HR 4 November 2016

Brexit has put a chill on startup recruitment – Here’s how to get around it

hiring
Contract and interim roles are a new career format posing opportunities for HR

Writing for Business Advice, founder and CEO at talent acquisition firm interim.team, Rorie Devine, asks how startup recruitment can continue in the wake of Brexit uncertainty.

Since the vote to Brexit the EU we’ve seen a steady stream of unsettling news on the business front, and uncertainty around the post-Article 50 economic outlook has frozen startup recruitment plans for many founders.

The City of London has recently cut job postings by 27 per cent and now big banks are rumoured to be making plans to move or cut staff.

An Institute of Directors (IoD) survey from June 2016 found that a quarter of UK companies were already stopping recruitment as a direct result of the vote.

That doesn’t mean small business can get by for long without strengthening teams and skill sets. But the short-term requirement to protect margins can’t be ignored.

Caught between conflicting requirements, startup recruitment managers need a new way to hire that allows them to resource projects and achieve business objectives, without necessarily increasing headcount.

Hiring freezes are a form of corporate self-harm

Many executives believe that putting a hold on hiring will help contain costs. In the short term that’s true, but longer term those costs can boomerang, or create unintended consequences with costs if their own.

A hiring freeze can actually hurt companies by:

  • Overworking current staff, leading to turnover
  • Damaging the employer brand and making it harder to recruit when the economic picture brightens
  • Stopping change initiatives
  • Leaving vacancies in revenue producing roles, leading to missed revenue targets
  • Missing out on talent opportunities
  • Diminishing innovation

To avoid falling victim to corporate self-harm, startup founders should get in front of any coming freeze and start making the business case for a re-think of how talent acquisition is conducted.

A new post-Brexit startup recruitment strategy is required for seeing projects, targets, and ongoing initiatives through to completion during the expected downturn.

Embracing ongoing churn

Having just begun to come back from one recession and a new one staring us in the face, the established carousel of hiring freeze, followed by redundancies, followed by staffing-up again when things improve, should be broken.

We all work in a global economy now where corporates need to be nimble, able to change quickly, and make hiring plans in an environment where “gig” and highly-skilled contract working is on the rise.

The new model is for companies of all sizes to identify many key hires as necessarily temporary, with clear objectives around change or innovation, to be delivered on an established timeline.

Smart managers must learn to continually add workers in areas of growth and innovation, then release or re-deploying them when their objectives and deliverables are complete.

In the post-referendum fog facing UK businesses over the next six to ten months, it’s a strategy that can satisfy the demand for cost control while allowing the business to continue improving, evolving and innovating.

Rise of the special ops employee

While short-term employees have always been an option to help companies get through a crisis, a new breed of worker has developed over the last seven to eight years who embraces the challenges and benefits of contract work over the relative “safety” of permanent positions.

Contract and interim roles are a new career format for many highly skilled and senior people. That’s an opportunity for HR.

Many find contract roles more challenging and interesting than permanent jobs, or feel that they bring better work-life balance and flexibility. Some top performers find they can earn better money than they would in a permanent position.

It takes a special person to embrace a role that often comes with an evolving brief, leading an initiative that might be on the brink of failure.

Technology, changing attitudes to work, and a volatile global economy are bringing more and more of these exceptional people to the fore. In our current Brexit uncertainty, they could be an essential part of your plans.

Rorie Devine is founder and CEO of interim.team

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