Your hiring guide during economic downturn

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4 mins, 30 secs read time

Hiring thousands of employees, retaining workers in economic downturn, laying off masses – they’re all parts of the ebbs and flows of recruiting. Unfortunately, so is eradicating inclusivity, diversity, equity and allyship (IDEA) roles when times get tough. This cost-cutting measure can bring progress to a halt – but it doesn’t have to.

During our "Stay people-first in turbulent times" webinar with IDEA leaders from SoundExchange, Starred and Uber, we discussed how you can remain people-first in changing times. We also explored how to prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B). We’re bringing you the insights so you can have an essential guide to recruitment during economic downturn.

“People-first companies prioritize their people and foster a culture of inclusion in hiring.” - Jamie Adasi, Head of IDEA, Greenhouse


What does being people-first mean?

DEI&B has traditionally been a nice-to-have for companies that can afford to build a team. But, in a highly competitive market, companies advancing DEI&B/IDEA have the edge, even during times of economic downturn. Those embracing IDEA as a core value and strategic priority are more innovative, see increased profits and retain employees longer.

Another reason to prioritize being people-first is that your customers, investors, employees and candidates are examining how you handle DEI&B issues.

Lars van Wieren, founder and CEO of Starred, shared three tenets of being people-first:

  1. Respect individual identities. Acknowledge and respect unique identities and experiences.
  2. Create flexible policies. Tailor processes to accommodate diverse needs.
  3. Be transparent and accountable. Be open about your IDEA goals, progress and challenges.

One main takeaway in this guide to recruitment is the importance of being consistent. Kenysha Bartee, SVP of People and Culture at SoundExchange, explained the need to be in tune with leaders about applying IDEA the same way, to everyone.

Recognize that people-first might not be all the same people all at the same time – you may have to focus on different groups to ensure you're impacting them in a way that best benefits the business.

Paul Saiedi, Director of DEI at Uber, explains people-first from two different perspectives:

  1. Employees. We often work with people from a tactical view of how they can help with a project. We should see people for what they do and for who they are.
  2. Organizations. Companies already put people first, but we should ask which people we put forward. Are we prioritizing a specific function or region?


How to rebuild after losing crucial IDEA roles

Thanks to mass layoffs during economic downturn, many companies have nixed IDEA leadership roles, forcing people leaders to rethink how to rebuild DEI&B programs. But Paul reminded us that this is normal, which is why you need experienced people in DEI&B.

Another necessity we’ll stress in this hiring guide to recruitment is grounding your programs in data from the get-go. It validates the problem and tracks progress throughout. As you rebuild, remember that different companies require different things.

Lars explained that, while these roles are crucial, you can keep IDEA on the agenda by forming a group of enthusiasts and adding IDEA goals to your company objectives and key results (OKRs). Look at the progress, identify gaps and communicate your commitment to DEI&B.

Get leadership to believe in what a diverse workforce brings. Be proactive and provide resources, whether it's budget dollars or providing training that helps your team continue IDEA work.


How leaders can focus on IDEA during slow hiring periods

Even when hiring slows, you can make IDEA a top priority with this guide to recruitment. Kenysha, Lars and Paul offered a few suggestions:

  1. Focus on employee retention. Do a values campaign and ensure leadership actually knows what your values are. Amplify what you've built and make sure employees feel it.
  2. Triple down on inclusion. Lean into cultural competency, especially if you have a global, decentralized workforce where cultural miscommunications can happen.
  3. Present the business case. Remind leadership of the business benefits, like innovation and profitability.
  4. Measure and report progress. Continue tracking and reporting IDEA metrics to see where you can improve.


Measuring your commitment to IDEA

The best way to measure anything? Look at the data. Lars suggests reviewing hard and soft data:

  • Hard data. Do I have a diverse talent pool? Am I hitting my diversity hiring numbers?
  • Soft data. Is my hiring process inclusive? Look at demographic data and examine how the candidate experience differs among demographics.

After you review the data, act on anything that could be hindering your IDEA efforts. Talk with leadership and see how the C-suite responds. The what-if effect is one way to remedy potential issues:

  • What if what people are telling us is true? How much are we considering the impact of what they're saying, and do we believe them? Examine whether you try to contextualize why someone feels this way or if you take them seriously. Believe what they say.


Moving forward as a people-first organization

IDEA is more than a job function. It's something you can – and should – build into the core of your business with the help of this guide to recruitment. By making it a strategic priority and communicating the many business benefits, you can keep it top-of-mind across your organization.

Want to build or maintain a people-first company? Catch the replay for tips on prioritizing IDEA and being people-first, even during economic downturn.

Catch the replay
Sheena Fronk

Sheena Fronk

is a writing-obsessed entrepreneur who founded her all things writing passion project turned small business, wanderluster co. She works with SaaS and tech companies, transforming jargon into conversations using human-centered copy. When not working, Sheena eats doughnuts, plays with her pup and travels the world.

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