Optimism…or pessimism? Volatility…or predictability? Growth…or downturn?  No matter where on this spectrum your organization falls when anticipating 2019, one strategy is a sure bet: prepare for what you expect AND for the unexpected.  

Given that labor costs are the single largest expense for most businesses, this is particularly true for talent acquisition. The Goldilocks-like challenge is to hire the right skills, at the right time, in the right amounts to take advantage of opportunities while, at the same time, mitigating risks associated with, for example, over-hiring and having to reduce the workforce shortly thereafter. Regardless of whether you’ll be ringing in the New Year by toasting with a “glass-is-half-empty” or “glass-is-half-full” mindset, here are several strategies to help you deal with either a pessimistic or optimistic scenario:


Tip #1 – Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate

Workforce planning is problematic. So many variables impact your talent needs beyond demand for your goods and services that forecasting is often little more than an educated guess. However, by making someone in your organization (most likely your HR leader) accountable for working in sync with line management on workforce/succession planning and tasking that individual with monitoring key metrics (like retention and retirement rates) while searching for potential pipelines of new talent as needed, you will be better prepared for all contingencies.

Tip #2 – Be flexible  

In ambiguous times, the ability to “scale” recruitment is highly desirable. Being ready to accelerate the hiring of quality employees on a just-in-time basis is a significant competitive advantage. That’s why many businesses are turning to outsourced recruitment solutions that provide scalability; especially ones that offer flexible arrangements integrated with the organization’s overall talent strategies. RPO solutions can also provide the necessary hiring structure to select and hire the talent you need – when you need it – and without adding headcount to your internal recruitment team.  Rather than hiring in-house resources or relying on contractors, the RPO team can essentially be turned on/off as needs ebb and flow.

Tip #3 – Identify/cultivate individuals NOW to fill future needs
Even if growth slows in 2019, the lowest unemployment rates recorded in decades reinforce that demand for many types of talent will still continue to exceed supply. This is a particularly acute problem for industries embarking on digital transformation who seek to hire employees with different – and scarce – technology skill sets. So, invest today in smart, strategic thinking (whether inside or outside of your organization, or a blend of both) to determine what skills you may need. Then, invest resources to identify your future employees and go after them where they are found to create pools of talent that you can dip into in the future. At the same time, pay really close attention to your employment brand. Don’t be left behind if your branding message is outdated, confusing, inaccurate, unauthentic or doesn’t appeal to the talent you are trying to recruit.   

Tip #4 – Evaluate – or reevaluate – how you search for executives

Traditional executive search firms are changing their business models to become more flexible and cost-effective, especially when conducting searches a level or two below the C-suite tier. Whatever executive-level hiring needs you may have in 2019, our advice is to shop around for the firm that best fits your needs. And, of course, we’re more than happy to talk to you about our approach!  

Tip #5 – Recognize that your in-house recruitment team shouldn’t – and can’t – “do it all”.  

Talent acquisition in today’s world is a complex and ever-changing activity, requiring recruiters to wear multiple hats as social media experts, researchers, “salespeople” for the company and so forth.  Expecting the recruitment team to “do it all” – and do “all” well – is unrealistic. And usually not in your best interest. Instead, determine what really matters, recruitment-wise, in your organization and focus in-house resources on those activities and “buy” specialization from outside experts.

Tip #6 –  Redefine recruitment for the next generation

More than one-in-three American workers (35%) today are Millennials, making them the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, according to Pew Research Center. Millennials, and up-and-coming younger generations, it almost goes without saying, have an entirely different approach to job search than their parents. By extension, using the latest tech tools to attract and hire talent is a “must”, not a nicety. You don’t need to be an expert on the actual toolset(s) but you do need to understand what’s at your disposal for targeting these demographic groups. The range of tools available is enormous, ever-changing and evolving and is turning the industry inside out. Ultimately, hiring cycles will be compressed and candidates will be screened, reference-checked, assessed, video-interviewed, made an offer and hired within hours, rather than weeks and months, without stepping a foot over a brick-and-mortar threshold. We’re just at the beginning of a whole new era in the field and those who win at the talent game will be the ones who anticipate and react to these changes.

Tip #7 – Be creative

In 2019, commit to open yourself to new ideas about talent acquisition. That may be as simple as “borrowing” ideas for recruitment from an industry outside of your own. Or experimenting with a new tech tool to see what may, or may not work, for your organization’s needs. Or reviewing job application procedures to be sure you’re not limiting the flow of qualified, but non-traditional, candidates into your pipeline. Or perhaps partnering with your colleagues in the marketing department for help in refreshing your employment brand. By looking at age-old recruitment challenges from different perspectives, you may uncover fresh new solutions.


“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.

It’s always tricky to predict the future with any degree of accuracy which is why some of us are approaching 2019 with confidence, while others are expressing more than a bit of apprehension. So why not prepare by planning for any contingencies related to your workforce now?  While the tips above are not intended to be comprehensive, they will help equip your talent acquisition team to become better at attracting, hiring and retaining great talent regardless of what the next twelve months hold.

Rick Gray

About the Author

Rick, the CEO of TalentRISE, is charged with executing TalentRISE's business plan and leading the development and implementation of its longer-term growth strategy.

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