During times of economic uncertainty, an organization might consider implementing a hiring freeze to protect company finances and keep the business operational. Sometimes a hiring freeze is put in place in conjunction with layoffs and other times it’s used to prevent layoffs.
So, what exactly does a hiring freeze entail? Typically, a hiring freeze means a company has decided to halt hiring for all new full-time employees. Oftentimes when a hiring freeze is in effect it also means that if an employee were to leave a position, that position would go unfilled.
Without question, hiring freezes can create quite a headache for managers of marketing and creative teams who still have the same amount of (or possibly more!) mission-critical projects to launch, keep on track, and finalize.
Moreover, a hiring freeze can understandably create a deep sense of unease among current employees, which can impact morale, focus, productivity, and work quality. The added burden on existing team members who suddenly find themselves stretched thin as they take on additional responsibilities and work longer hours can take a toll. Burnout can spread, which leads to employee retention issues. This, of course, only exacerbates the workload problems for managers.
So, what to do?
Following are options employers might pursue to help move business forward while protecting their core teams from burnout.
BE OPEN AND HONEST
As noted, news of a hiring freeze can rattle the nerves of employees concerned about what this might mean for their own job security, to-do lists, and stress levels.
If at all possible, announce the news during an in-person or virtual team meeting. This could be followed up with a detailed email, but face-to-face communication and allowing time for employees to ask questions can help prevent any key messaging from getting lost in translation.
Be transparent about what the hiring freeze means for existing team members and how it might impact workflow and/or operations in the short-term. If a hiring freeze is being put into effect to prevent layoffs, that’s important information to share as it could alleviate some concerns. If there are any financial insights that paint a bigger picture about how long a hiring freeze might last, those projections might also be helpful to convey. However, it’s wise to steer clear from making any promises, as economic uncertainty comes with no guarantees.
Employers should tap into their empathetic leadership skills when delivering the news. Fear and insecurity are natural reactions to learning of a hiring freeze. Do your best to actively listen to concerns so that your employees feel valued, seen, and heard.
BE THOUGHTFUL ABOUT WORKLOADS
Chances are a hiring freeze will necessitate a redistribution of responsibilities. This can be tricky and will require employers to look at priorities and consider what is realistic for their existing teams to take on without creating work quality concerns or an undue burden on employees who may already feel overloaded.
First, employers should evaluate what, if any, projects can be put off and completed at a later date. During a hiring freeze, employers should focus tightly on keeping the most pressing and pivotal priorities moving forward.
Next, managers should consider their existing employees’ workloads and expertise when considering who to task with what. Perhaps an internal communications copywriter can take over social media copy or a graphic designer with video editing experience can help with video production. If there are already-overworked employees nearing the brink of what they can tackle, it might be wise to look to other team members with less on their plates.
Employers should continue to communicate with employees as workflows and responsibilities are adjusted. The communication loop should be ongoing and two-sided so that employees feel comfortable asking questions, raising concerns, and even voicing interest in taking on additional tasks that the manager may not have considered otherwise.
CONSIDER HIRES OUTSIDE OF FULL-TIMERS
While hiring freezes typically put a (temporary) stop to the hiring of any new full-time employees, there may be budget available to bring aboard skilled freelancers and consultants. Or, in many cases, there is money in the operations budget allocated for agency or studio work that can be used for critical quick-turn production projects.
Freelancers: Given the continued rise in the number of skilled professionals pursuing freelance work, you can rest assured there’s a freelancer available to help with almost any creative, marketing, and digital need – no matter how niche. Employers can bring freelancers in on a short-term basis to complete a core project or they can be brought aboard for longer stints to fill a specialized need on a team.
Consultants: From corporate communications and branding to UX and SEO, many consultants are experts in a certain segment of the marketing and creative world. Others are generalists who possess a depth of knowledge of all things marketing. An employer would typically bring a consultant in to provide detailed guidance and advice on a particular area of expertise. For example, a digital marketing consultant could be helpful if an organization needed to conduct highly detailed competitor web traffic research and craft a new strategic marketing plan. Depending on the scope of work, consultants might be leveraged on an as-needed project basis or on a longer-term retainer basis.
Studio solutions: Turning to a marketing and creative studio to outsource production work is another excellent option for employers. This is a great approach for employers who need help with creative execution so that their core teams can focus on other big-picture priorities.
WORKING WITH A STAFFING FIRM DURING A HIRING FREEZE
A hiring freeze does not freeze an employer’s relationship with a staffing agency. The good news is that the specialized recruiters at 24 Seven are experts in finding creative workforce solutions no matter the job market or a company’s current full-time hiring limitations.
Our recruiters work with a deep bench of highly skilled freelancers in the creative, marketing, digital, fashion, beauty, and retail sectors throughout the country. Our team works alongside organizations in every step of their search for freelancers, from sourcing talent to onboarding.
Employers looking to find a marketing or creative consultant to help elevate their business can also turn to 24 Seven and our family of companies.
While no employer wants to find themselves at the mercy of a hiring freeze, building relationships with freelancers, consultants, and studios can have long-term benefits as all of these alternatives to full-time hires can be used, both within and outside of a hiring freeze.
ABOUT THE 24 SEVEN FAMILY OF BRANDS
24 Seven is a specialized recruitment agency that builds future-proof teams of top full-time and freelance talent for leading brands and agencies in the marketing, digital, creative, and technology sectors. 24 Seven further supports its clients through its family of specialized subsidiaries. The Sage Group represents marketing consultants, contractors, and permanent talent, and has created a leading community of top marketing executives, Marketers That Matter®, which meets to share marketing innovation and insights. Creatis and Antenna boost the productivity of marketing, digital, creative, and communications teams through on-site and outsourced talent solutions. Simplicity Consulting offers marketing project & program management and strategic communications consultants.