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Despite Recession Worries, Companies Are Still Hiring

Despite Recession Worries, Companies Are Still Hiring

April 12, 2023
76% of chief human resources officers expect hiring to remain unchanged or increase within the next six months.

Even with daily news of layoffs and expectations of a recession,  75% of Chief HR Officers (CHRO) said that they expect hiring to remain steady or even increase.

That's according to the Conference Board CHRO Confidence Index for the first quarter of 2023.

The survey also found that while nearly half (45%) of CHROs expect more employees to stay at their current companies, many are concerned about workers jumping ship. Indeed, 19 percent are expecting more workers to leave. To attract and keep workers, CHROs say they are prioritizing the strengthening of culture and the development of the workforce this year.

Overall, CHRO confidence in Q1 stands at 57 (a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses). The index tracks CHROs’ sentiment surrounding workforce growth, stability, and stress by focusing on hiring, retention, and engagement.

This marks the first quarterly measure of CHRO Confidence from The Conference Board. A total of 172 CHROs participated in the survey, which was fielded from January 16 through February 10. Key findings include:

Despite recent news of layoffs in some sectors, 3 in 4 CHROs expect hiring to remain unchanged or increase.

  • 76% of CHROs expect hiring to remain unchanged or increase within the next six months.

The Great Resignation hasn’t ended: 1 in 5 CHROs expect a decrease in retention.

  • 19% of CHROs expect retention to decrease in the next 6 months.
  • 45% expect employee retention to increase, and 36% expect no change.

Nearly half of CHROs say employee engagement is increasing.

  • 45% of CHROs report that employee engagement has increased in the last 6 months.
  • 14% report a decrease.
  • In a September 2022 survey of 1,600 employees, 27% reported an increase in employee engagement and 30% reported a decrease. 

CHRO Confidence vs. CEO Confidence

The following section draws comparisons between the Q1 CHRO Confidence Index and the Q1 Measure of CEO Confidence. The latter is a quarterly survey of US CEOs by The Conference Board in collaboration with The Business Council.

CHROs are more optimistic about hiring than CEOs.

  • 42% of CHROs expect hiring to increase.
  • Only 37% of CEOs expect to expand their workforce over the next 12 months, down from 44% in Q4 2022.
  • 57% of CEOs report some problems attracting qualified workers, down from 68% in Q4 2022.
    • Of those, only 17% now report hiring difficulties that cut across the organization, rather than being concentrated in a few key areas—down from 39% in Q4 2022.

CHROs are prioritizing the development of leaders at more than two times the rate of CEOs.

  • 47% of CHROs plan to focus on strengthening the leadership pipeline in 2023—the top response. That’s compared to 20% of CEOs.

While CHROs and CEOs agree on the importance of culture and leadership to retain talent, CHROs are placing a higher priority on these efforts.

  • 34% of CHROs plan to strengthen organizational culture to retain talent, compared to 18% of CEOs.
  • 30% of CHROs plan to prioritize the development of workforce capabilities, compared to 19% of CEOs. 

CEOs prioritize innovation, agility, and resilience more than CHROs.

  • 16% of CEOs prioritize building a more innovative culture, compared to only 4% of CHROs.
  • 15% of CEOs prioritize building agile teams, compared to only 4% of CHROs.
  • 19% of CEO prioritize building a resilient workforce to prepare for future challenges, compared to 15% of CHROs.

“While both CEOs and CHROs are concerned about the ability to hire workers, CHROs are acutely aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the workforce, and the challenges of finding and retaining talent,” said Rebecca Ray, executive vice president of Human Capital at The Conference Board, in a statement.

“Indeed, CHROs know the greater time and effort that is now necessary to successfully hire someone," Ray added. "They are also concerned that critical talent, if not developed internally, may be difficult to find in the current labor market. It follows that they would place a greater emphasis on improving culture and developing the workforce, especially if nearly 20% expect retention to decrease in the next six months. CEOs are focused on navigating their organizations through a sea of uncertainty and change. If economic volatility and gray swan events continue to be the norm, organizational agility, resilience, and innovation will be key to a thriving business.”

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