For many companies, these are times to “eat or be eaten,” said Michael Orey in BusinessWeek. The corporate law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, for one, knows where it wants to be in the food chain. While many of its competitors “retreat and retrench,” the Chicago-based firm is plucking top talent out of the rubble. Last December, it “cannibalized” 100 attorneys from an established but struggling New York firm, bringing its ranks to 800 lawyers in 15 offices. It plans to deploy many of those new hires to Washington, where federal bailouts of banks and other Wall Street firms have created a bonanza for firms with financial services expertise.
Even if your company isn’t in the position to feast on rivals, you can take steps to keep top talent from jumping ship, said Aaron Green in The Boston Globe. For starters, think twice about cutting salaries or instituting hiring freezes across the board. That may seem fair, but your best employees may see “spreading the pain around” as an insult to their contributions. Recession or not, such decisions should be based on employee performance and the potential for profit. “If one division is shrinking and one is growing, it does not make sense to treat these divisions the same.” Firms that do so will prompt competitors to start licking their chops.