There is considerable debate right now about whether we are heading for a recession. Much of this debate ignores the technical definition of recession (fall in GDP in two successive quarters) and the fact that the Federal Reserve is acting to intentionally slow down the economy to counter inflation. Now there are concerns about stagflation — the combination of inflation and economic contraction.

This uncertainty may lead some companies to wonder if it might be time to slow down hiring. For CFOs, that could well be the opposite of what’s most prudent. Holding back on making critical hires could undermine a firm’s ability to be resilient and thrive at exactly the time they are most needed.

The labor market remains highly active. The unemployment rate has been sitting at around 3.6% since March 2022, a 54-year low. The number of job openings in the U.S. also remains high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The market has never been certain, and high uncertainty could well be the new normal, making agility a key asset to all businesses. Flexibility in staffing will be a key point of agility.

A recent Forbes article suggests three strategies chief financial officers (CFOs) may want to consider putting in motion now to make sure their organization, and the broader business, have a “pivotable” staffing approach:

  1. Prioritize Hiring to Meet Today’s Needs — and Tomorrow’s
    In the face of economic uncertainty, companies often look to “trim the fat,” and personnel costs often look ripe for the trimming. However, careless or wholesale trimming can go beyond what is prudent when in-demand, hard-to-find talent are let go. Likewise, overemphasizing personnel savings may mean not recruiting top candidates. In a hiring market where top talent is in high demand, it will be difficult to staff up quickly to meet new business demands.Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics underscores just how challenging it is for employers to hire for professional-level roles and staff their critical functions,  including finance and accounting. The agency’s reporting on Q2 2022 unemployment rates by occupation shows that the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors is just 1.1%. For financial managers, it is 1.2%. These low rates of unemployment will make fast hiring of qualified professionals difficult if not impossible.The Forbes article recommends Identifying the positions in an organization that should remain staffed no matter what, and then amplifying hiring and retention efforts where needed. Keep an eye toward the future, as well, by prioritizing hires for jobs and departments that are critical for the business.
  2. Expand the Use of Flexible Staffing Arrangements
    One positive outcome of the pandemic is that companies now have a clearer idea of the mission-critical roles and business functions that benefit most from the use of interim resources when workloads and customer demands fluctuate. Many CFOs have been channeling more resources into flexible staffing arrangements over the past two years to help their organizations stay agile and resilient.Also, many of these leaders now recognize that hiring remote workers can provide the business with access to a larger pool of critical talent since a firm can employ people working from anywhere. Employees working at home also enable a company to reduce real estate costs.Companies that are poised to move quickly to respond to market changes need to know where to find stellar talent on short notice and for special initiatives. Confirm that your company can move swiftly to expand its remote workforce, if needed.
  3. Ready Your Teams Now
    Companies should seize the opportunity to accelerate the development their future workforce by upskilling or reskilling workers. The business can benefit from this investment in the long term and emerge stronger and nimbler from a downturn, or whatever the next great challenge may be.

In fast-changing environments, agility and flexibility are key. Plans must be made, but as Eisenhower said, In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. Today’s planning must include resilience in the face of change, and particularly in the Finance area, staffing with top talent who can pivot and move quickly is critical. Locating and recruiting such talent for this volatile area and sorting out agile and fast-thinking candidates from the plodders can be a difficult process. Outsourcing the search for and vetting of candidates is likely to produce the best results. An effective recruiting partner will know how to identify the right combination of skill and experience to find the top candidates and to convey to them what is needed by the hiring company.


BrainWorks is a prominent boutique executive search firm offering a 30-year track record of successfully sourcing and placing top talent. We solve your hiring challenges by leveraging our vast network of highly skilled talent and our extensive, time-tested industry expertise. To learn more about how BrainWorks can help you, contact us.

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