The Great Recession won’t last forever, and talent retention is an issue even as bad times persist. Top management must focus on keeping essential workers happy, be prepared to hire opportunistically, and to resume growth when the economy improves. That means reacting and adapting to a changes in the job market, and having flexible plans in place in order to retain and attract talent — even as the protracted downturn changes the rules of the game.
Present reality is grim: Over 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008, with about half of those losses coming in the fourth quarter. The pace of layoffs accelerated into 2009. The U.S. Department of Labor reported 598,000 jobs were shed in January, bringing the total unemployment rate to 7.6 percent, the highest since 1974. Worse, the Labor Department’s data does not include people who stopped looking for full-time work, so the actual number of unemployed is higher.
For companies caught in the pincers, there is pressures to cut costs while maintaining services and standards. The first painful challenge is figuring out who makes the list of office MVPs, and who goes onto the unemployment rolls.
Once the axe falls, management must ensure confidence remains high among those who survived the cut. Layoffs always have a bad impact on morale. It’s not uncommon for those who remain to immediately begin a job hunt, in the hopes they’ll find a position with what they perceive as a more stable company or industry.