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Should You Hire New Employees in a Slow Economy?

May 13, 2009

Unemployment figures are at an all time high and companies continue on the course of downsizing. So should your company actual be hiring when most organizations are scaling back? If your organization wants to be one of the key players when the economy turns around, then the time to prepare for the turnaround is right now. Three important things to consider are:

• Do you have employees that are not meeting performance expectations?
• Can you capitalize on the abundance of top performers that are currently available?
• Have you considered utilizing interim hires?

Take a good look at the performance of your existing employees? During good times if an employee is not meeting expectations, there’s a tendency to look the other way. Can you afford to carry weak employees? It’s critical to take a hard look to see if you have under-performers in your organization. If you have employees that are not meeting performance expectations you must take action. Replace weak performers with people that will do what the job calls for.

Next capitalize on the top talent that is currently available. Just like it is a buyers’ market in real estate, it is currently a “hiring market” for employers. Company restructuring and downsizing has created an abundance of quality talent available. Short-sighted organizations are looking at survival. Companies that look beyond survival are looking towards the future to see if their current talent pool supports their long term strategy. These companies are hiring top talent now and building a strong, solid organization.

One note of caution; be careful using the same approach that you might use in a real estate transaction, when you are making an offer to a new hire. You may throw out a below market offer on house. And if you are lucky, you may get it. If you do the same thing with a new hire, the new hire may accept the offer; however this strategy could backfire. The new hire may not be happy in the long run. Their dissatisfaction may be reflected in their performance, and ultimately they may leave your company as soon as the market turns around.

Hiring interim employees is the third consideration that often gets overlooked. This is a perfect time to engage top talent for interim employment. Interim employees work for you on a temporary basis, typically for a period of one month and up to one year. Interim employees do not receive benefits, which is huge savings to your organization. With interim employees, you can have top talent work on projects and initiatives that everyone has been too busy to do. The main purpose of the interim hire is to fill a gap and work on a specific project. The organization benefits because they get to address a much needed initiative. The interim hire benefits too. They gain meaningful work that helps them to bridge the employment gap until they can obtain a permanent full time position.

You may be concerned that an interim employee may leave before the project is completed. To minimize the possibility of an interim hire leaving prior to project completion, you can offer a bonus for the successful completion of the project. This approach not only encourages an interim hire to complete the project, it ties their performance to the success of the project as well. Interim employment is a terrific win-win for the company and for the interim hire.

Should you be hiring in a slow economy? First, take a hard look to make certain that 100% of your employees are meeting expectations. Replace under performers with people that will do the job. Look at your talent pool and determine if you have the talent that will be able to achieve your long term strategy. And, can you utilize interim hires on projects that you have been too busy to start. Considering the advantages that this market brings, the question no longer is should I be hiring in a slow economy, the question becomes, how many people should I be hiring right now?


Shari Roth is a managing partner of CAPITAL iDEA. An accomplished performance improvement consultant, Shari’s ability to simplify complex problems into effective solutions has driven notable results in the transportation, insurance, financial, hospitality and telecommunications industries. Shari’s focus is to create leadership cultures where employees are empowered, engaged, and aligned to achieve the organization’s desired results.

With over twenty years of experience in Fortune 500 companies, her clients find Shari’s unique blend of financial, marketing and sales expertise invaluable. Shari’s in depth knowledge and certifications in Behavioral, Motivator and Hartman Assessments contribute to her clients’ success in hiring and retaining top talent. Shari’s clients have seen improvements in employee retention, increased profitability, and customer growth.