How to Upgrade Talent in a Down Market

It was down. It was up. It was COVID. It was up again. It was down again. Employee Retention Experience Teamwork Improving Company Culture Leadership

The market has been dizzying for the past couple of years. The good news is that signs point to it stabilizing. The bad news is that the roller coaster isn’t quite over yet and the ride isn’t going to be comfortable for many. 

Candidate costs skyrocketed for over 18 months. As companies were trying to restart the engines post-pandemic, employees were reevaluating their careers and what they wanted in a workplace. This led many of them to seek out (or be lured away) by what they felt were better opportunities, leading to a bidding war for the best talent. With that came a strain on budgets, uncertainty around meeting customer needs, and deepening worries over employee retention.

Now things are shifting again and companies may get some relief. As hiring decreases and companies retract their workforces, the market value for skills sets and candidates is trending slightly downward as well. 

This presents business leaders with an opportunity to critically examine what is needed to meet production and growth goals. We’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right things for our business as well as the current employees and potential candidates. Part of that can often involve tough conversations around current market value and expectations. 

There’s incredible opportunity here. Companies will typically find that hiring frenzies haven’t brought in the best talent. Among those coveted A players will be some  B & C players that unfortunately made it through the process.

Taking a look at those lower tier performers, you may be surprised to find you can now replace them with A players at significant savings. We saw this in 2001 and again in 2008. The likelihood is that we’ll see it again soon. 

Do whatever you can to make sure you’re taking care of those A players, but it might be a good time to consider upgrading your B or C players to someone better equipped to propel the success of the company while saving a little bit of money. Increasing the number and level of A players also demonstrates the quality of work you’re expecting and prompting team members to step up more. That doesn’t mean you have to start firing people. With an intentional and thoughtful approach, you could upgrade your talent without disrupting your business. 

It may not work for everyone, but developing those B or C players that demonstrate potential can be highly valuable. Sometimes it takes difficult conversations and it always requires a thorough action plan. If they see you are willing to invest in them and that you believe they can succeed, they’ll be more likely to put the work in, increase the quality of their contribution, and stay with the company longer.

After attempting to address any gaps in skills and expectations, you may have to consider parting ways with low performers and seeking out those A players that are becoming more readily available in the market. It’s important to prevent your team members from feeling uneasy by ensuring that the process is fair and transparent. Efforts must be made to demonstrate that policies and opportunities are universal to protect against claims of discrimination or singling someone out for any reason.  

Recruiting Hiring Top Talent Good Candidates Recruiter Job Seeker How to LandHowever, you decide to handle that change, it would be valuable to seek experienced counsel from outside your organization. Each state has its own rules that dictate certain aspects of how employment can be handled. An expert in HR that is familiar with your local requirements will help you avoid potential legal issues. 

That sounds intimidating, especially after an extremely difficult year of scrambling to attract and retain top talent. The question of how the market will reset the value of candidates and employees as things get tighter and leaner is one we’ll all have to try to answer. 

Regardless of how you increase the quality of talent at your company, you will likely see marked improvement to overall morale, production and delivery capabilities, and employee retention. What better way could there be to get your 2023 off to a great start than by realigning and elevating your talent?