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The Real Hiring Outlook for the Rest of 2022

Looking for the lowdown on the hiring outlook for the rest of 2022?

You’ve come to the right place.

Out of a sense of masochistic curiosity, when the wind shifted earlier this summer and people started to murmur about a recession, we put out an informal survey to our clients and their peers. We asked:

  1. Do you plan to increase, decrease, or stay the same with your hiring for the remainder of 2022?
  2. What hire would make the biggest impact on your business?
  3. What role(s) have been the most challenging to fill?
  4. What business issue keeps you up at night?

Thank you all for participating.

Here’s what we heard, and what we’ve observed happening in our industry. (That is, digital marketing and PR firms, mainly working in healthcare, corporate comms and social impact/advocacy space).

Are things slowing down?

“What? No!” is what 85% of you told us.

57% of those that answered our hiring outlook survey said they were marching forward with scheduled plans. 28% said they would increase hiring, and 15% said they would slow down. An August 22nd WSJ article agrees, citing that digital transformation continues to fuel growth for ad agencies.

Still, there are signs that companies are being more deliberative about hiring.

Part of this is the typical slowdown we see during the summer months, particularly after the feeding frenzy of the past two quarters. Not only are employees taking advantage of the first real open travel season since the pandemic, it’s a natural midpoint to evaluate headcount and utilization numbers against work booked through the end of the year. Hiring usually rebounds with a fury in September.

What’s different about this year is layoffs in the tech and retail sectors, inflation, and other macroeconomic trends that are unnerving everyone, despite a strong jobs report in July. (In fact, the U.S. economy added over double the number of jobs that economists were expecting.)

But, if your agency’s clients have been slower to commit to budgets, or the new business pipeline has gone cold, it’s suddenly become harder to get new hires approved.

Still a talent shortage

Seems we’ll never have enough writers in the healthcare space! That was the most common answer to our “most challenging to fill” question. In terms of business impact, many of you pointed to roles that would grow revenues, or be able to prove out return on marketing investment. That is, business development and sales, paid media planners and analysts. This maps to our search activity right now.

Biggest hiring outlook concerns

If we had asked “What keeps you up at night?” last year, we would’ve heard: Reopening plans, the Great Resignation and finding enough people to do the work. This year’s top answers are:

  • Where new business is coming from
  • What post-pandemic spending will look like
  • Diversity & inclusion practices
  • Retention & training, especially for junior, remote hires

And the last thing that keeps you up at night, and keeps me up at night: If we pause on hiring now, will we be scrambling later?

The hiring outlook

Am I the only one feeling a little déjà vu? The last time we hit the breaks in recruiting in April 2020, it kicked off a ferocious hiring frenzy nine months later. Suddenly, we saw such a massive talent shortage that it demanded everyone to put on their recruiter hat. The trouble with turning things off is that they’re not easy to turn back on. Same thing is true with new business efforts. It takes a while to rebuild momentum again.

Richard Cho, Chief Recruiting Officer at Gem, describes the problem with reactive recruiting:

“I want to stress this because it’s a constant in every downturn: we bounce back. And every time we bounce back, businesses demand a re-growth strategy. If you’re a company with an established value proposition and solid fundamentals, you’ll always need to hire aggressively again. And I’m not talking three years from now. I mean a return to aggressive hiring within 6-10 months of a decision to freeze it. In each of the downturns I’ve worked through, I felt unprepared as a recruiting professional when the hiring faucet turned back on again.”

So, how can you come out ahead? If your company’s hiring outlook has turned tepid, here are a few ideas:

  1. Evaluate the talent hired quickly in the last 18 months. If there are outliers in terms of performance or outsized salaries, now may be the right time to identify a replacement.
  2. Prioritize inclusive recruiting practices.
  3. Think about where your next hires are coming from and getting cracking on a pipeline, including upgrading your employee referral program, identifying new talent sources, and maintaining visibility with employer branding.

Whatever the market decides to do in September, it always makes sense to be cultivating relationships with prospective employees.

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