No one can dispute that technology has changed our economy drastically. Businesses, for example, no longer create vast inventories of pre-designed products. Why? Because we can do things in real time. Want a laptop built to your personal specs? No problem. Order it online. Want a car in a certain color with specific features? You got it. In fact, entire industries--including manufacturing, supply chain, sales, and logistics--have transformed to accommodate these capabilities that technology now affords us. But in my mind, one of the more interesting aspects of this economic shift is the way in which it affects how companies hire talent.
In a real-time economy, we require real-time workforces, where we scale our employee numbers according to financial outlooks and product demand. During the most recent recession, for example, over 95% of costs cut by companies were in payroll and labor. You see, companies don't hold onto inventories of people anymore either. The moment they see a downturn in the economy and in their business, they immediately begin laying people off. The problem, however, is that you have to be able to rapidly re-stock your talent pool when the pendulum swings back in the other direction. If you're not, this real-time talent strategy can backfire.
Here are a few warnings to remember:
1. An empty pipeline can mean empty pockets. The resurgence of business growth after a down cycle can catch an unprepared company off guard. All of a sudden, market demand is on the rise. You have new customers requiring service. In short, you need to fill positions fast--but if you haven't stocked and nurtured your talent pipeline, you'll have a tough time making that happen on schedule. Odds are, you'll need to pay big bucks for expensive staffing agencies and advertising campaigns if you want to find qualified candidates quickly. And meanwhile, if you're not producing and selling at an optimal pace, you're losing revenue as well.
2. Hasty departures aren't always due to layoffs. A real-time workforce must also be agile enough to bounce back from vacancies that were not intended--and today, your talent is far more likely to pick up and leave than they were 20 years ago. Highly skilled employees (including executives) are always looking to build and further their careers, and they'll go wherever they have the greatest opportunities. This is yet another reason that it's absolutely critical to have a continuous and ongoing flow of prospective talent into your company.
3. Without the right tools and the right perspective, your pipeline will suffer. Those that have prepared in advance for an expanding economy are those that have built a pipeline of talent the same way they've built a pipeline of prospects for customers. Think of the hiring funnel like the sales funnel, where finding and qualifying talent means constantly building databases, leveraging automation tools and metrics applications, using social networks, and launching nurture campaigns. This takes work, serious strategic planning, and the right tools. Once you have a database of candidates, and a healthy following on social media, you're then tasked with keeping that community abreast of what the company is doing, and keeping them interested in what your company has to offer as an employer. If you do this effectively, you'll have a comprehensive talent pool from which to recruit applicants when it's time to grow your payroll. If you don't, you'll always be struggling at the last minute to fill positions. Ultimately, this can lead to business failure.
Today's economy arguably demands that all aspects of business respond in real time. Staffing is most definitely part of that equation, so there's certainly no harm in running a real-time workforce--if you approach it correctly. It's important to remember that every round of layoffs during hard times will likely result in a necessary round of hiring down the line when your company grows. Maintaining your just-in-time business, therefore, requires you to recruit and hire at an accelerated pace. Be sure you're planning ahead for those situations.