CFOs may be tightening their belts in anticipation of an economic downturn, but HR execs are still actively seeking top tier talent, according to a new survey.
The survey from coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas also shows with talent acquisition being one of the highest hurdles HR departments face, executives are wary of scaring off candidates by implementing drastic changes in working conditions.
None of the survey respondents reported their company was transitioning from fully remote to fully back in the office, and nearly half (47%) of companies had already implemented a hybrid or remote model and had no plans to go back into the office full-time. Less than 6% of the HR professional respondents said their companies had a hybrid or remote model for most employees and “have plans to bring many workers back on certain days.”
As companies compete on workspace flexibility, they have begun to compete with perks, in particular employee wellness and mental health benefits. According to the survey, 61% of companies were offering mental health care options, up from 43% who did so in the spring — all in response to burnout and mental health needs from their employees.
According to Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, executives are just as vulnerable to burnout as the team members they manage. “Leaders are absolutely not immune to the burnout and pull of other opportunities that are impacting talent at all levels,” Challenge said in a statement following the release of the report.
Challenger believes a large-scale return to the office was a tactic by large organizations to thin out their workforces pre-recession. “The 17% who are cost-cutting and using return to office to do so are following high-profile models from Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg. Their companies forced workers back as a way to implement reductions in their workforces,” he said.
A consistent option of hybrid or remote work models removes geographic hiring limitations for companies that are headquartered in metropolitan areas like New York or Washington, D.C. That has given residents of places such as North Carolina, Texas, Florida and Washington state a greater opportunity to compete for jobs in financial services.
Although only 29% of companies still base salary for remote employees on the cost of living in their headquarters location, a majority of managers are honoring the concerns of employees who feel they deserve a raise regardless of where they work.
Flexibility and empathetic leadership were the highest priorities of employees, according to the survey findings. Climbing to the third spot from the sixth in the spring’s survey were higher salaries, possibly due to the rising costs of food and housing in the U.S. Many workers received raises at the beginning of 2022, so higher salaries weren’t top-of-mind at that time.
While not at the top of the list, a majority (77%) of HR professionals included leadership development as either an important or very important issue to their company’s employees.
How to juggle productivity with engagement and employee wellbeing is one of the issues that haunt executives. With 81% of HR professionals saying their employees considered meaningful and purposeful work an important or very important priority, executives should be urging company leadership to consistently provide workers with a sense of belonging.
Other findings of note also included a universal struggle to find technology professionals over any other kind of talent, as a third of HR professionals agreed that it was the most difficult type of position to fill. As companies continue to balance their technology implementations with innovation and cybersecurity, IT skills are becoming increasingly valuable across industries.
How and to what extent companies prepare for a declining economy will determine their stance once markets bounce back. Although 20% of the HR respondents to the survey said their companies would consider layoffs should the economy continue to head in a negative direction, a majority of companies appear to be focusing on retaining talent.