Tunde Makinde
Talent Lead, Talentful

Layoffs And Downturns In 2022

Every week there seems to be a story of yet another high-profile tech company making layoffs. In fact, many layoffs across the U.S and Europe can now be monitored using a useful Tech layoff tracker.

But not all companies are going through a hiring freeze or looking to make cutbacks in terms of headcount., for example, which is a flexible payments platform, is looking to expand headcount a few months after securing an additional $1bn in investment

French-based, Nfinite, a virtual photography platform, has recently secured $100 million in Series B funding. And at the other end of the scale, Amsterdam-based circular sharing platform, the startup that enables neighbors to borrow and lend household items, has just raised €2.3 million. 

TechCrunch is full of stories about startups and scaleups raising additional investment across EMEA and the U.S. Indeed, despite “big tech” layoffs, many smaller employers are desperate for tech talent, according to Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association. And we know that demand for engineers and developers, in particular, is pretty robust regardless of the economic situation. 

So, perhaps you are the newly hired Head of People and you’ve been given the responsibility to ramp up hiring. Or, you are working for a scaleup company with a limited employer brand and you have been handed the hiring reins but have limited experience and/or limited budget.

The prospect of hiring can seem a little overwhelming.

What are the key components needed to grow quickly and efficiently? 

Consider Introducing A Self-Service Model

Do you currently have a team of recruiters who are each managing over thirty roles? Yes, we have all been there.

While it may appear to be something that each recruiter can manage, it’s an inefficient use of resources. Anything over 15-20 open and unique roles per recruiter starts to veer into diseconomies of scale when neither the hiring manager nor the individual candidate are probably getting the individual attention they deserve. 

So what can be done when there are a limited number of recruiters but many open roles?

Consider using a self-service model. Self-service hiring is a recruitment operations model where hiring managers share a significant proportion of the responsibilities in the hiring process. Whereas normally, the recruiter would do the screenings and coordinate the interviews, with a self-service model, the hiring manager would take over much of these responsibilities for specific roles. This usually works best for roles in constant demand and are pretty routine to hire, e.g. Customer Support Assistants. The recruiters’ role then changes to become one of an enabler and a sparring partner for the hiring manager — supporting, advising and educating hiring teams during the process.

Between 2017 and 2019, Blinkist, the German book-summarising subscription service, were able to hire 150 people with a Talent Acquisition (TA) team of just two people, all the while managing the employer brand and other TA projects without working overtime, as a result of employing this model.

Hire For Attitude Rather Than Skill

As the graph shows (Business Enterprise Mapping, 2022), if you have a chance to hire someone who is ready-made but has a poor attitude (number 3 – “Challenge”) or someone with potential but has great attitude (number 2 – “Team Player”), always go for the second option. Clearly, star performers (number 4) are what everyone is seeking. Welcome to the war for talent!

Always hire for mindset and potential. People who can grow as fast as your organization. Conversely, this can also sometimes mean over-hiring people with those who have more experience than the role currently needs if you know that the role and scope will expand in future.

Particularly during the growth phase, it’s important that new hires are not going to grow upset if the job they sometimes find themselves doing is partly different from the strict confines of the original job description. This is life at a scaleup business where you often find yourself doing things outside your area of expertise. This phase is about “all hands on deck” and getting the work done. It doesn’t matter who is doing the work as long as it’s being done. Keeping the Job Description quite loose and open could work to help mitigate this frustration from happening.

Related to this, it’s also essential to hire people who take action, can deal with ambiguity, and work at the speed as the company needs to gain market share quickly before competitors do. If you have a candidate who is a top performer but likes to work in a structured environment at a certain pace, then they are probably not going to be right for you at this time. There is no room for perfectionism.

Why Planning Is Crucial

We do a Talent Audit here at Talentful for each client, which helps identify what areas within the talent function need to be improved and plan accordingly for the future. Our Talent Audit is designed to assess the effectiveness of your existing talent function across six key areas, including how you attract and assess candidates. It will assess the efficiency of each of these areas and how capable a talent function is of hiring the right talent.

Altogether you will get a sense of how well your talent function is performing. If you haven’t got the time or resources to do one of these in-depth audits, at the very least – you need to have a plan or roadmap regarding the hiring for the next 6-12 months. How many new hires will be required, in which departments, locations, or will they all be remote roles? So many companies get into a frenzy and overhire and then find that they have to let people go eighteenth months later – a boom and bust approach. Workforce planning is crucial to determine how many people you need to hire, across what locations, at what level, etc.

Here are a few other planning areas to think about:

  • Clearly define the roles you are trying to fill within the hiring plan, e.g. is it a Content Manager you need or a Marketing Manager? Make sure there is no duplication of responsibilities between the roles.
  • Construct a candidate generation engine. How will you fill the pipeline with good candidates?
  • Build the Talent Acquisition team. How many internally full-time people do you need in the talent team? Is it better to outsource this to a 3rd party provider, one that can scale up or scale down quickly as the business needs to adjust?
  • Build a recruitment and selection process that works for your company.

Create A Good Candidate Experience

Despite recent cutbacks and layoffs, it remains challenging to find suitable candidates that are motivated and ready to join, so when these are available, they must be given the red carpet treatment to persuade them to join. This is not solely the responsibility of the Talent Acquisition team. Everyone has to represent the company in the right way from the person coordinating the interviews through to the hiring manager and all the other people conducting the interviews. 

Ironically, this is something that is a massive opportunity for scale-ups as one thing that they have that big corporations cannot reproduce is the high touch and personal approach. In other words, appearing to be there with the candidate all the way through the recruitment process. Simple things like giving candidates good constructive interview feedback within 24 hours of the interview. To help specifically with this, it’s worth making sure at least some of the company bonus is based on Hiring Managers’ good performance during the interview process. If the Hiring Managers do a really bad job delivering timely feedback or giving good interviews then some of their annual bonuses should be held back. Also, sending candidates some kind of survey or NPS score is a good way to measure candidate experience and, based on the responses, how it can be improved.

Use Data To Make More Informed Decisions

How well you are analyzing data is one of the six key areas Talentful looks at when doing a talent audit for each of our clients.  

Crucial to being able to utilize data effectively is having an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). If you don’t have one, we strongly recommend investing in one. Once you have one in place, you will then, for example, be able to calculate how much time it takes to hire one role. With this, you can then work out the resources you will need to scale and how big the TA team will need to be so that you are able to hire all the people into the business by the target time. You can pull other data from the ATS to ascertain how effective the recruitment efforts are. Most ATS’s will allow you to view key performance indicators like:

  • Hires vs Plan
  • Decline Reasons
  • Interview: Offer: Hire Ratio
  • Quality of Hire
  • Time to Fill
  • Time to Hire
  • Source of Hire

There are several things that can be done in the period of the “calm before the storm” to ensure that when the rapid scale-up starts to take place, you are set up for success. Nevertheless, no matter how well you prepare and plan, there will undoubtedly be a few surprises and curveballs along the way, so being agile is essential.