Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recruiting Workers During a Recession

The great concern held by employers during the early part of 2008 related to how to recruit people most effectively and help fuel their organisations’ growth. One year on in first quarter 2009, organisations are faced with equally important workforce decisions. This time around however employment decisions rest on whether employers should retain or release staff. It is anticipated that as the New Year unfolds employment decision-making will move quickly beyond retention to a point of how best to release staff from organisations as the economic environment further contracts.

Some organisations will make decisions to release staff on the LIFO basis, or the last in is the first out process, with those joining most recently being the first asked to leave. Many managers will however base their decisions to release staff more on the perceived value they attach to different categories of staff. Who is considered closer to retirement and therefore easier to release, who is most up to date on the technology used by the organisation and therefore worth retaining, or who is perceived as the better longer term investment in being more easily trained, or seen as more flexible and willing to learn at work?

University level research suggests that managers’ employment decisions in stress filled periods such as those currently prevailing in Australian workplaces are more likely to be driven by prevailing age-gender based stereotypes rather than logic and rationality. Employment decisions will be made on the basis of emotion and stereotypical beliefs about a category’s attributes rather than based on the organisation’s stated needs or on good business sense. Beliefs like those found in prevailing age-gender related stereotypes which portray older female workers, those 45 plus years of age, as less likely to stay with an organisation, not needing their job, less trainable, as inflexible, change resistant, and slow to learn. Stereotypical beliefs that have been found extremely biased and discriminatory against older females, to be generally incorrect and to form an illogical underpinning to employment decisions

Older workers, particularly older females are easier to be made redundant when seen as closer to retirement or not needing to hold down a job as much as their younger colleagues. Similarly older females perceived as slow in picking up the latest technology or lacking in trainability levels normally associated with younger members of staff are more likely to be released before their younger colleagues.

Employment decisions, when largely based on stereotypical beliefs about a group’s qualities can however prove to be extremely costly for organisations and for the community at large. Better to base retention type decisions on someone’s demonstrated on job performance rather than stereotypical beliefs unrelated to that individual’s real value to the organisation.