U.S. Employers Report Strongest Hiring Outlook In 21 Years 

The latest ManpowerGroup report finds the most potent hiring outlook since 2001. The downside: Employers are having a difficult time finding talent and executive recruiters are showing signs of strain executing assignments. Let’s examine the report and discuss it all with Valerie Frederickson of Frederickson Partners.

June 15, 2021 – Employers in 32 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed expect an increase in payrolls during the next three months, while three percent expect to trim payrolls and 63 percent anticipate no change, according to the latest “Employment Outlook Survey,” released by ManpowerGroup. “Employers are ready to bring their workers back as restrictions lift and America gets ready to work,” said Becky Frankiewicz ManpowerGroup president, North America. “Yet childcare challenges, health concerns and competition mean demand still outstrips supply which is dampening the ‘big return’ of the American workforce. It’s a worker’s market and employees are acting like consumers in how they are consuming work – seeking flexibility, competitive pay and fast decisions.” Now is the time for employers to get creative to attract talent, she said, “and to hold onto the workers they have with both hands.”

According to the study, payroll gains were expected in all 12 U.S. industry sectors during the third quarter of 2021: leisure and hospitality (+41 percent), wholesale and retail trade (+29 percent), education and health services (+27 percent), transportation & utilities (+26 percent), durable goods manufacturing (+25 percent), nondurable goods manufacturing (+25 percent), professional and business services (+21 percent), construction (+19 percent), information (+18 percent), other services (+16 percent), financial activities (+15 percent) and government (+15 percent).

Employers in three of the 12 national industry sectors reported considerably stronger hiring plans when compared with the previous quarter, with outlooks in all three sectors at their strongest since they were first analyzed in 2009: education and health services, information, and leisure and hospitality.

Moderately stronger hiring sentiment was reported in five nationwide industry sectors when compared with the second quarter of 2021. The outlook for the wholesale and retail trade sector matched the strongest since the survey began in 1982, last reported in 2001. Employers in both the durable goods manufacturing and the nondurable goods manufacturing sectors reported the strongest hiring plans since 2000, while the outlook for the other services sector matched the strongest since the sector was first analyzed in 2009, last reported in 2019. Government sector employers also reported a moderate increase when compared with the prior quarter.

In four of the national industry sectors, employers reported slight quarter-over-quarter improvements: construction, financial activities, professional and business services, and transportation and utilities.

Global Employment Outlook

ManpowerGroup interviewed over 45,000 employers in 43 countries and territories on hiring prospects in the third quarter of 2021. All participants were asked, “How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of September 2021 as compared to the current quarter?” Interviewing was carried out during the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak. The survey findings for the third quarter of 2021 reflected the impact of the global health emergency, and the ongoing economic restrictions in many countries.

Employers anticipated payroll gains in 42 of the 43 countries and territories surveyed by ManpowerGroup for the July to September period, while flat hiring activity was expected in one.

In a comparison with the second quarter of 2021, employers reported stronger hiring plans in 31 of the 43 countries and territories, while outlooks weakened in eight, with no change reported in four. When compared with this time one year ago – when COVID-19 first had an impact on hiring sentiment – employers in 42 of the 43 countries and territories reported improved hiring prospects, with no change in one. In the coming quarter, the strongest labor markets were forecast in the U.S., Taiwan, Australia, Greece, Ireland and Singapore, while the weakest hiring intentions were reported in Hong Kong, Argentina, Panama and South Africa.

Employers in all 26 Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region countries expected to add to payrolls during the upcoming quarter. When compared with the prior quarter, outlooks strengthened in 22 EMEA countries, while weakening in two. In a comparison with the same period last year, hiring plans strengthened in all 26 EMEA countries. The strongest hiring activity was expected in Greece, Ireland and Croatia, while employers in South Africa, the Czech Republic and Spain forecast the weakest hiring pace.

Workforce gains were anticipated in six of the seven Asia-Pacific countries and territories during the July to September period, while flat hiring prospects were reported in the seventh – Hong Kong. In a comparison with the previous quarter, outlooks improved in three countries and territories, but also weakened in three. Hiring sentiment strengthened in six Asia-Pacific countries and territories when compared with this time one year ago, while remaining unchanged in one. The strongest hiring plans for the next three months were reported in Taiwan and Australia, while the weakest labor market was expected in Hong Kong.

Related: Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal

In the Americas region, employers in all 10 countries surveyed expected to grow payrolls during the third quarter of 2021. Hiring intentions strengthened in six Americas countries when compared with the previous quarter, but weakened in three. In a comparison with last year at this time, employers reported stronger hiring prospects in all 10 countries. The strongest hiring pace was anticipated in the U.S., while cautiously optimistic hiring plans were reported in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico. The weakest labor markets are anticipated in Argentina and Panama.

