The False Economy of a Recruitment Freeze

The changes in social rents enforced by the Government in recent months have led to housing associations reviewing their shape and strategy. One reaction to the uncertainty is that many of them have implemented a recruitment freeze, while they assess their resources. These freezes, or as I’ve recently heard them called, pauses, are often organisation-wide and all encompassing.

The recruitment freeze is a common concept, and theoretically offers a sound set of reasoning. If you know your structure is likely to change, it makes little sense to add headcount before you know what the new layout is, and before you have taken current staff through a consultation period. Freezing the structure is seen as a way to limit the risk incurred, and control staffing spend. What though, are the hidden risks incurred by adopting this seemingly risk averse approach?

Holding back recruitment means that you won’t replace leavers through natural attrition. You ask your remaining staff to cover the extra workload, and take the strain. There is also the risk of work being dropped completely, potentially putting projects on hold, or allowing rent accounts to go unmanaged. A stretched worker is more likely to look for other jobs, they are less likely to perform to their maximum capability, and their work quality will eventually fall. It is likely that a customer will notice if repairs takes longer, calls go unanswered, or if they see their housing officer less often.

As with most things, the key is balance, whilst offering a flexible approach. If the role is customer facing, or income generating, do you take those risks and costs into account? Do they outweigh the salary savings?

The final thought is that most freezes we see are linked to the end of the financial year, at the end of March. If multiple organisations thaw out their recruitment at the same time, and all approach the candidate market with jobs at the same time, is their enough talent to go round? Is there a risk you could have to pay more to make your role more attractive than your competitor?

What do you think? Does the benefit of a recruitment freeze outweigh the cost? Has your organisation implemented a freeze that has affected day-to-day operations? Can housing associations continue to have a positive effect on the lives of their customers today while focusing on the future impacts of the legislation? I’d be interested to hear your perspective.

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Retinue Solutions | Social Housing Team

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