How Infrastructure and Environmental Companies Can Gain a Competitive Advantage in a Recession

Stock investors, like Warren Buffet, know that going against popular stock market and economic trends can be highly profitable when the market goes back up. The same philosophy applies to recruiting during a recession.

This recession has hit levels not seen in a generation. With the Obama administration considering one of the largest infrastructure packages in history, infrastructure and environmental firms have a choice: wait for the package to pass before hiring people or hire people strategically. History is a good teacher so let’s go back in time:

In 2001, Dr. Charles  Greer, Timothy Ireland, John Wingender published a study “Contrarian Human Resource Investments and Financial Performance after Downturns”. While it did not create as big of a stir as “The War for Talent” , it did bring an interesting thought for business leaders to consider: Gaining a competitive advantage by strategic hiring in a downturn can lead to higher profits.  The study offered compelling evidence that firms who engaged in this practice reaped higher financial returns during the economic recovery and expansion versus their competitors who did not.

If your firm is looking to gain an competitive advantage, market share and part of the stimulus package, here is a basic plan to do it:

  1. Create a “fast track” rehire process for good employees lost through layoffs. Many may have knowledge and relationships that could benefit the firm. They also have a quicker ramp up time if you are positioning for stimulus work.
  2. Create and implement a strategic recruiting plan to find and attract the best talent available. These people are the engines of any company in sales, engineering, research and other areas who can have an impact on your firm’s technical expertise or client relationships, once they have been fully integrated in the company.
  3. If your Human Resource group is not properly aligned to engage in strategic recruiting, consider using an outside firm with expertise in your industry. Strong search firms usually have direct relationships or the ability to research the market for people who fit your strategic business objectives. 

For more information on Dr. Greer’s study go to

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