· Features

HR must prepare the talent pool for the upturn

Redundancy, re-engineering, re-structuring - whatever the latest buzz word - HR departments are all too familiar with the cold, hard facts of making organisational change and its aftermath.

But how can we avoid repeating the mistakes of our predecessors? After the last recession HR teams were left desperately trying to fill roles in a market bereft of candidates, costing them valuable time and money. Unable to recruit the right talent, businesses became stuck in a post-recession limbo. The longer it takes for businesses to get back on their feet, the longer it takes for the economy to recover.
But why should we invest in developing the skills of those leaving our organisations? HR professionals are responsible for protecting the talent pool - whether that's people inside our organisations or people exiting them. To keep the talent pool alive, we need to ensure people exit our organisations well-prepared and confident about finding new jobs, ensuring they are the best candidates they can be. Even in today's tight labour market, the number of jobs may be limited and the competition fierce, but it's rare that there are no jobs at all.  So we need to help people leaving our organisations to be good candidates for their next employer - today and tomorrow.
Thankfully, the world has moved on since the last recession and the proliferation of the internet means we have the power to stop history repeating itself. The internet means outplacement services that were once the right of the privileged few, can now be the right of the many. Services such as Workthing+ allow HR departments to stretch budgets that would traditionally have provided outplacement services for only four senior executives to cover 400 people, all with the added benefit of employees being in control of their experience and able to access the service on their terms and in their own time. Consequently, these individuals feel empowered; they have access to professional tools and advice for their next career move including psychometric profiling, interview tips and a CV builder. Imagine a world where every candidate enters the market equipped with professional advice. The talent pool will be of significantly better quality and, once the market picks up and businesses are focused on hiring rather than re-organisation, candidates who are fully prepared and have been kept engaged in the labour market will help boost employment levels as quickly as possible.
What effect does this have on employees remaining in our organisations? Every HR professional knows never to underestimate the effect that treating its exiting employees with respect and as much support as possible has on staff remaining in the organisation. Granted this is important now to sustain morale when times are tough, but it's even more important when the job market becomes more buoyant and disgruntled staff look for the first opportunity to leave.
Ultimately, finding and keeping the right talent when the time comes will be a key factor in how quickly our businesses get back on their feet and our economy recovers from the recession. Of course, protecting the talent pool is only one of many contributory factors towards recovery, but it's one in which HR professionals play a central role. Investing wisely today can save a great deal of pain tomorrow.

Paul Halliwell is managing director of Workthing+