How to Get Strategic Work Done During a Hiring Freeze

Discover how to get strategic work done during a hiring freeze and layoffs and improve productivity by supplementing talent and skill sets.

Inflation, a looming recession, hiring freezes, and layoffs are converging to create a complicated reality. A number of major corporations have announced hiring freezes and layoffs including Tesla, Netflix, JPMorgan Chase, and Coinbase — marking a drastic change from a longstanding skilled talent shortage in which in-demand employees had a variety of opportunities at their fingertips (and in many cases, multiple job offers at once). 

Despite the precautionary measures necessitated by turbulent times, your organization still needs to get strategic work done and you still need skilled talent that can plan and execute that work. 

How to Stay Productive During a Hiring Freeze

Navigate economic and labor market uncertainty, improve productivity, and support your teams during a hiring freeze or layoffs by supplementing your workforce and skill sets in flexible ways that can easily scale up or down, depending on need

For example, if the work you need to get done requires a specific capability, and you’re looking to improve time to value despite a hiring freeze and/or employee layoffs, leverage a highly-skilled independent consultant who: 

  1. Does not require the same level of investment as a full-time employee, or even a consultant who works for a major firm.
  2. Has the precise skill set that your strategic work requires.
  3. Can be dropped into a project or interim role and begin providing value in a matter of just a few weeks (sometimes, less!). 

Benefits of Leveraging Independent Talent During a Hiring Freeze

Leveraging a flexible problem-solving approach — sometimes called agile consulting, dynamic consulting, strategic flexibility, or precision problem solving — within your existing operating frameworks and talent models provides resiliency against today’s market dynamics.” It allows you to unlock the flexibility required for dynamic decision-making that helps you get strategic work done and positions your business for success, even through volatile and unplanned events. 

As Joe Fuller — Professor of Management Practice and Co-head of the Managing the Future of Work Project at Harvard Business School — says, embracing the on-demand talent market allows enterprise leaders to get out of the forecasting business and have the ability, “… to pivot and respond to unpredictable and unexpected phenomena fast and do so with the precise expertise and insight that you never planned to have or hired for in the past, but now need.”

When in-house expertise is lacking, on-demand recruitment also provides a way to close skill gaps and bring an “outside-in” lens to the current team

According to Oracle, independent workers “… allow companies to reduce overhead and increase flexibility,” which are two of the main concerns leaders have when in an unpredictable environment. This is why today’s most successful enterprises and firms are choosing to hire experienced independent workers to quickly address changes in business conditions by flexing the size and skill set of their workforce at any time. Independent talent can be hired on an as-needed basis, and the length of their contract can be extended as long as their expertise is required.

How to Supplement Your Existing Talent Models During a Hiring Freeze

Whether or not your organization or firm is dealing with a hiring freeze and layoffs, the key is understanding in which instances an independent and highly-skilled consultant would be the best option for your needs and goals. Here are three steps to work through when supplementing your existing talent models with agile consulting during a hiring freeze or layoffs. 

Whether or not your organization or firm is dealing with a hiring freeze and layoffs, the key is understanding in which instances an independent and highly-skilled consultant would be the best option for your needs and goals. Here are three steps to work through when supplementing your existing talent models with agile consulting during a hiring freeze or layoffs. 

1. Determine where it makes sense to leverage agile consulting.

Since work happens at the level of projects and decision processes below the C-Suite, it’s the C-Suite’s job to foster an environment where their business unit leaders and cascading teams can do their best work. As Fuller says, “The most effective way leaders can support managers when incorporating independent and highly-skilled talent in your workforce is to determine how and where you need different talent models.” 

Leaders should prioritize conversations with team leads and those who will be executing the work that needs to get done to identify gaps in skills and resources as well as bandwidth and budgetary constraints to determine where agile consulting is the ideal solution. Here’s a look at how you might bridge gaps across the most common talent operating models, including freelance, full-time, and traditional consulting, with agile or dynamic capabilities. 

filling talent and skills gaps during a hiring freeze

2. Use a strategic marketplace to hire independent talent with the right expertise. 

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have and continue to accelerate new approaches from companies including the use of independent workers and agile consulting approaches as integral parts of their workforce that are always in the mix. 

Whether or not you’re experiencing a hiring freeze or layoffs, you can easily leverage skilled independent talent as a core capability via a strategic marketplace like Catalant. As Fuller explains, this will allow you to regularly reassess and sculpt your demonstrated and permanent ongoing needs augmented by the talent that you 1) didn’t anticipate needing, 2) can’t find enough of, and 3) can’t or shouldn’t hire full time. 

Strategic marketplaces also simplify the process of identifying the precise talent you need on a project basis that can start work immediately and has the necessary expertise to get that work done quickly — all of which is valuable when you’re working through a hiring freeze or layoffs. 

The key to effectively unlocking independent talent as a core capability is to invest in teaching the people who will be their supervisors how to do so better since it’ll be a new skill for them to master. Make it easier for your supervisors and project teams to accommodate outside talent with remote work resources and capabilities, and create playbooks on how managers can hire, onboard, and work with your independent talent. This will also help you manage the potential differences between perceived commitment to the organization and compensation between full-time and independent talent. 


By investing in this training, you’ll increase your organization’s ability to bring on the right independent talent at the right time for your projects thus improving effective resource allocation and productivity before, during, and after a hiring freeze.

Operationalize agile consulting in your organization and access specialized expertise to quickly solve your critical and strategic business problems.

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