Despite a recent barrage of headlines about inflation, recession and layoffs, more than three-quarters of CEOs surveyed say they plan to increase or maintain their headcount in 2023.
While businesses continue to look for areas where they can trim costs, the workforce is one asset bosses are keen to keep intact, according to the “CEO Outlook Report” from the hiring operating system Greenhouse and Zogby Analytics, which fielded responses from 300 CEOs in the U.S. in January.
Real estate is ripest for the chopping block, with more than half of bosses polled saying they would scale back their companies’ footprint before they’d consider shedding workers.
“The biggest cost of most businesses today is their employees, because that’s where the value is created,” said Daniel Chait, cofounder and CEO of Greenhouse, whose clients include DoorDash, Lyft and Wayfair. While a certain amount of belt-tightening is a given during a time of fiscal uncertainty, he noted, “as we look at the ins and outs of the economy in a given quarter or a given year, you see a consistent emphasis by leaders on the need for talent.”
Pointing to an unemployment rate that continues to tumble, Chait observed, “Here we are in a downturn with all the challenges, between a war and a pandemic that’s lingering and inflation and interest rates, and we’re at 3.4% unemployment and falling. So, I do think there’s something structural that’s changed in the economy.”
CEOs in the Greenhouse survey said they expect high wages, job security and healthcare benefits to be top priorities among candidates negotiating new roles this year. Nearly 4 in 10 leaders expect prospective employees to demand some form of flexible work arrangement.
Flying in the face of recession fears, the study revealed that more than 8 in 10 CEOs are very or somewhat optimistic about the economy in the first six months of 2023. They expressed even greater optimism about the second half of the year.
The study comes on the heels of a surprise surge in hiring last month, when 517,000 jobs were added in the U.S., the biggest bump since last July. The industries enjoying the greatest gains were leisure and hospitality, which added 128,000 workers, and healthcare, with 58,000.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn’s latest “Workforce Report” noted a hiring uptick across a range of industries in the month of December, including retail and farming, ranching and forestry. Hiring increased month-over-month across 8 of 20 metro areas tracked by LinkedIn, among them Detroit, Boston and Chicago. Unsurprisingly, tech, information and media suffered the biggest falloff in jobs. (There have been so many layoffs in the tech sector that some news sites have taken to keeping a running tally of them.)
Contrast that with the growing number of large employers in the market for new talent, including Chipotle, which plans to add 15,000 jobs across North America this year; Boeing, eyeing 10,000 new roles; and Moderna, which aims to bolster its talent roster by about 2,000. As for C-suite positions most in demand, a LinkedIn analysis found that four executive titles achieved growth rates exceeding 100% between 2019 and 2022: chief diversity and inclusion officer (up 168%), chief delivery officer (165%), chief people officer (144%) and chief growth officer (117%).
“When you look across sectors, there is a glut of layoffs in technology, but it’s not happening across the board. In other sectors, like finance, you’re actually seeing the need for more people, and they’re hiring more than they ever have before,” noted Jennifer Moss, a workforce strategist in the Toronto area and author of the book “The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It.”
The pandemic’s historic impact on the way we work, our attitudes about work, and hiring trends — not unlike the post-World War 2 era and the dawn of the Information Age — cannot be overstated, as Moss sees it.
“When you face your own mortality, your relationship with everything changes, and work became a different need in our lives — it became secondary, and even tertiary in certain ways, where it was just about keeping yourself safe and your family safe,” she said. “When that shift in mindset happens, the way you feel about work and how you feel identified with it changes. So, we need to really look at the behavioral economics piece of this and understand that it’s a way bigger thing than just an attrition event that’s going to right itself. We are fundamentally different people.”
Despite gloom and doom about the economy and layoffs, “companies’ goals are still present,” even as the workforce remains in transition, observed Shireen El-Maissi, head of people relations and talent acquisition at experiential rewards platform Blueboard, which works with companies like Glassdoor, Salesforce and Shake Shack. “The post-pandemic economy and society are still trying to figure themselves out,” she added.