Skip to content

Brain freeze



So you want to save money in a large organisation?  A large people centred organisation?  Without wanting to look like the bad boy?

Easy, right?  You instigate a recruitment freeze.  No nasty redundancies, slowly bring the cost base down, lose those people who either weren’t committed or ideally were coming up to retirement.  Jobs a good’un.  That’s what David Cameron has announced this week as part of his plans to generate up to £2bn savings in the Public Sector should he be elected as the next Prime Minister.

I’m somewhat of a veteran of recruitment freezes, my last organisation was to recruitment freezes what Ben and Jerry are to….cream….freezes (Note to self: cut out the dairy based comedy).  When I joined my current firm, just before the onslaught of the recession, at one of my first board meetings we were discussing potential responses to a declining market, someone suggested a recruitment freeze.  Whether it was the tears, the foaming at the mouth, or the staple gun held to the CEO’s temple I somehow managed to persuade them this was not the right way to go.

You see, they just don’t work.  Let me try to explain why.  I’m guessing that a large amount of your household disposable income goes on everyday groceries, right?  So, I’m going to help you save a little money, because I’m good like that, we’re going to have a groceries freeze…….

“Dad, the toothpaste has run out!”

“Don’t worry son, there is some soap in the soap dish”

“Honey, have you seen the shoe polish? The kids’ shoes are filthy”

“Hmm, we ran out…how about bleach?”

“God, I’ve had a terrible day, work was mad and no-one commented on my blog.  Where is the wine?”

“Finished it.  We have some ketchup?”

You get what I’m saying?  The idea of a recruitment freeze makes a number of assumptions, that all roles are equal, that all roles are interchangeable and that the right people will leave.  And that just doesn’t happen.  You either stick dogmatically to the freeze to the detriment of the service and the health and well-being of those that remain, or you have to exercise a degree of judgement.  We became adept at renaming the freezes as slowdowns, restrictions even chills….that was my choice but no-one found it funny.  Everyone has an argument about why their specific vacancy is “critical” and some poor sucker has to wade through the pile of requests and exercise the judgment of Solomon.

I wish it were this easy, if it were well hell we’d all be doing it and redundancies would be thing of the past.  It isn’t, they aren’t.   Nice try, but no cigar.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 04/13/2010 08:15

    Your anonymity affords you to say things that my non-anonymity does not allow me; however, you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Recruitment freezes do have their benefits, but then they don’t answer everything from a holistic perspective. As you purport, what happens if the wrong people leave? And for that matter, recruitment is used to serve a need – what happens if there is a need for a specific role / person / function, but rather than recruit a good person, you’re left to shuffle someone over who’s not able – or even willing – to do the job?

    Good people will get any business through a difficult time, so it’s important to focus on people rather than a generic ‘recruitment freeze’.

    • 04/15/2010 08:38

      @Cal – “It’s important to focus on people” – yep, you said it.

  2. BJH permalink
    04/13/2010 13:56

    My previous organisation was a fan of the recruitment freeze and it never worked. As you described so well, it just doesn’t work in reality, so there were always “exceptions” allowed. Where exceptions weren’t allowed you ended up with the people left behind trying to pick up the work of the ones who had left – and then they’d go off on sick leave due to stress!

  3. 04/15/2010 08:37

    BJH – Although its sad to see this isn’t just my experience, it does I guess confirm my thinking.


  1. Cutting public sector jobs is expensive « Flip Chart Fairy Tales
  2. Fresh Crackers (20) « Don't Compromise!
  3. Recruitment freeze = increase in agency staff. Who’d a thought it? | Flip Chart Fairy Tales

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: