The Staffing Pains of Recovery

Loretta Prencipe

So long, boss.
I remember the last recession too well.  It hit hard after Sept. 11. I was covering CTOs for InfoWorld magazine. The ad market tanked. Fewer ads meant fewer print pages. To complicate that, there was a growing black hole in publishing -- brought on by the race to get eyeballs online.
My colleagues (CTO Edge blogger Wayne Rash among them) and I hunkered down and worried about our jobs.  We (a dwindling we) sat through round after round of layoffs that were executed upon just after each quarterly board meeting.  It was painful and exhausting. Some of us were just plain ticked off. Few were optimistic.
We all made plans for the post-recession recovery.
We looked for any signal of an upturn, hoping to uncover new opportunities and the ability to shed the thick skin developed from working through layoffs and budget cuts.
That was 2001-2003. 
It's the same story today.  While signals of an economic recovery are mixed, there are, in fact, some signs. And that's all tired staffers are looking for ... positive indicators of any uptick in hiring for Q1 2010.
They're waiting, surfing job boards, LinkedIn forums and following tweeting recruiters.
What's this mean for CTOs? There's upside and downside.
According to a recent news release from Robert Half Technology, 43 percent of 1,400 CIOs recently interviewed by the company said retaining existing workers will be their number-one staffing priority in 2010.
Not surprising.
The release includes tips - some tired - for keeping your top talent.

  1. Re-recruit your best workers.
  2. Invest in professional development.
  3. Provide opportunities for career advancement.
  4. Recognize excellence.
  5. Communicate regularly with staff.
  6. Provide project support.
  7. Encourage more team-building activities.
  8. Consider compensation. 
  9. Promote work/life balance.
  10. Evaluate workloads.

There's nothing new here. Ultimately, if you've not handled #5 well, you need to (re)start there. That takes a lot of guts.  
The upside of job cuts: available talent. Good employees get cut during layoffs -- especially after the first round of layoffs. (Hint: If a candidate was laid off, be sure to ask how many rounds of layoffs he/she survived before getting unplanned downtime.)

Good employees also get fed up and quit, even in midst of a recession. They'll take their chances with freelancing and consulting. And that can be an opportunity to test drive a potential employee.

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