Hays survey shows skills shortage will challenge US employers’ ambitious growth plans
Hiring could be even more difficult in 2018 as employers compete for a shrinking talent pool

January 30, 2018 - Tampa, Florida – Employers have high expectations for business and headcount growth in 2018, but a severe skills shortage in the fastest growing sectors could hinder plans, according to the 2018 US Salary Guide from Hays, the world’s largest specialist recruitment agency.

Based on a survey of more than 3,000 people, the Hays US 2018 Salary Guide asked US professionals, managers, and employers about current business, compensation, and workforce trends.

More than half of employers say they will increase headcount next year, but three-quarters are experiencing a skills shortage in their industry. Skills shortages are already affecting business, with 92 percent of employers surveyed saying it is having a negative impact on areas such as productivity, staff turnover, and employee satisfaction. With high expectations for staffing level growth in 2018, this will further challenge an already tight talent market. This will be especially true in sectors such as construction and life sciences or pharmaceuticals, where more employers said they felt skills shortages. The combination of high demand and lack of available candidates is leading Hays to recommend that employers be proactive about attracting and retaining their workforce.

However, Hays has found that employers may be missing key tools for talent attraction and retention. The most common ways employers were making their company attractive are promoting company culture (48%) and competitive salary packages (43%). Asked about competition for talent, employers cited companies that can pay more as the biggest threat, and said salary was the biggest motivator for employees leaving. However, when individuals were asked why they left their last job, just one in five said salary was the main reason. The most common reason given was career progression, indicating that by focusing on compensation and culture employers may be missing the opportunity to promote career growth opportunities internally and externally to better find and secure candidates.

“Competing on salary alone is never effective, and many candidates tell us they are looking for a company that meets their needs beyond a paycheck,” said Dan Rodriguez, Hays US managing director. “Employers should make sure company salaries align with market rate, and then look for other ways to differentiate themselves in the market. From a strong culture and work-life balance, to great career opportunities, and the right benefits, employers who can demonstrate that they are a great place to work will have the talent they need to succeed.”

Key findings

High economic and business optimism is driving hiring
Economic confidence and business activity growth are high. More than half of employers say the economy is strengthening, two-thirds saw activity increase in 2017 and three-quarters say business activity will increase in 2018. This is translating to ambitious hiring plans – 45 percent increased full time headcount in 2017 and a huge 59 percent expect to increase it again in 2018. Contingent staffing levels are also increasing. Three-quarters of employers used temporary staff last year, and of those almost half (43%) increased use. Looking ahead, 41 percent intend to increase again in 2018.

The skills shortage is negatively affecting business, and ambitious hiring expectations will worsen the shortage
Finding the talent they need to meet business objectives could be a challenge as most employers (73%) say there is a skills shortage for their industry. Employers say the main reasons for the shortage are a lack of available training and development, and fewer people entering their industry.

Salaries are increasing steadily, but employees aren’t convinced their wage is competitive
Almost three-quarters (71%) of employers surveyed increased salaries in 2017, and 41 percent increased by more than three percent, with similar increases expected in 2018. Despite these increases, only half of employees say their compensation is at market rate and two-thirds of managers have increased a salary offering to secure a specific candidate, indicating that many companies are not keeping up with market expectations.

Supporting statistics

  • 54 percent of respondents say the US economy will strengthen in the next six to 12 months
  • 64 percent of employers say business activity increased in 2017 and 76 percent say it will increase in 2018
  • 45 percent of employers increased full time headcount in 2017 and 59 percent say they will increase headcount again in 2018
  • 43 percent of employers increased temporary or contract staffing levels in 2017 and 41 percent say they will increase staff levels again in 2018
  • 73 percent of employers say their industry has a moderate to extreme skills shortage and 92 percent say the shortage is negatively affecting their business.
  • 71 percent of employers increased salaries in 2017
  • 29 percent increased salaries by less than 3 percent
  • 26 percent increased salaries between three and 4.9 percent
  • 16 percent increased salaries by more than 5 percent
  • 77 percent of employers say they will increase salaries
  • 33 percent will increase salaries by less than three percent
  • 31 percent will increase salaries between three and 4.9 percent
  • 13 percent will increase salaries by more than five percent

Despite these steady salary increases, only 44 percent of professionals say their salary is competitive with market rate

Hiring managers are taking salary adjustments into their own hands with 62 percent saying they have increased a salary offer to secure a specific candidate.

Regional trends

Florida employers saw high business activity growth in 2017, with two-thirds saying activity increased, and three-quarters expect further growth in 2018. This is driving hiring plans with more than half (58%) saying they intend to increase headcount in the next 12 months. However, this could be challenging as 75 percent of employers report a skills shortage in their industry. Florida respondents, who came largely from skilled sectors such as construction and IT, reported feeling the most competition for talent from companies that can pay higher salaries. Overall, 78 percent increased salaries in 2017, and almost half (48%) say increases were above three percent, or what Hays considers “cost of living” increases. Similar increases are planned for the year to come.

Georgia respondents are more likely than average to say the economy is strengthening and business activity is on the way up. This is translating to ambitious hiring plans, with 54 percent of employers saying headcount will increase in the next year. However, with 72 percent of employers saying they face a skills shortage, finding the right people to fill those roles could be a challenge. One-third of employers say companies that can pay more are their biggest competition, and just 41 percent of employees think their current salary is competitive with market rate. Hays recommends reviewing salaries and rates, and once they align with market rate looking for other ways to stand out as an employer.

With one of the most optimistic viewpoints on the national economy, Texas respondents are looking at a busy 2018. Almost two-thirds see the economy as strengthening, while 78 percent say business activity will increase in the year to come. To keep up with this growth, 64 percent say they will increase full time headcount, and 43 percent will increase their contingent workforce. Asked how they were attracting talent, employers said they were focusing on competitive salaries (48%) and promoting company culture (47%). However, less than a third are promoting career progression or training and development, despite career progression being the main reason Texans say they left their last job. This represents a missed opportunity for employers to attract and retain with clear, well-communicated career opportunities.

For more information please contact:

Caitlin Nobes
Marketing and Communication Team Lead
Hays US

About Hays US

Hays opened its first office in the United States in 2009, and in December 2014 acquired Veredus, a Tampa-based IT staffing leader in contract and temporary roles. Now operating in the US as Hays, powered by Veredus, the company is quickly being recognized as one of the leaders in specialist staffing, with 12 offices across the US to date and growing. Specialist divisions include Accounting & Finance, Construction, Property & Facilities Management, Information Technology, Life Sciences, Oil & Gas and Resources & Mining.

Hays Specialist Recruitment US is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hays plc. Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2017 the Group employed 10,000 staff operating from 250 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms.