How do HR professionals improve their employability in an extended downturn?

It is nearly three years since the beginning of the UK downturn and our economy is still hovering on the verge of a double-dip recession. A great deal has been asked of the HR function in this period, from negotiating pay freezes to maintaining staff engagement to making large-scale redundancies. These measures have been necessary for survival, to enable companies to ride the storm whilst they await the return of growth. And these measures have no doubt in turn ensured the survival of those HR people who are good in a crisis, who can do what is necessary to reduce costs and retain talent.

But will your survival skills be enough to carry you through to the next phase of the economy? Has the downturn resulted in you being stereotyped by the business as purely reactive, because that is all that has been required for the last three years? To what extent has your short-term survival been won at the cost of your long-term personal brand as a creator of value?

As businesses tire of purely defensive strategies and look for opportunities for growth and for rebuilding confidence in the market place, it is vital that HR people who wish to improve their employability should ask themselves what they have done recently to add value rather than just preserve it. If the answer is, “Not much” then now is the time to do something about it.

Employers will be looking for evidence of adaptability and creativity combined with a positive outlook, with one eye on growth. If your training budgets have been slashed, how can you still ensure that your skill base remains cutting edge through more informal, low cost routes? If salaries have been frozen, how can you tap into other motivators to improve innovation in the company? If you have made large numbers redundant, how are you re-energising the R&D function to ensure you have new products to sell?

In an economy that has had little good news recently, you can truly differentiate yourself by moving beyond cut-backs to demonstrating how you can prioritise your limited resources on the growth-generating aspects of the business, whilst innovating with your tools and interventions.

If you need any advice on your search for commercial HR professionals or if you need advice as a candidate, please contact me on 07760 777 931 or via email

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