Blog – Recession-ready recruitment – Employers November 2019

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Blog – Recession-ready recruitment – Employers November 2019

Scrabble pieces spell out the word recession

There is a recession on the horizon

In the second part of our ‘recession-ready’ blog series, MD Anthony McCormack gives a series of tips to help employers’ internal recruitment and HR staff find their way through stormy seas.

As the UK eases out of the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty is rife.

A sizeable recession seems to be just around the corner based on all of the recent figures and forecasts from the Government.

As a veteran of two previous recessions in recruitment, I know that the rules of the game change dramatically. As an HR/recruitment representative within your company, no doubt you will be trying to balance long-term and short-term goals on a tight budget – and with many of your staff potentially out of service on the furlough scheme.

That is likely to go hand-in-hand with the difficult tasks of downsizing, redundancies and outplacement services.

So here are a few handy hints in the form of a pep talk to get you through the difficult times ahead – and hopefully, thrive in adversity.

Prioritise and focus during a recession

When time money and resources are scarce, it is impossible to do everything (well). So it is very important to prioritise ruthlessly and apply laser focus on the highest departmental and business priorities. Also re-evaluate and re-prioritise regularly. On a related note, make sure all vacancies are ‘signed off’ and create a process for this if one does not exist already!

Cut costs

In a down market, there may well be additional pressure on the company in respect to revenues, profits and cash flow. The HR/Recruitment function will likely have to do more with less. Show leadership by reviewing expenses and cut out unnecessary costs. This could be cancelling under-utilised recruitment tools or renegotiating prices and fees with job boards and agencies. Also, cutting temporary workers and reducing agency usage for retained/contingency search.

Add value

On a related note, it is wiser to concentrate on adding value or maximising value for recruitment money than blindly cutting costs. Focus spending and investment on suppliers, tools and technologies that are performing best. Look for product bundles and partners that are tailoring service and pricing to meet your current needs most closely.


Consider outsourcing some or all of your recruitment function to a third party. Especially so if you are required to reduce HR/Recruitment headcount or if resources need to be re-deployed to other HR/business areas. RPO, or what Macstaff terms ROI (Recruitment Outsourcing Initiative) can balance the need to ramp-up recruitment while controlling costs.


Conversely if you have the expertise plus the capacity and can buy-in resource at reasonable rates, bringing more recruitment in-house may make sense. This can make a difference to bottom line if you are using recruitment suppliers for contingency permanent recruitment.

Consider TW/FTCs

If the situation is dynamic and you want to hedge your bets on long term cost or commitments, you could consider utilising additional temporary workers. This can avoid initial overhead costs of recruitment fees and full-time employee FTE headcount. For this reason, in 2020, Macstaff will split introduction fees into two instalments when recruiting for FTCs. The first payment comes at the start. If the role is extended or made permanent, the second payment comes at six months.

Reputational risk

In times when recruitment and redundancies may be occurring in parallel, there is increased risk to a company’s reputation. Please ensure due care and attention is paid to any and all business communications. In times where stress is high and funds are low, complaints and cases tend to rise. Beware of no-win-no-fee lawyers!


In a time of massive change and particularly when companies react to a recessionary market, it is a great time to ensure that you come out better than when you went in!  If you take the opportunity to metamorphose then you can get a jump on the competition when it is go-time again! The metamorphosis can be in structure, people, process or culture. But the key thing is to remember is that it makes no sense to rebuild the same thing with the same problems next time around.

HR/Recruitment central role

In tough times for the business, it is an excellent time for HR/Recruitment departments to show leadership. People will expect this leadership anyway to be fair, so be ready. Recruitment should be a strategic function so be proactive in playing this role. Take your seat at the boardroom table or at least make sure your voice is heard to influence.


So, in conclusion, try and see the bigger picture during what can be very testing times. Make tough decisions that benefit your company or department but be aware of how your decisions could be perceived on the outside.

Good luck at finding a safe course through stormy seas.

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