What We Can We Learn From Talent Management and the Recession?

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a provocateur and strategist in the field of human resources and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms, and he’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos twice a week here at TLNT.

Today’s topic: Lesson for HR from the recession

Time magazine referred to the last 10 years as “The decade from hell,” Dr. John notes, and he wonders if there are lessons that HR can learn from the economic turmoil that we have all experienced?

One big lesson, he says, is that an up-and-down economy and business environment calls for a strategy with a range of solutions because a single-minded approach will probably not be adequate.

He urges managers to make a list of all the potential problems and potential opportunities that might come up and to go through those, because it is always better to be prepared for what may happen than to be surprised by it.

Dr. John also says organizations should have “smoke detectors” that they watch for early signs of trouble. These are warning signs — such as seeing that a competitor has started to lay off workers, or begun to hire people back  — but they can help give early warning to perhaps what you and your organization should do.

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In addition, he makes a case for a stronger contingent workforce strategy, because organizations need to be able take their workforce up or down as needed when the economy is uncertain. In fact, he says that perhaps up to 50 percent of your workforce today should be made up of contingent workers.

He names some companies that have prospered during the recession — like Apple and Google — but he also points to Zappos as a model of best practices. “They’re kind of crazy, but they figured out a way to make selling shoes — the most boring job on the planet — and made it exciting.”

Did you miss the last segment of$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” on “How HR Can Transform a Business.” You can see it here.


John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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