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Housing Crunch Puts Squeeze on Corporate Expansions

Despite today's high unemployment, the weak housing market has made potential hires unwilling - or unable - to relocate for a new job.

Dave Claborn , Director of Development and Community Relations, Ohio State University, Marion (Fall 2011)
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Finding the right person can be harder than you'd think, even in today's economy. Wolfe does personality assessments - not just of the prospective hire, but also on her client companies. "Placing a candidate or making a hire has to be a good cultural fit - not just the hard skills," she says, or the match won't last and will be a costly disappointment to both the company and the employee. Being outside the company, Wolfe can be brutally honest with senior management about employees' strengths and weaknesses, as well as the company's.

A trend Wolfe has noticed lately, as companies adapt to a less mobile work force, is promotion from within. But that means careful assessment of internal employees to see which ones might be promotable to more senior positions. An internal promotion eliminates housing issues and builds better company morale, but a company needs to make sure that the internal candidates are qualified to handle the additional responsibilities of a promotion.

A Strategic Approach
Distressed housing inventories will take at least several years to wash out of the system, continuing to restrain real estate values - and make potential employees less mobile than they might have been. Here are some strategies, then, for expanding companies dealing with the unique challenges caused by the housing market collapse:

  • Carefully plan an expansion, perhaps utilizing professional services.

  • Waiting for absolute economic certainly may be waiting too long. When the market rebounds, you'll need the capacity in place to take advantage of increased orders.

  • In order to get the right person, consider a hiring bonus to offset the candidate's loss of equity in the market he or she is leaving.

  • Consider promoting from within; internal candidates don't need to move.

  • Research incentives in target communities. Ask about "deal closer" funds that might help offset increased personnel recruiting costs.

  • Consider engaging a Certified Personnel Consultant for key hires. They can get the right fit between the candidate and your company.

Growing an economy out of the conditions we've seen lately is a delicate dance between companies' need to expand to satisfy new markets, communities' need for an improved tax base, and individuals' need for employment. Nimble companies will find ways to thrive, even as they face challenges like those presented by today's housing market.

"I have no doubt we'll find the people we need," says Art Young of Hypertherm. "We're a good company - and good people want to work for good companies."
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