Doing More with Less: Future-Proofing Teams Amidst the Hiring Downturn


The current economic climate is impacting businesses across the board, including their ability to hire, as demonstrated by reports from several major recruiters. Recruitment teams, like many other departments, are increasingly finding they must be able to do more with less to navigate the current volatile hiring landscape.

Amid this backdrop, however, businesses are reluctant to scale back growth and transformation targets. Many are still actively pursuing investment into new technologies like AI and exploring new businesses opportunities. To do this, they will still need the right resources and people in the boardroom.

What, then, are the priority skills that are on employers’ wishlists, that will set talent apart in today’s unstable market and future-proof departments, and what must employers prioritise to attract the top talent?

Generalists over specialists

Businesses are increasingly looking to hire more adaptable generalists; senior leadership with the ability to pivot their attention and resource to other departments that need more support. One good example we often see of this within the C-Suite is the General Counsel role, which is quickly evolving to become more fluid and more dynamic. Simply put, just having a good legal brain no longer hits the mark, and General Counsels who are able effectively apply their knowledge to support other departments are proving to be of huge value to businesses.

This is true of many of the positions across the C-suite, as senior executives are increasingly asked to adapt and lend their resource and support to other areas of the business.

As legal departments begin to work more cross-departmentally, there are some common soft skills that we often see at the top of employers’ wishlists. The in-demand skills include:

  • Versatility: With companies and legal teams, especially those of a smaller size, having to lay off staff and make reductions amidst the economic climate, candidates that can collaborate effectively with their team members and manage diverse tasks ranging from compliance and negotiation to litigation, IP, and contract drafting are of inestimable value to employers that are having to cover a broader range of legal and commercial challenges with fewer resources
  • Innovation: Employers increasingly need incoming talent to be ready to adopt the latest processes and technologies, using their creativity to discover innovative solutions to solve difficult challenges. This readiness and imaginative thinking will not only aid the efficient running of a department’s operations but will also boost the value of the service it offers
  • Business acumen: Businesses that desire growth are on the hunt for talent who have comprehensive sector knowledge, market trends, financial literacy, and the skill to think strategically in line with the business’s expansion objective
  • Proactiveness: Concerns about the impact of economic or geopolitical events have escalated amidst growing geopolitical tensions. As such, talent that can stay ahead of the curve on regulatory requirements and take quick action in response to new developments are more and more desirable to employers
  • Fresh perspectives: Departments made up of diverse individuals who have different perspectives and backgrounds not only encourage cultural competence and ethical awareness but also foster fresh thinking, vital in a world where societal expectations and global trends are constantly evolving

Embracing AI

With the advent of accessible AI, such as ChatGPT, the regulatory and operational challenges presented by AI now apply to many more companies than just in the tech sector. Indeed, one crucial takeaway from The Economist’s 2023 General Counsel Summit in London highlighted that AI is positioned to generate significant opportunities across various corporate functions.

As such, new hires can stand out to employers in a difficult market if they can prove that they are clued up on AI and the pivotal impact it is going to have on departments now and in the future. Specifically, skills that employers are looking for include cloud computing, digital literacy, data analysis, and cybersecurity. In many C-suite roles, like the General Counsel, for examples, these skills have historically been less relevant. Now, however, they are in high-demand for any seat in the boardroom.

There are also growing calls for talent who can navigate the ever-changing and complex regulatory challenges that accompany the use of AI, and who can feed this knowledge into the wider strategy for adopting and using the technology. More than ever, businesses need AI-savvy legal minds who can work in tandem with CTOs, COOs, and CEOs (and others throughout the boardroom) to provide a blend of both legal and commercial guidance, to ensure that investment, implementation policies, and practices on the ethical use of AI are sound from both a regulatory and business standpoint.

Generational diversity

All too often, recruiters will talk to candidates who feel that they have been pigeonholed in their role, causing their progress to inevitably stagnate. This can be bad news for a business, as while the job market is experiencing a downturn, it essentially remains candidate-driven.

How, then, can organisations attract the top talent? Key ways for employers to future-proof departments by attracting the best and most versatile talent involve directing resources to mentorship, people/project management engagements and succession planning which will help employers bridge the generational gap between future and current generations.

Succession planning, when done well, ultimately allows room for growth, ensuring that there are clear-cut paths for advancement, especially if a promotion is not immediately possible, as allowing those who are more junior to be involved in new initiatives or support additional business units ensures the development of future-minded, enterprise-wide strategic advisors and leaders who can face any challenge.

In the current job market, businesses and specifically recruitment teams are having to be extremely strategic about how they operate. Actively seeking the qualities that make up versatile hires who can play more than just one role in advising on company strategy for key growth areas like AI is a crucial first step in ensuring the ship can be steered through challenging times. Knowing what to invest in and what team dynamic in order to attract, retain talent, and get the most out of talent of this calibre is therefore essential knowledge for any businesses.


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