a “right to work” state, meaning people have the right to work where they choose (non-compete agreements are almost impossible to enforce in Nevada). Yes, we have hired employees from competitors, but it has been and continues to be our policy not to actively recruit from them.