Recession or not, employers need to get better at hiring, not firing

Recession or no recession, the Great Resignation apparently isn’t about to recede any time soon. As a result, HR executives should not relax, expecting an economic downturn will give employees a reason to stay put.

According to a survey from Greenhouse, a New York City-based hiring software provider, 57% of 1,500 employees surveyed nationwide will still be actively looking for a new job even if a recession hits. Even more eye-opening: More than two-thirds of employees would look for a new job in tough economic times if their compensation package is reduced.

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Also, the survey found more than 70% of respondents believe a recession will happen within six months or less, while the large majority of candidates (70%) interestingly have an optimistic outlook on the future labor market.

“Whether an economic recession is coming or not, candidates believe they will continue to have the strongest hand in the hiring process,” says Daniel Chait, CEO and co-founder of Greenhouse. “There are almost two jobs available for every job seeker in the United States today, and it’s possible we could enter a recession with close to full employment.

“Regardless of the economic climate, employers and HR still need to compete for talent. This could be the first recession ever that we see candidates win in,” he adds.

The survey highlighted what can help employers come out on top in this environment. For instance, almost 60% of employees would consider leaving a company if it reduced benefits such as the option to work from home, flexible schedules and wellness initiatives, among others. Company mission and values also remain integral for candidates, with 87% of respondents saying it’s important for an employer’s values to match their own. Over three-quarters of talent want to work for a company that stands up for the social causes they believe in, with 82% emphasizing a commitment to sustainability. And despite a number of companies banning discussion surrounding politics in the workplace, 44% of employees would be less likely to remain in a job if their employer’s political viewpoints did not align with theirs.

Additionally, how an organization handles fallout from a potential recession matters: More than 86% of employees said their loyalty would be affected if a company fails to be transparent regarding slowing company growth, hiring freezes and layoffs, while almost 55% of employees believe that CEOs and leaders should not receive their annual bonus if they’ve made layoffs in the same period. And, more than three-quarters of respondents say they are less likely to work for a company that has made mass layoffs in the past.

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Chait explains that there is no outrunning the past, as the internet “never forgets” and companies that rush to make major cuts now may suffer the consequences later.

“Leaders have many cards to play before layoffs,” he says. “It will benefit your business, and bottom line, to nurture your talent and get better at hiring than firing.”

Chait says that while the economic outlook might be changing, the pressures to attract and retain talent are not.

“Hiring is not something you can turn off and switch back on without consequence when growth ramps back up,” he says. “While reducing the workforce may be an appropriate strategy in some situations, employers will need to take a more considered and long-term approach to talent and operations.”

Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at