Hiring Volatility – 5 Best Ways to Survive & Win

There is a famous quote that states, “The only thing you can control in life is your reaction.” For talent acquisition leaders constantly facing the challenge of hiring volatility, these words ring very true.

Hiring volatility is the new norm for many companies today due to a wide range of contributing factors—both internal and external. This includes internal business changes such as acquisitions, new clients/products/services/locations, and/or workforce shifts. Hiring seasonality in certain industries is also common and, while the timing itself may be expected, the actual amount of variance in headcount loss/gain is often unknown. Unexpected attrition is, of course, going to happen and can quickly spike hiring needs—sometimes out of the blue. And finally, external factors are also at play with cyclical economic conditions and industry forces impacting supply and demand within the hiring marketplace.

Unfortunately, there just isn’t a lot you can do to actually prevent volatility. Your best bet is to work on how you react to it.

While overseeing a team of over 50 people to support a Fortune 10 Health Care client for Sevenstep, I’ve seen firsthand how clients and Recruitment Process Outsourcing providers can work together to successfully overcome volatile hiring and make sure that surges and slowdowns don’t hurt talent acquisition performance, its programs or the employer branding.

It’s an intricate dance between talent acquisition and RPO leadership that requires both sides to anticipate the moves of the other and move together as one during the rapid changes in need. There are five key pieces to successfully manage a volatile hiring period:

  1. Be a Union: High-volume hiring, especially talent acquisition programs subject to volatility, requires a well-functioning team. This will often involve both internal talent acquisition team members and RPO resources. It’s critically important they think and act like one. This helps provide a united front to hiring managers and more symmetry externally to create a more unified candidate experience. An example of this could be “pre”-meeting meetings where key members of both RPO and internal talent acquisition leadership meet prior to key status meetings to ensure all data, analysis, and direction given to department heads is aligned and agreed to by both sides. Another good idea is to blend internal and RPO talent acquisition resources at hiring events. The combined efforts and talents of both sides produce that powerful impression of one team working together.
  2. Be Honest: Hiring volatility is often associated with (unpleasant) surprises and stress. The pressure that comes from managing through urgent change is tough enough without adding to the problem. When internal talent acquisition and RPO teams are not honest and fully accountable with each other, they are hurting the other side and making the work more difficult. A true client/RPO partnership should involve complete transparency and candidness. That means sharing concerns—both the proven and the unproven. It also means saying “no” when a request is not realistic and working together to find a more feasible solution. Time and efforts are wasted when people are not proactive and upfront.
  3. Be Aligned: Expectations need to be fully expressed and understood at all times. An RPO provider can never operate off assumptions and must explicitly walk through the priorities in an urgent time of scalability when hiring volumes are picking up significantly. Not only should the priorities themselves be clarified, but a good RPO provider will also ask “why?”
  4. Be Aware: Nothing beats down a talent acquisition team (internal or RPO resources) more than getting hit out of the blue with a large volume of requisitions when they have already been pushing hard. Great talent acquisition leaders stay heavily plugged into morale and turn on their various “channels” (with lower, mid and upper-level staff) of their “TV” to understand how everyone is handling the workload. This awareness not only cements a true feeling of care and engagement with the staff, it almost always produces excellent operational insights on how to improve delivery.
  5. Be Appreciative: And not just for the obvious wins (hires), but for the contributing and ongoing effort as well. When talent acquisition teams are pushed to capacity, the light at the end of the tunnel is not always at arm’s length. Recognition goes a very long way. This can be done publicly or with a very meaningful 1:1 message. It could be a simple shout out or a kind gesture of cupcakes. It really doesn’t matter because it’s not about the “cupcakes.” It’s about the recognition.  Authentic and consistent recognition should also go beyond the recruiters. Large, complex talent acquisition programs should look for opportunities to reward any/everyone who is shining in their efforts. This could be someone in leadership or the support staff and can/should also include hiring managers when their contributions are notable.

Hiring volatility is here to stay. Smart talent acquisition leaders have the structure, culture, and communication strategy to create the motivated army they need to cut through the challenges and pressure of the hiring volumes with great employer branding.

Read more about how Sevenstep helped this Fortune 10 health care company manage the complexities of its talent acquisition program.