HR Opportunities During the Global Financial Crisis

“Around the world stock markets have fallen, large financial institutions have collapsed or been bought out, and governments in even the wealthiest nations have had to come up with rescue packages to bail out their financial systems” by Anup Shah on 9th December 2008 from http://www.globalissues.org/article/768/global-financial-crisis

The global financial crisis has impacted and continues to impact many lives.  Companies are forced to retrench staff, freeze or reduce salaries, place a hold on incentive and bonus payments, postpone and or invoke a benefit holiday. Companies are challenged on deciding which formula is the most appropriate for them. The Human Resource team is a key contributor to those decisions and the Communications department is critical in crafting and engineering the delivery of the messages to the stakeholders.

How do we see this current situation of lay offs around the world as an opportunity? In Trinidad, we have experienced great difficulty in recruiting talent. We have seen numerous articles on the “War for Talent”, but now the landscape is changing. Should we, depending on our own business situation, do the expected thing and freeze hiring across the board? Or do we freeze hiring only for the positions that are easy to source candidates for?

An idea is to adopt a non-conventional approach to the sudden availability of talent in the market. We can use the sudden flood of retrenched talent to bargain and negotiate cost efficient employment contracts with an emphasis on lifestyle benefits.

In Trinidad, the construction sector is in the decline, this means that the construction companies that evolved to satisfy and support the Government during the construction boom are now closing shop or drastically scaling down. This means that their support staff (Information Technology, Accounts, Human Resource, Marketing), will be looking for jobs early next year. We can tap into this resource to supplement our pool of talent from which to recruit. Now is the ideal time to hire supreme talent.

In Trinidad, I have observed a number of Trinidadian families returning home from living abroad, and this is also serving to soften the job market.

We need to take the initiative to fill our critical roles and or start developing our pipeline of quality candidates in preparation for the economic recovery. Talent pooling is an emergent opportunity that we must take advantage of during this turbulent time. We can network and use this time to build relationships with targeted talent aimed at filling our talent pool.

We can use this time to negotiate cost effective training agreements with third party vendors. We can use any operational downtime for internal training to ensure survival team members are cross trained on multiple portfolios. If we have to retrench staff, we should attempt to retrench using strong performance criteria, where the poor performers are weeded out first. The company’s performance management system must be strong, transparent, fair and rigorous to stand up to scrutiny if the retrenchment process is challenged in the Industrial Court.

We have had times of peace, followed by times of war. Famine and depression have followed booms and bull markets. We should start preparing or planning for the impending boom that is going to follow this time of financial crisis. As a Human Resource Professional, we should be alerting our businesses to the human capital opportunities for selective recruitment, development, performance filtering, retention with reasonable and manageable compensation and benefits.

Denise Ali
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