It is common knowledge that the role of a talent-acquisition (TA) leader is to craft a talent-acquisition strategy for the company. That means, creating a talent source pipeline and getting the best talent from the market. However, with layoffs now rampant across the globe and even in India, it would be interesting to observe the role played by a TA leader amidst downsizing.
During mass layoffs in a company, it is generally assumed that there will be a slowdown in hiring. So, what happens to the role of a TA leader? Does it change? What are the challenges that emerge?
Post interaction with some HR leaders, HRKatha was able to identify certain points and challenges that TA leaders commonly face amidst mass layoffs in their companies.
“The TA heads have a wide range of industry contacts and network. They know the talent landscape very well and are aware which companies can hire the outgoing talent. Therefore, the TA heads can help the laid off people get other jobs”
Lalit Kar, SVP-HR, Reliance Digital
It is incorrect to assume that hiring stops during layoffs. Lalit Kar, SVP-HR, Reliance Digital, explains that certain hiring, especially for specialist or niche roles will continue to happen in companies even alongside mass layoffs. In fact, in the case of big conglomerates, it is a possibility that one business may be laying off people even while other businesses may be hiring at the same time. Therefore TA leaders working at the group level will continue to be responsible for hiring people.
The challenge for TA leaders, as per Kamlesh Dangi, group HR head, Incred Financial Services, is to attract quality or good talent for niche roles. “News of layoffs or similar happenings tend to spread like wildfire, and people become reluctant to join such companies where jobs are being cut,” says Dangi.
Dangi further explains that mass layoffs are not easy to erase from the minds of the people. Companies looking to bounce back after a tough phase and start rehiring, find it difficult to attract talent.
“Layoffs or other such events are perceived as a ‘breach of trust’. The ones who suffer or are at the receiving end harbour ill feelings and are quick to talk about it. So, word spreads fast in the job market as well,” Dangi adds, which makes it difficult to attract good talent in the future as well.
As per HR leaders, it is far from easy for TA leaders to hire good talent from the market. “Unless someone is really desperate, people generally do not join companies that are witnessing job cuts or have been known to lay off people,” says Kar.
“TA heads need to scan the internal talent market and advise the company on what skills and competencies should be retained for the future during layoffs”
Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR leader
Though difficult, somehow TA leaders need to win the trust of the candidates through a communication strategy that will convey to them how the company plans to bounce back and how things will turn around in the future.
“TA leaders will have to sell a story about how the company will revamp itself in the future,” advises Kar.
Retaining talent instead of attracting them
The main objective of TA leaders is to attract good talent or create a roadmap for the organisation to do the same. However, during layoffs, TA heads experience a role reversal. That means, in such crises their role turns into more that of a talent- retention leader, formulating plans to retain the best talent during this time.
“Even during layoffs, it is natural for any company to wish to retain some of its top talent. Given the tense situation, there is likelihood of some of the best performers also leave during such times. Therefore, it becomes important for the TA heads to retain that talent,” says Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR leader.
More than retaining the talent, the TA heads need to scan the internal talent and advise the company on what skills and competencies should be retained for the future.
Going beyond just retaining talent, the TA leaders also have the responsibility to place the outgoing talent during layoffs. “The TA heads have a wide range of industry contacts and network. They know the talent landscape very well and are aware which companies can hire the outgoing talent. Therefore, the TA heads can help the laid off people get other jobs,” mentions Kar.
“Attracting quality or good talent for niche roles becomes a challenge for TA heads during layoffs”
Kamlesh Dangi, group HR head, Incred Financial Services
Formulating future talent plans
During layoffs, the focus is less on hiring talent, and therefore, TA heads can utilise that time to create a future plan for attracting talent. The TA heads can spend time on talent scanning and profiling. They can find out which companies or industries they lost talent to, and accordingly, make a talent-acquisition strategy for the future.
Analysing the talent market
Most of the time, there is a particular industry that experiences mass layoffs. Therefore, the TA leaders from the other industries, who are not experiencing such a crisis, also see an opportunity here. Loss for one can be a gain for the other. During mass layoffs, companies do not cut jobs basis performance. That means, there is a lot of quality talent available in the market.
Therefore, the talent leaders will need to keep a watch on such industries to attract suitable talent from there. “There is a lot of industry-agnostic talent in management roles, which can be absorbed by other companies. Therefore, the talent acquisition leaders need to keep a watch on such laid off talent,” asserts Priyadarshi.
Managing exit process of own team
Yet another challenge for the TA leaders is when they are required to let go of some of their own team members during mass layoffs. Since there is not much hiring taking place in the company, the need for a talent-acquisition specialist reduces in the company. Therefore, they end up managing the morale and exit process of their own team members, which can get rather challenging for them.
During layoffs, the roles and responsibilities do undergo change. Therefore, the TA heads need to be flexible and be able to rise to the occasion and adapt effectively so that they can fulfil their responsibilities.