What Are Hiring Manager Looking for in Workers

Valerie Frederickson is the founder and CEO of global HR search firm Frederickson Partners. She has helped hundreds of companies during the past 20-plus years build and improve their human resources organizations. HR executives and C-level executives often seek her confidential guidance and counsel when reorganizing their HR functions. She has conducted confidential, replacement and upgrade searches of HR executives, and placed heads of HR at companies such as C3 IoT, GE, Genentech, Mozilla, Qualtrics, and hundreds more.

Ms. Frederickson recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss how things have changed in the search for talent and what type of skill-sets hiring managers and executive search consultants are seeking in today’s business climate.

  Valerie Frederickson

Valerie, explain how working remotely impacts executive search, leadership and talent. 

Executive search is a job and career that can be done remotely, if you’re skilled at building deep rapport quickly by email, phone and Zoom. Building relationships and candidate pools can be done from almost anywhere and, these days, conducting searches from the beaches of Hawaii or from Iceland can have cachet. However, it can be challenging for some clients to take a risk on a remote consultant, for example believing that you can do a search effectively in Buffalo while based in Austin. Major tech hubs like San Francisco, Austin, Miami, and Seattle are transitory, high-growth areas that tend to be more accepting of selecting a ‘riskier,’ remote-friendly search firm than traditional areas like Boston, where people prefer working with other Bostonians. How a search firm builds and maintains its own company culture and brand with a remote workforce comes down to the effort and awareness of its CEO. 

So, culture is key.

Those who take the time to think through how to create culture remotely have more success with leading a workforce you cannot shake hands with or hug. In executive search, culture is key. We’re seeing marked differences in the way different types of firms approach remote work. For example: Most venture capital-funded, smaller startups are predominantly open to having chief people officers based anywhere. In contrast, private equity-backed companies want their SVPs of HR to be in the same office with the CEO and CFO. Many executives see ‘Return to Work’ as a moving target and haven’t thought through yet how to handle remote work or working from home. They may want the executive team to be in an office in a metropolitan hub, while letting the rest of the team work remotely. Larger companies that have kept their real estate (offices) open are looking forward to welcoming employees back while providing the flexibility they need to retain their team. These tend to be the companies that may let people work from home Monday and Friday but want them in the office Tuesday through Thursday.

Any downsides?

The talent management sector also needs to consider implications for diversity and inclusion in this new economy. Working remotely may limit employees’ exposure to executives, opportunities for special projects and potential for advancement. To address this many companies are establishing requirements to have employees in the office for specific amounts of time. Otherwise, those working mainly at home may be left behind when it comes to promotions.

“Every company and every organization is having to re-define flexibility on a daily basis. From CEOs who can’t find a head of HR to executive chefs having to man three stations at once because they can’t find enough cooks, all managers are learning how to make do with fewer employees, train newbies how to perform tasks and get creative with where to look for new talent.”

Why is it so important now more than ever to have a flexible and agile organization and workforce? How will this impact the workforce? 

With the post-COVID-19 extreme war for talent – or “workquake,” as Steve Cadigan names it in his 2021 book, Workquake – every company and every organization is having to re-define flexibility on a daily basis. From CEOs who can’t find a head of HR to executive chefs having to man three stations at once because they can’t find enough cooks, all managers are learning how to make do with fewer employees, train newbies how to perform tasks and get creative with where to look for new talent. Opening up locations and letting employees be based anywhere is the No. 1 step that companies can take to have greater access to talent. We recommend that when our clients must compromise, they compromise on locations, not skills. Going silent on location and allowing your team to work from anywhere is a life-or-death strategic differentiator for those employers who can afford to be flexible.

CEOs rank talent and specialist skills as the factors with the most impact on the future of work. Why is this? What specialist skills are most important?

With more and more technology blending with our current jobs, we all need to be not only experts in tech, but domain experts in key aspects of our jobs. For the last few decades, each year a third of our work has been replaced with technology, forcing us to deepen our expertise. At this point, we all need to have specialist skills. Talent acquisition includes a unique but broad set of skills in the post-COVID-19 economic boom, ranging from simply being able to identify employees with high potential, all the way to running the talent acquisition function hands-on or taking the lead on employee engagement. Companies that are doubling their workforces every few months may be dealing with multiple issues such as reopening or opening new offices or being unable to hire enough skilled people; they may not even know what part of employee culture to focus on first, let alone how to integrate diversity and inclusion into the equation. The right talent experts can help solve these critical issues and more.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Related: Skills Gap Points to Why We Need to Invest in People

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