How to Make Timely Hires As Businesses Continue Major Layoffs


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For the last two years, we’ve seen many companies announce layoffs, particularly in the technology industry. Last year alone saw a 10% increase in layoffs across all industries — 19.8 million in 2023 compared to 17.6 million in 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In tech, layoffs rose 59% as companies that overhired during the pandemic strove to do more with less amid rising interest rates and global uncertainty. What does this mean for you?

Great people are being let go. After laying off lower-performing workers, companies are now making the painful decision to part ways with exceptionally talented employees, particularly in departments with the least growth.

Fortunately for these workers, the job market today is proving resilient, and steady layoffs don’t mean high unemployment. Since December 2021, the jobless rate has stayed steady, hovering between 3.4% and 3.9% (that’s compared to a 14.7% unemployment rate in the second month of the pandemic). The best and the brightest aren’t staying out of work for long.

The good news about the current environment is that attentive companies can bring on great talent. This means it’s important to pay close attention to who’s available in your business sector and be ready to start a conversation. Some of the best workers are out there, and they’re looking for quality roles.

But that begs the question, how do you identify the right talent amid all the layoffs? How do you spot a game-changer? Here are a few strategies to help you identify candidates who could be your next superstars — and then keep them.

Related: How You Can Build Your Dream Team By Hiring When Everyone Else Is Firing

Raise the performance bar

As a company leader, I’ve seen a dramatic difference in the quality of available talent compared to just two years ago, when businesses were scrambling just to fill seats. One of my managers recently pointed out that the best applicants for a key job she posted had all been laid off from their previous jobs.

The best way to start is by keeping an eye on who’s out there in your sector. Then take a hard look at your talent profile and ask yourself, “Do I have the right people filing the right jobs, or are there people out there who could do better?” Next, don’t rush. When it comes to hiring, I like to say, “Go slow to go fast.” We intend to grow headcount by upwards of 30% this year, so if we’re not intentional in our hiring, our culture could suffer.

Most importantly, make sure every hire is impactful. Amazon has developed a programmatic, repeatable way to do this through its “Bar Raiser” program. To keep fueling the company’s innovation, Amazon’s hiring managers are tasked with ensuring every new hire brings skills and abilities that are better than 50% of their peers in similar roles, thereby raising the talent bar. To achieve this, they bring in employee interviewers — Bar Raisers — who have received extensive training to look for certain qualities and calibrate candidates with the hiring bar. To provide the best feedback to the hiring manager, they ask themselves questions like, “What does Amazon miss out on if we don’t hire this person?” and “What about this person makes you want to work with them?”

At BambooHR, we’ve adopted a philosophy that embraces the idea of a diverse interview panel with employees from throughout the company who can provide a gut check: Will this person definitively raise the performance bar and also be a good culture fit? With this philosophy, we’re getting better and better at identifying and keeping the best talent, and I believe every small to medium-sized company could benefit from doing the same.

Related: I Turned My Layoff into a Learning Lesson and Became My Own CEO — Here Are the Lessons I Learned Along the Way

Take a critical look at your managers

Of course, hiring the right talent doesn’t matter if you don’t have managers who understand how to keep them inspired. I’ve found that top talent wants to be actively managed, so it’s important to discuss expectations during the interview process. But more than anything, they hate being treated like everybody else. They want to grow faster and do more. Once you’ve identified and hired the best, can your managers actively manage them? Can they give clear and candid feedback so talent can continue to progress and grow? You may think they’re already doing that, but there’s a good chance they’re not.

Some leaders have gotten out of shape when it comes to active performance management, particularly when it comes to having hard conversations around expectations and accountability. Consider that new assistant you hired in marketing, for example. From your perspective, they’re doing okay, not great; however, they may think they’re excelling at their role. According to BambooHR performance management data from 2019-2023, 38% of employees who received the lowest performance rating from their manager rated themselves as highly valued. That disconnect does not help employees thrive — particularly your newest ones — and hurts the company.

You need to make sure your managers are talking about active management in hiring interviews and having the right conversations with new employees right away. It’s on you as a leader to invest in their training.

Related: ‘You Can’t Feel Sorry for Yourself’: Barbara Corcoran Shares Her Top Mindset Hack For When You’ve Been Laid Off

Offer purpose and a clear vision

Know your company’s why, and communicate it clearly during interviews with prospective employees. Research shows that more and more employees want to know that their work has a purpose, especially millennials and Gen Z applicants. For every recruit I talk to, I spend the entire first interview on mission, vision and values — I don’t talk about our revenue and how we’re going to grow. At BambooHR, we’re on a journey to become the number one HR platform for SMBs in the world — but that’s our product, not our purpose.

I start with our mission: What’s our purpose? At Bamboo, we set people free to do great work. We have over three million people who log into Bamboo every day, and I want to make their lives better somehow. Then we go to vision: What are we trying to accomplish? And then values, like how we show up for each other. I want to know, does all this excite the individual I’m speaking to? Do they want to be a part of this?

Never underestimate the impact the right hire can have. Who you have on your team is everything, and understanding how to leverage layoffs can help you find just the right people.

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