Why Reducing Your Talent Acquisition Team in Hard Times is Counterproductive


It’s a long-held truth that reducing your marketing team's headcount is a sure sign of a recession. That’s because, historically, advertising is always the first casualty in an economic downturn.

Nowadays, in-house recruitment teams are suffering a similar fate. When the time comes to reduce staff, the people who fill vacancies are now the first to be cut. But that’s only with companies who purely view their Talent Acquisition (TA) teams as people who put bums on seats.

A good TA function does so much more than fill vacancies. And when there’s a slowdown or a freeze in recruitment, this is where you can really get to work on improving many areas within your organisation. That’s why removing, or even just reducing, your TA function in hard times is counterproductive.

Why reducing your Talent Acquisition team is a bad idea

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t be cutting back on TA in your organisation:

  • You need to maintain your talent pipeline: Taking your foot off the pedal with your pipeline evaporates the momentum you’ve developed and the goodwill your team has built with candidates. You’ll end up losing those close connections your team has created with candidates in hard-to-fill roles.
  • Your employer brand will suffer: If you’re making redundancies, it’s essential to do so with dignity and empathy. We’ve seen a few recent examples where this has been poorly done, which will cost those companies when the hiring returns. A strong TA function helps get your employees' voices heard, and a downturn in hiring activity is a perfect time to amplify this.
  • Now is the time to work on hiring efficiencies: We often hear, “we’re too busy to make improvements,” or “I don’t have the time to look at new technology.” A hiring slowdown is a perfect time for your TA team to look at hiring improvements — the results of which you’ll reap in the long run when hiring picks up again.
  • They give you a competitive advantage: Consider whether it’s worth the cost saving x amount of salaries when your employees could rather stay and work on improving business functions during the downtime. That way, you’ll be fully prepared when things pick up again.

The logic of surrendering your TA function so quickly is flawed

If you work in the services industry, your TA function is the manufacturing division of your business. They are building what your company sells. This principle holds true regardless of what service you’re selling.

Let’s compare it to a company physically manufacturing the products they sell.

During tough economic times, you wouldn’t cut production, gut the factory of all machinery and tell suppliers to find other customers. Instead, you’d reduce production, fine-tune the machines, look for efficiencies, innovate new products, source better materials and negotiate better terms with suppliers.

Think of your TA function in the same way.

Why cutting your TA function during hard times is counterproductive

Building a TA function from the ground up in good times is costly, time-consuming and disruptive if you get it wrong. It always takes longer than you’d hoped or planned to get the team firing on all cylinders. Nurturing relationships — internally and externally — takes a long time. It’s hard work building a talent pool that actually benefits your business.

Katrina Collier recently wrote an article asking: “TA is a cost centre, right?” In it, she challenges TA teams to question this and challenges them to find their true value.

We have (somewhat tongue in cheek) long held the view that a TA function is and can be a profit centre.

Hear us out:

The TA team could charge each department a nominal fee from their respective budgets for each hire. The company then rewards the TA function for contributing to retention (by hiring right in the first place). You can do this by calculating the cost of losing an employee and rewarding the TA function when they come in below a target for attrition.

By simply calculating the amount “earned” in the above example — minus the cost of running a TA department — you’ll undoubtedly have a positive number. Give that back to the CFO to add to their bottom line at the end of the year, and TA’s will soon be seen as a profit centre.

This, of course, is a very simplified explanation. But it translates the importance of TA in any organisation.

In the end, the TA function is much more than putting bums on seats. But, it’s down to the TA team to show their value and make their worth count. Proving their worth is the only way CFOs will start to view their function in a different light and stop the redundancy knife from hitting TA first.