Finance executives also need to be sure that the candidates they interview truly want to work for their organizations. As the financial-services sector shed jobs at a furious pace last year, the market filled with people who are used to — and may prefer — a certain kind of corporate culture. Having been burned by Wall Street, many former investment bankers may think that a more secure, if more sedate, corporate job is for them, or they may be seeking any port in a storm. Regardless of how qualified the candidates may seem, CFOs need to assess how well such nontraditional applicants will fit into a corporate-finance organization.
For management teams that do decide to hire in the current market, it’s more important than ever to address the proper “onboarding” of employees. Even the most talented employees may flounder in their first days or weeks on the job if they aren’t appropriately familiarized with their role, and few firms can afford any lag in productivity, particularly in the critical positions most likely to be filled in a recession.
Onboarding once referred simply to supplying the necessary personal infrastructure to a new hire — office, phone, E-mail, mobile access, and so on. But now experts frame it more broadly as equipping new employees for success by, for example, helping them to establish a network of peers and key contacts right away. “Often the relationships that matter most,” Hallowell says, “are those that cross departments or even extend outside the company. So introducing a new person to the people who ultimately matter most to their day-to-day jobs is a critical aspect of helping them succeed” — as is, he adds, clearly delineating what they’re expected to deliver. “Don’t take the attitude, ‘You’re smart, you’ll figure it out,’” he says. “They may not.”
Guarding Your Flank
There is a flip side to this buyer’s market for talent: some of the best employees may decide it’s time to make a move. That may sound counterintuitive — with so many people polishing their résumés by necessity, why would a valued and presumably secure worker try her luck elsewhere? “In a recession, top talent moves,” says Derrick Barton, CEO of the Center for Talent Retention in Denver. “They know they’re the best, and they’ll seek new opportunities if they don’t feel they’re being treated appropriately.”
With their noses to the grindstone, Barton says, the best employees may feel overworked and underappreciated. To prevent that, leaders should make sure that key staffers understand their role in the organization’s success.
Much of that involves listening closely to them and soliciting their ideas (see “How to Talk about Layoffs“). As one specific example of how to engage your most valued employees, Barton suggests asking them to cite two areas of their performance for which they would like more feedback. “People hate being judged, but they love feedback,” he says. “By asking them exactly what they’d like feedback on, you send the message that you want to help them develop in the ways that most interest them.”