The Latest Trends in Hiring | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

The Latest Trends in Hiring

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Robert Half, a consulting firm, recently released new findings regarding hiring trends and employee wants and needs. The new year brings a hiring wave, as 57 percent of respondents to Robert Half's "State of U.S. Hiring Survey" stated that they plan to hire for permanent positions in the first half of 2024. Many companies are also resuming projects they previously paused. 

However, despite the hiring boom, many companies still find it difficult to hire and retain talent. The survey found that 90 percent of "hiring managers report difficulty finding skilled professionals, and 58 percent said it takes longer to hire for open roles compared to one year ago." Some of the challenges included finding candidates that fit company culture, meeting salary expectations, and lack of candidates applying.

Further, when it comes to retaining talent, the survey also found that 91 percent of hiring managers are concerned about retention and 88 percent said that "they worry about keeping teams motivated and engaged."

Amy Mangan, a market director at Robert Half, discussed the findings in detail below.

It seems like there is a bit of a hiring boom (as 57 percent plan to add new permanent roles and 67 percent expect to hire contract workers, according to your research). Why do you think this is? Especially after the threat of a recession.

The layoff numbers are still incredibly low. They're actually lower than pre-pandemic, it's just how they're being reported in the news. So, our perception of it is higher, but numbers-wise, it's actually lower by the data.

A lot of people have a perception that the market is doing one thing when the reality is, it's doing something else. The other data point that I think is really, really interesting, [is that] the quit rate is basically the lowest it's ever been. People are not leaving their jobs. The great resignation is now the "great stay," and it has been for a little too long. That will reach a tipping point because people can't stay forever, and there'll start to be some chatter in the market, which we're already seeing because a lot of people make... the resolution ... "I want to get a new job." You start to see that happening in January, even in the second week of the year. And that then creates back-fills and other needs and a lot more movement in the market, which is happening.

It also still seems like it's been difficult for companies to find talent with the right skills. Is this evident in some industries more than others? Do you think some of that is both with the new technology that's on the horizon, with companies needing to meet those needs — or do you think it's also that a lot of people left their industries?

I think both can be true, but I think a lot of what's driving it goes back to the same burnout that we were hearing that buzzword basically since COVID-19. I mean, the pandemic started the burnout trend and it's continued. A lot of companies and teams lost people during the great resignation or through attrition or layoffs or what have you, and never really filled those roles again, and so that workload is going somewhere. The work didn't go away, the humans left are dealing with it, and now they're at a tipping point of saying, "Oh my gosh, this is untenable. I need to go to a place that's better staffed and is going to take care of me and give me a better work life balance and structure or whatever."

So many different companies or employers say that they can't find the right talent and how difficult it is. Part of me wonders if that's just a perception issue more than the right talent not being there. Do you think this is true?

Companies have gotten a lot more selective with hiring. They absolutely are. This is a little bit of a diversion, but I think what I'm seeing anecdotally is the companies that are hiring and have new positions opening now aren't getting the same top talent applying for two reasons. One, the salaries are a little lower than they should be because they're trying to adjust for what they perceive to be the market conditions.

And then two is that they are not giving the same level of flexibility — remote work, hybrid — that the awesome person who'd be great for the job currently has because they have the tenure with their company, their company trusts them to deliver on a remote basis, or whatever it is. So the new job over here is like, "Well, we have a great job," and it's like, "Cool, but we'll call every awesome person for that great job." And they go, "No, that's not better than what I have now. Why would I leave?"

There's not as much switching of positions because there's nothing really attracting them. You don't move for less tenure in a worse setup.

What are some effective ways to retain and attract talent?

First, they need to take stock of their current staff to make sure that they're not one foot out the door. So, they need to be doing surveys and listening to their current folks to make sure they're offering what's necessary. I would advise them to tap into a recruiting firm like us for advice as to what we're seeing candidates want in the market, because they can put postings up all day and people might even apply, but the minute that they get wind of the fact that the day-to-day is going to be less than they're currently being offered, they're out — especially the entire millennial generation is now in management.

I'm part of that elderly millennial. We're in management and we have young families in a lot of cases, and that plays into our decision-making as to what's going to work for our family. And we have a lot more standards than [we did] prior to the pandemic. And we're holding firm on those. I think that's part of it, and I think companies are just being too stringent in the parameters that they're putting on a job in a lot of cases.

Do you think flexibility has changed the further we get from the onset of COVID-19? Are employers less flexible now than they were a year ago?

It has [changed]. There was this beautiful time when people were feeling safe again and things were getting back to normal and people had this really gorgeous work-life integration, and you could still take your 11 A.M. yoga class and nobody would bat an eye or whatever, and that's flipped on its head. Senior leadership, in a lot of cases, is trying to push things exactly back to how they were pre-pandemic. And then I think there's this sticking-point group of people in the middle going, "We're never doing that again," but they're not totally in charge. But as a voting block, so to speak, they're these worker bees getting the work done, so they're also pushing back in ways that they can. So, we're seeing a lot of that trying to reset to the old norm. And then there's this push-pull and internally with the actual people.

What are the most common areas you could see employers improve upon?

Having that open dialogue with the employees is huge. A lot of companies, us included, do anonymous surveys or town halls, to figure out what are the pain points for their employees on a day-in-and-day-out basis, [to find what] they want that would make it more attractive. If you send a company-wide survey with a handful of open-ended questions and a scoring system or whatever, you're going to see the themes come through, and then from there, you can develop your strategy as to the change management that needs to occur to solve for that stuff.

I think a lot of it still is coming down to, "I'm underpaid for the level of work that I'm doing because I took on work for people who aren't here and haven't been replaced. I am not being challenged in the work that I'm doing." And there's a difference between being challenged and completely overworked. They're seeing a lack of having a clear path to promotion or forward progress within their career. That is an area that I see a lot of times when candidates tell us their reason for leaving.

Are there any other trends you're seeing?

We are seeing a move away in terms of the physical office locations away from center cities. That is one trend that we're absolutely seeing, and I think probably any commercial real estate firm that knows about that kind of data could back that up. I think companies are taking stock of that, plus the fact that it benefits them financially because the office buildings out in the suburbs are a heck of a lot cheaper than the ones down in the city in the high rises.


The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Joanna Fragopoulos is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.

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