I may be sending you my resume.

These were the opening words of my call from Julie earlier this week. In the nearly three years that she had been a recruiting specialist at my client, a fast-growing regional CPA firm, Julie’s contacts usually began with a request for resumes, preferably within a few hours. While she reported that neither her position nor her company was in trouble, she had been watching the same news play out as I had. She had heard about the diminishing prospects for the economy (and workforce). We both had memories of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, she as an HR intern and me at Abel Personnel, and those were scary days for human resources.

After suggesting Julie take three deep breaths, I proposed that we first compile a list of what experience has taught us to expect:

  • Whether this raging economy is about to fall into recession or hopefully succeed in having a “soft landing,” there will be a significant drop in filling new and existing openings, AKA a hiring freeze.
  • Reductions-in-force (layoffs) might occur once the strength of the decline in product and service demand is measured. These cuts may affect workers in operations where headcount correlates with output, those in well-paid middle management positions, and specialists in support areas. Those in generalist or multi-specialty positions would be safest.
  • High-talent workers will suddenly lose interest in jumping to a new position in fear of last-in-first-out layoffs at their new employer. The quality of the labor pool may initially decrease until well-qualified workers on furlough (with the prospect of rehiring) determine that is not a likely occurrence. Recruiting for any remaining openings may initially be harder.
  • A human resource recruiting specialist may be particularly vulnerable to hiring freezes or layoffs planned.
  • National and state governments will eventually respond by creating programs that require hiring increases. This may initially help staffing firms (like Abel Personnel) for companies that have let go of their in-house recruiting specialists (sorry, Julie).

Fortunately, no one is expecting the degree of cutbacks in human resources departments seen in 2008. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) roles, and safety roles are less apt to be eliminated. Hopefully, administrators will not be asked to take on HR responsibilities for which they are not trained or being paid.

These may be more scary times for that generation who grew up just after 9/11, tried to decide on a career path during the Great Financial Crisis, and missed a full college experience due to COVID-19. Julie agreed with me that for those of us who have seen multiple recessions over our careers, we can predict pretty much how it will play out. We know where there will be early opportunities and how the cycle will swing to full recovery and greater expansion (since WWII, full recovery averaged just less than 1 year from when the recession started).

I told Julie that Abel Personnel would be honored to be entrusted with her resume. Then I asked her, “How about that SHRM-CP (Society of Human Resource Management-Certified Professional) credential you once discussed pursuing when we met for an introductory lunch just before the pandemic?”

Julie again agreed that a good proactive strategy would be to bolster her qualifications as an HR generalist, starting with completing that certification. She should volunteer to take on other HR tasks. Maybe sign up for some seminars in other aspects of HR, no matter how much she preferred the pace of recruiting.

As we prepared to end our phone call, Julie noted. “That is probably good advice for me to pass along to my friends, to increase their value at their companies by being able to cover more roles, to make their positions more recession-resistant.”

“Otherwise, suggest they also send their resumes to Abel Personnel,” I could not stop myself from adding. Julie chuckled at this. We both hope her efforts now would preclude that necessity for her, no matter how much I would love to assist her in finding her next position.

Sourced from Reddit, “How Would HR be Affected by an Economic Recession?”, June 8, 2022.

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