Few people understand the current hiring landscape as well as Brian Kasser. He’s the Talent Partner in the Technology Group at private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe (WCAS). He’s tasked with making sure the companies in their portfolio are helmed and staffed with the talented leaders who will keep their organizations on top. He knows what it takes to build a high-performance team, and with the perspective of a 25+ year career in the industry, he’s seen the boom and bust cycles play out. We sat down with him to get his perspective on the current climate.
His first takeaway: people just need to calm down a bit. Particularly those who are mid stage in their careers, or under the age of 35. “We all have to recognize that the economy, including the tech sector, runs on these boom and bust cycles. But historically it has been 2-4 year cycles,” says Kasser. “What’s different about this last boom cycle was the length. For tech, it was a 10+ year boom, lasting from the banking crisis in 2010, through the pandemic.” What this means for younger professionals, is that many of them in the industry had never worked through a bust cycle until now.
The second takeaway is that for certain hot industries (think tech) there wasn’t enough talent to go around during the last longer-than-normal boom cycle, so a lot of people got “overpromoted” into positions they may not have been ready for, got over their skis as far as responsibilities. “What we’re seeing is there is a smaller pool of execs who really have been there and done that and have the right experience,” says Kasser. The problem also trickles down to lower level positions too. Some people were trained by these people who were overpromoted, and the lack of training and mentorship impacted hiring below. Part of the latest layoff cycle was certainly purely company based, but part of it was also individual performance based.
No matter what the ups and downs of the economy are, one thing stays the same: top companies, including large scale entities, need great people at all levels, especially at the executive level. “There is no question in my mind that we’re seeing an all out fight for the best talent,” summarizes Kasser.
Kasser has solid advice for those recruiting right now: 1) be realistic going in to the process about how hard it really is to find top talent 2) run a highly thoughtful and strategic recruiting process (including very thorough referencing) 3) once you have good talent in your company, keep them! Make sure you have the right strategy to both retain talent and also develop your people.
On the flip side, he’s got words of wisdom for those looking for work. “Whether it’s a good market or a bad market, you have to control your own narrative. You’re your own superagent. It’s your responsibility to not only clearly know your own “superpower”, but also to know how to logically frame and market it,” he says. “You have to fully commit to your own recruiting process to put your best foot forward in every situation.”
As for his predictions for the coming months/years and when this current “bust” cycle will end and the next “boom” will start – he has no predictions! But meanwhile, his advice to companies who are looking to thrive: “Just put your head down and build a great company that just plain thrills your customers. If you do this, good things tend to happen more often.” Those companies that do this, will continue to grow and look for that top talent. And top talent always thrives, no matter the economy.