Business executives cautiously optimistic for 2022

Employer Associations of America publishes National Business Trends Survey.
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In the recently released 2022 National Business Trends Survey from the Employer Associations of America (EAA), business executives indicate a fair amount of caution mixed with optimism for the 2022 outlook.

The survey results, published last month, showed 31% of executives believe the economy will improve and 41% expect the overall outlook for the 2022 economy to remain the same.

This annual survey shares information on what executives are doing to address business challenges. Survey responses also reflected the continuing impact of COVID-19 on business trends.

“Business leaders have had another year of difficult decisions and tough choices,” said Gayle Gilham, EAA board chair. “However, the trends we are seeing show just how strong and resolute executives are today.”

When asked how concerned respondents are regarding COVID-19 and its impact on business continuity, e.g., the supply chain, financial implications and temporary shutdowns, 65% indicated they are “extremely to moderately concerned,” an increase from last year’s 52%.

In 2021, hiring and recruiting became increasingly difficult as employees left for more pay, flexible work arrangements or new challenges. When asked their greatest business challenges for 2022, executives ranked talent acquisition, talent retention and cost of materials as their top three.

According to the survey, 50% of organizations were hiring in 2021 “slightly to significantly more” than they originally planned, compared to 20% reporting that in 2020. Most executives reported some to all of their hiring was due to voluntary turnover (90%), and 70% reported their hiring was due to some or all newly created jobs.

With talent being such a critical factor, executives were asked what they thought were the top five most important factors for prospective employees, and the answers included:

  1. Competitive pay, 84%
  2. Good work/life balance, 74%
  3. Flexibility in work hours, 57%
  4. Vacation/paid time off, 38%
  5. Competitive/robust health benefits, 38%

Given the national concern over COVID-19 and employee safety, the survey also asked how organizations are working to minimize risk and ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws. The top two responses were providing face masks for employees in the workplace (56%) and encouraging, not requiring, employees to get vaccinated (52%).

The survey also asked executives to share the top measures they have been or are planning to continue to implement in 2022 to strengthen business results. The top five responses:

  1. Invest in technology, 49%, as compared to 38% in 2021
  2. Invest in equipment, 46% compared to 37% in 2021
  3. Increase recruiting emphasis, 44%, vs. 40% in 2021
  4. Offer hybrid work for positions that have not been hybrid in the past, 30%, which was the same as in 2021
  5. Increase flexible work arrangements, 27%, down from 28% in 2021

In addition, the EAA 2022 National Business Trends Survey broke results out on the state level. Michigan respondents (74%) said their projected business outlook is for “slightly or significantly increased” sales/revenue or budget for 2022. Sixty-six percent of Michigan respondents were “moderately or somewhat concerned” with COVID-19 and its impact on human resources, e.g., policy, remote work and absences.

Jason Reep. Courtesy The Employers’ Association

Jason Reep. Courtesy The Employers’ Association

“The Employers’ Association continues to provide meaningful services and solutions to local businesses during this recovery period through HR Helpline support, compensation alignment/development, employee engagement surveys, roundtables (HR, safety and DEI), as well as coaching and training to develop skills that improve performance and organizational efficiency,” said Jason Reep, president of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids. “We believe this, and our other survey data, will continue to provide guidance as organizations refine their strategies in this and in future challenges.”

The EAA is a nonprofit national association that provides this annual survey to business executives, offering insights and trends for business outlooks, business investment plans, staffing levels, hiring plans, job creation, pay strategies and business challenges. 

A copy of the full report is available by contacting Maggie McPhee or Marla Holzapfel, mmcphee@teagr.org or mholzapfel@teagr.org, at The Employers’ Association, or by calling (616) 698-1167.

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