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What do hiring freezes mean for Talent leaders and teams?

July 14, 2020

You’re an internal talent acquisition leader during a widespread global pandemic that has far reaching economic impacts. It’s likely that your business has felt the pressure to operate more conservatively, perhaps reducing headcount or putting hiring on hold completely. On one hand, you’re thinking to yourself, “Given the circumstances, I’m glad I still have a job.” On the other hand, it leaves you wondering, “What exactly is my job now?” Fair question.

While we’re used to seasonal fluctuations in recruiting, few of us have experienced this degree of hiring uncertainty. Talent leaders will now need to think about how they (and their teams) can continue to add value despite unprecedented global events and continued periods of downtime in hiring.

First, give yourself a break — you’ve been through a lot. Second, don’t worry! There is a LOT talent teams can, and should, do to use this time effectively and add value for your company.

Here are a few ways to still have organization-wide impact without filling seats.

Team Vision Planning

Raise your hand if 2020 is not going as you had envisioned? Same here (I’m currently raising both hands).

As your team’s focus has likely changed, now is the perfect time to re-establish your strategy for your team. Map your updated vision, set specific goals and align your renewed team purpose with your company mission.

Setting a team vision is critical to the success of any team’s performance. Its benefits range from ensuring one central, clear direction for your team to establishing clear ownership. And, given the absence of physical connectedness and overall uncertainty, outlining roles, responsibilities and objectives will help your team better communicate and drive toward results, even while operating remotely.

A helpful guide to running a vision setting session is Google’s re-Work framework. Start to develop your vision by answering the following questions as a team:

  • Core values describe the team’s deeply-held beliefs; these feed into your purpose and mission.
  • Purpose is the reason why the team exists, and how the team impacts the organization. If the team didn’t exist, what would happen?
  • Mission describes what the team is trying to achieve.
  • Strategy is how the team plans to realize the mission. Strategy can be long-term.
  • Goals break down the strategy into shorter-term, measurable and achievable objectives that align the team’s efforts.

Once you’ve defined your vision, you can take it a step further by facilitating this conversation with other internal teams, using your framework as an example. It will both guide them to create their own vision plan and also inform stakeholders of your priorities and how to engage your team moving forward.

Employer Branding

Direct applicants can be heavily influenced by employer brand efforts. In fact, 75% of active job seekers are likely to apply to a job if the company actively manages its employer brand.

Even when you’re not hiring, you’ll still want high-quality, diverse talent to find their way to you for future openings. Consider following these steps to get your employment brand strategy off to a strong start:

1. Set Your Goals

What does employer brand success at your company look like? Is your goal to increase total candidate applications, improve employee engagement or retention, or accelerate professional advancement? If so, by how many and when?

It’s not always easy to track ROI from employer branding efforts, so keep it simple and start by making small changes. For example, consider adding a question to your application page like, ‘’How did you hear about our company?” to get a sense of where candidates convert into your interview process most often and where to target branding efforts.

2. Define Your EVP (Employee Value Proposition)

As we know, a company brand is not solely defined by a marketing function, but rather a combination of how employees, customers, partners and shareholders think about that brand. No different from a product value proposition, to create an EVP, ask your employees why they love working for your company. Their answers will help you craft a strong mission, vision, values-centric EVP.

3. Activate Your Employees

Employee advocacy and word-of-mouth are a driving force in building employer brand momentum. Once you’ve defined your EVP, have your employees help promote your brand more proactively on social media. Meet with hiring managers with typically harder-to-fill roles and comb through their social connections, or help them brainstorm content topics that will appeal to the candidates you want to attract. For example, a Facebook Live session on “What makes your design process unique?” or “How to adapt your sales process during a pandemic.” This will give you plenty of relevant content pieces to publish over the coming months and reach candidates who may not otherwise engage with your brand.

Operational Excellence

Operational excellence, by definition, is the execution of a business strategy more consistently and reliably than the competition. In the context of this post, it means making your internal hiring processes work…better. Now that you and your team are less focused on filling roles, you can finally take that much needed step back to analyse the effectiveness of your existing hiring workflows.

First, define what good looks like for your team. You may already be using these core recruiting success metrics to define your team’s effectiveness, but if not, this will give you a framework to measure success.

Use this time to dig in to your recruiting data to see if candidate conversion has dropped throughout the interview process. Or perhaps strategise ways for attracting candidates from diverse sources, such as developing a more comprehensive referral program or setting a monthly passive sourced target for your team.

Now is the time to do a litmus test on your interviewing playbooks, educate the team on how their behaviours influence candidate experience and conversion and collectively create new workflows. This ensures that when hiring does pick back up, you’ve created a more seamless, repeatable, inclusive and predictive recruitment process.

Sharing New Skills

We’ve put some undo pressure on ourselves to up-skill during lockdown, but if you haven’t learned a new language or how to bake banana bread, don’t worry! You can pick up some new professional skill sets alongside your team.

Given the shift to remote operating, there are several platforms and free learning resources to leverage right now. Encourage your team to use things like LinkedIn Learning (if you’re digging into your recruitment metrics, try data visualization: storytelling ), edX or Coursera. Carve out time during your next team meeting to discuss these new learnings and creative ways to apply them at work.

You can also encourage your team to look to fellow peers in other functions to learn more about their roles and their skills. For example, by shadowing someone in your sales org, you’ll not only learn more about your sales process, but you’ll likely pick up things to look for in recruiting more sales talent and learn from their negotiation tactics to use next time you find yourself in a tough candidate negotiation process.


Touch base with your talent peers in other organizations. See how they’re being creative with regard to their hiring process and ways you can leverage these ideas. In a tough time, it can be a source of encouragement and inspiration to compare notes with your peers and colleagues.

If you find that your peers are hiring, see if they need referrals, especially if you’ve put candidates on hold or don’t have an immediate opening available for your applicants. Actively sharing these profiles (with the candidate’s permission, of course) with other recruiters or external recruitment agencies can help build goodwill for the future and also help you stay active and engaged with talent pools.

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Now is your time to redefine what talent acquisition can mean for your organization. Becoming a more data driven, future oriented leader in your company, will allow you to position your team for success and build a better workforce at scale.

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