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Hiring lull? 4 ways to deploy extra recruiting capacity and keep your team engaged

Jill Macri

Companies are having to make excruciating decisions around headcount right now. We at Growth by Design Talent host a weekly roundtable for the alumni of our Recruiting Leadership Academy — a cohort of over 80 recruiting leaders from companies across industries. We’re hearing a range of different scenarios: some are laying off teams (and themselves), some are busier than ever, and many are in a “lull” period as the business revises the strategy for the next few months. Those leaders have the challenge of using time effectively and keeping teams engaged.

Drawing from our past experiences with our teams at Airbnb, Pinterest, Facebook, and Apple, we put together this list to help fully deploy your capacity and keep your team engaged during a hiring lull.

1. Bungee Assignments

Deploying members of the recruiting team on assignments with other teams in the company is a great way to create stretch learning opportunities and get important work done. When hiring is significantly slowed or frozen, many teams across the company are starved for resources and can use the help. Growth by Design Partner Adam Ward shares key steps and considerations:

  • Determine who to bungee: Realistically look at how much work recruiting still has to do and how much work the “receiving” team needs. Be pragmatic; overly protecting your people resources or cutting back too far are both risky paths to take.
  • Collect project needs: There are three concentric circles of work to bungee people to. The first circle to consider is within the recruiting team itself by moving resources to support parts of the business that are still hiring. The next concentric circle is the People Team, often under-resourced compared to the recruiting team. Usually particularly slammed in a crisis like this are benefits, HRBPs and employee relations. In the outer ring are teams who use skills similar to those in recruiting such as Sales Ops, Internal Comms, PR/Marketing, and Finance. Pro tip: Try to match recruiting resources with teams they already support in their day to day recruiting.
  • Set expectations: Both with teams getting resources and the individuals, you must be clear on the time commitment and the impact on the team member’s goals and performance review. For example, if they raise their hand to go help out the Marketing team and they aren’t successful, will they be negatively impacted by taking the risk to help the company?
  • Matching: In order to collect information about needs you may already have existing materials you can leverage and modify for this purpose, like an Intern Project Template. If not, a simple Google form can work well. You can host an info session style meeting where teams pitch their projects to interested team members. Teams can make it a fun and competitive event to get people excited about their projects. Giving employees the feeling that they are getting to choose the project vs being assigned is helpful to the overall success of the program.
  • Wrapping up: In some cases, bungee employees will snap back to their original teams and in other cases, they may find a new career path. Both outcomes are a cause for celebration. Recognizing employees who put the company first to help out in a time of need deserves positive reinforcement and acknowledgment by leadership.

2. Upskilling the Team

Now is a great time to do team training, and not having formalized content or an external trainer doesn’t need to get in the way. Often there is a ton of knowledge within the team, and there is a wealth of quality content available online. Some ideas on how to structure learning:

  • Bookclub Style: A lightweight way to do this is to have everyone read or watch the same thing, then follow up with a “book club” style discussion about it via Zoom. Change the focus and content weekly.
  • Full Curriculum: With more time, you can put together a calendar of curriculum (Sourcing Strategies, Closing Strategies, Staying Organized with Candidates, Scheduling Efficiency, etc). Source these from the team, have people submit what they would like to teach, or deputize people based on topics that are high impact. Each “instructor” puts together a read/watch list and a light curriculum. Your sourcing team might use the blogs at Gem to do a session with the whole team on engaging candidates. A recruiter might use some of the curated content on the Greenhouse blog to improved structured interviewing. The whole team can focus on diversity by reading this Holloway article or completing the opensource Unconscious Bias training from Facebook or Google.

3. Research and market mapping

This is a great time to get a jump on future roles by defining the market so your team can be more targeted when hiring ramps again. Some of the deep and focused work to do here:

  • Market Mapping: If you have not done market mapping before, Binc has a good tutorial here. Focus on roles that you know will be opening in the future and get to know that target market.
  • Diversity Pipelining: This is a great time to build a list of underrepresented talent for both common roles at your company (e.g. Data Scientist or Front End Engineer) as well as potential future leaders where the pool of talent is much narrower. Another impactful project is auditing your career site and job descriptions to ensure that both are inclusive in their content. Textio is popular, but there are also free alternatives such as this.
  • Developing “Top Ten” Talent Lists: If you don’t do it already, this could be a great opportunity to capture the names from everyone in your company of who they would love to work with again. Tag them appropriately in your ATS or CRM so that they can be a starting place for sourcing for new roles in the future.

With any initiative during this time, it helps to create momentum and shared purpose for your team by doing the following:

  • Branding: Give the effort a name — make it fun, values-aligned or whatever appeals to the culture of the team.
  • Measurement: Recruiting teams as a whole are very goal-oriented, showing progress and feeling the sense of accomplishment is key to engagement. We like using simple visual tools — a Kanban or Agile board that everyone can access.
  • Celebration: Right now is a time where you can’t over-index on positivity. As with any good initiative, when setting out decide how you are going to celebrate accomplishments together. Is it a virtual dance party? Virtual volunteering? Donation to a charity of choice? Have the team vote what would be motivating to them.

It is heartening to see many companies taking the long term view on recruiting during this crisis and maintaining their recruiting teams. In past downturns, we have seen companies lay off the recruiting team only to need full recruiting capacity 4–6 months later. As any of us who has built a recruiting team can attest, the time to hire for recruiters averages 2–3 months and the time to full capability averages 2–3 months — which would imply initiating recruiting the day you do layoffs. But keeping a team engaged during a lull in hiring is no easy feat.

We’ve been inspired by the willingness for the community to stay connected and share ideas that are helping all teams rise together. We will continue to share ideas to support recruiting leaders here on LinkedIn and Medium, and we look forward to hearing yours as well.
Growth by Design Talent helps early & mid-stage high growth companies design talent strategies to help them scale quickly and thoughtfully.

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