Hiring in Recession: A Unique Opportunity to Seize

By Leah Scanlan, Talent Partner, Oak HC/FT

The causes and effects of recessions may vary, but certain facts hold constant: Recessions reshuffle economic infrastructure. They kneecap certain industries and create entirely new ones. They change consumer attitudes. And they transform the career landscape. For those willing to sift through the rubble of recessionary onslaughts, opportunities can always be found.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity of the 2007–08 recession was the birth of the shared economy. Through the current turmoil, one of the greatest revelations has been the opportunity that remote work presents — that it can be done, and that it can sustain productivity. Once stay-at-home orders are lifted, many companies will question the need to return to an office-based workforce.

Given the contours of this pandemic-prompted recession, four key hiring opportunities are presenting themselves that companies would be wise not to miss.

Opportunity 1: Now is the time to invest in key hires.

History shows us that many companies will be well poised to flourish through this recession. Take health services, for example, where employment has decreased in only one of the 12 recessions since 1945, and where job demand has consistently increased for 30+ years. The 2007–08 recession hit financial services directly, but the industry rebounded quickly..

With skyrocketing healthcare needs and an unprecedented shift towards virtual and digital transactions across sectors, discerning companies are positioned to attract key hires who can support strategic growth goals. Research has shown that companies that focus on operational efficiency fare better through and after recessions than those that just reduce the number of employees as a recession-coping mechanism. Operational efficiency can include key hires, making now an ideal time to audit your team and assess if you have all the people you need to survive and thrive.

Opportunity 2: The pandemic has unbound the talent pool from geography.

The cost of recruiting, hiring, and developing an employee on average can creep up to $240,000. If a new hire turns out to be a wrong fit, the costs only compound from there. Hiring the right person is that much more probable when you can scout talent in geographies beyond your own. While a hesitation to hire someone without first meeting them in person is reasonable, it’s not a reason to miss out on this singular moment. Shifting workforce trends is presenting an incredible opportunity to connect with and attract strong talent — and even “big fish” — once considered unthinkable due to the barrier of relocation.

Opportunity 3: People want mission-oriented and purposeful work.

Many have compared the pandemic to being at war — against an invisible enemy. Wars historically stir a desire to serve. This “war” is proving no different, with many people hungry for work that supports the greater good and helps people live healthier, more fruitful lives.

It’s easy to assume that people don’t want to leave secure jobs right now. But this underestimates the power of a compelling mission and meaningful offering — particularly those that belong to companies in industries less susceptible to recessionary effects. This fact places select companies — including those in healthcare and financial technology — in a uniquely advantageous hiring position.

Opportunity 4: Recessions expose weaknesses; talent gravitates to firms with solutions.

Every recession reveals cracks in industries that must be fixed and fortified or risk taking down major industry stakeholders and adjacent firms. Companies that evolve the economy and bring solutions and new efficiency to the marketplace, no matter their industry, are those that will emerge from this crisis with long-term advantages.

This particular financial event is a direct response to a healthcare crisis that has unique implications for health systems and hospitals, one of which is its impact on their economics. For example, the dramatic drop in elective surgeries has exposed a financial model vulnerability.

A notable opportunity exists for innovative companies driving efficiencies in the healthcare continuum and pushing towards a value-based model. Such companies — which include supportive FinTech firms — are favorably poised to help not only themselves but also the hospitals and other value chain constituents in desperate need of evolution. Similarly, companies in other industries delivering digital services are likely to succeed in the long run. During recessions, people gravitate to companies building the future. We at Oak HC/FT are fortunate to be part of building those companies.

Don’t let this opportunity go to waste

One Medical, Venmo, Castlight Health, Square, Zoom, Airbnb, and Uber all rose from the ashes of recessions. They joined juggernauts like General Electric, IBM, FedEx, Microsoft, and Disney, also born in downturns. This recession will be no different. Investing in people is essential to your potential to survive this recession and thrive long after it.

Action Steps

  1. Measure your team against your goals. Who, if anyone, are you currently missing to achieve key initiatives?
  2. Dream big. Remove geographic barriers and broaden your search to find the most ideal candidates possible. Whom in other cities did you once consider an impossible hire but now might be plausible thanks to remote work?
  3. Start opportunistic conversations. Are there hires you aren’t sure if you need but are sure you want? Now is the time to have conversations with such candidates. While you might not hire them now, forging strategic relationships could serve you well in the future.

Oak HC/FT is a premier venture growth equity fund investing in Healthcare Information & Services (“HC”) and FinTech (“FT”) http://www.oakhcft.com