Staffing firm shares job market insights

Express Pros reports hiring rebound, soft skills in demand, continued supply chain woes.
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David Robb. Courtesy Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids

A recent survey report revealed optimism about the U.S. labor market alongside a few ongoing challenges that cut across industries.

Express Employment Professionals recently published a report, U.S. Job Insights for the First Half of 2022, designed as a semiannual forecast for business leaders to track employment and hiring trends across a range of industries.

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals between Nov. 10 and Dec. 2, 2021, among 1,009 U.S. hiring decision-makers (defined as adults ages 18 and older who are employed full time or self-employed, work at companies with more than one employee, and have full or significant involvement in hiring decisions at their company).

The survey showed optimism regarding the labor market is rising, employers are placing an increased emphasis on soft skills and reskilling, and companies are continuing to be affected by supply chain bottlenecks.

Hiring rebounds

As the economy moves past challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. hiring decision-makers are becoming more positive about the future of the workforce, with the most common feelings attributed to hiring in 2022 being optimistic (44%), hopeful (43%) and confident (43%), the survey report said. 

According to hiring decision-makers, in the first half of 2022:

  • 60% plan to increase the number of employees at their company, up from 50% in the second half of 2021.
  • 33% expect no change to the number of employees.
  • 4% anticipate a decrease in employee count, down from 13% in the second half of last year.

“Everything (regarding hiring) was very optimistic,” said David Robb, co-owner and managing partner of Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids. “Almost no companies were saying they’re going to decrease their workforce. The outlook on hiring demand continues to look very strong, which is something we feel in the local market as well.”

Robb said the exception was the beginning of January, when the omicron wave prevented companies from hiring and onboarding at the rate they planned for.

“Now, we’re seeing things have settled down and people are charging ahead and we’re seeing some really strong hiring demand,” he said. “The survey said that 60% of people are looking to increase their workforce, but even those other 40% that might not be looking to increase their workforce, they’re still hiring just from turnover.”

Soft skills, reskilling

With a hiring push expected in 2022, hiring managers have turned their focus toward looking for candidates with specific soft skills. When asked which soft skills were essential or very important for employees, more than eight in 10 U.S. hiring decision-makers look for a willingness to learn as the top trait (86%), while dependability (85%) was ranked the second-most important skill.

Other sought-after soft skills:

  • Communication skills (84%)
  • Problem-solving abilities (82%)
  • Adaptability (81%)
  • Initiative (79%)
  • Critical thinking (78%)

Another growing trend among organizations is the preference of reskilling current workforces for new challenges. Three-quarters of survey respondents said they would prefer to reskill current employees for new roles rather than hire brand new talent. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. hiring decision-makers (65%) said their company plans to reskill employees (i.e., train a current employee for a new position or teach them new skills for their current role) in 2022.

Companies planning on reskilling in 2022 will do so through a range of options:

  • Offering company-led training sessions or programs (68%)
  • Providing on-the-job training by other employees (54%)
  • Partnering with a third party that offers trainings or courses (46%)

“The information about training and soft skills (in the survey) aligned with what we see, too,” Robb said. “We help companies on the recruiting side, but we also have our training business. … The past couple years for companies, it has been hard to really focus on that training because they have just been trying to manage all the chaos, but we’re really seeing a lot of companies turn to that focus on training and development this year.”

Supply chain woes

While organizations were forced to adapt to navigate the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, they also faced global supply chain issues causing a bottlenecking of goods as demand rebounded. This continued battle is now affecting the hiring process, the Express Pros survey found.

Around three in five U.S. hiring decision-makers (61%) said their company has had to alter their hiring practices because of the national supply chain issue and report it will negatively impact their company’s growth. To counteract the new hurdle for hiring, more than half (56%) report they have had to relax their hiring requirements due to the supply chain issue. Around a third (32%) said they have hired specifically for logistics/supply chain positions this year.

Although this issue cuts across industries, the manufacturing industry has been hardest hit by continued supply chain woes, as 74% of hiring managers said their company has had to alter their hiring practices because of the national supply chain issue. The service industry was a close second, with 71% reporting similar issues. Both industries also are having to relax their hiring requirements during the ongoing supply chain crisis, with 68% in manufacturing and 64% in the services industries.

“In general, (the supply chain problem) is going to be a prolonged thing that might take a year more to get back to where we want it to be,” Robb said. “But we’re seeing a hot topic, too, is reshoring. The trend was to offshore, but now people are like, ‘OK, we’ve got to rethink our supply chain and bring stuff closer to home because of these issues.’ But (it) isn’t a quick fix; that’s more of a long-term solution.”

Regarding the effect of the war between Russia and Ukraine on the supply chain, Robb said employers locally are “hardly even starting to feel the impact of that,” but it’s expected to worsen over time.

The full Job Insights report is at expresspros.com/jobinsights-us.

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