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Report finds North American recruiting firms optimistic, two-thirds to add staff in 2017

February 15, 2017

2017 looks like a banner year for the staffing industry in comparison to last year, according to Bullhorn Inc.’s 2017 North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report: Above and Beyond Business as Usual. Bullhorn, a Boston-based staffing software provider, based the report on a survey of agency recruiting professionals.

More than 75% of staffing and recruiting professionals surveyed at the very end of 2016 predicted they would meet or exceed their revenue goals: 42% expected to exceed them, 36% hoped to meet them, and 22% prepared for a shortfall. By comparison, staffing firms are widely optimistic in 2017; 80% expect some revenue growth and 17% expect revenue growth of more than 25%.

Recruiting firms are also bullish overall on their hiring plans for 2017. More than two-thirds of companies, 69%, anticipate hiring needs will increase and 67% expect an increase in billable hours. Close to half, 48%, said their temporary placements will rise.

Generally speaking, the larger the firm’s revenue, the more they expect hiring needs to increase in 2017. The smallest firms — those with less than $1 million in revenue — are decidedly less optimistic. Only 41% expect hiring needs to increase, compared to 75% of firms with more than $10 million in revenue.

The report also found increasing profitability and driving revenue topped the list of staffing and recruiting priorities in 2017, ranked as primary goals by 56% and 47%, respectively. Achieving financial stability took precedence over branch expansion plans, as firms also indicated acquisitions and offshore partnerships among lower priorities.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Differing perspectives on global economic uncertainty. Respondents overwhelmingly said domestic issues outweighed global concerns. Overall, the lowest-ranked areas of concern correlated to international affairs, including currency fluctuation, international trade, refugee displacement, and Brexit. Three quarters said they’re “indifferent” or “not concerned” about Brexit or refugee displacement – 75% and 72%, respectively – and more than half – 55% – expressed “low concern” about international trade – despite the fact that global market shifts could negatively affect domestic hiring plans.
  • Divided thoughts on the new presidential administration. Following the contentious 2016 US presidential election, staffing and recruiting leaders remained divided on the affect of the Trump administration. The percentage of respondents who said they’re “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” almost equaled the number who felt “indifferent” or “not concerned” – 48% to 51%, respectively. On the other hand, 71% of staffing firms said they’re “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the potential disruption to their businesses sparked by healthcare policies and regulations; 35% are “very concerned” about it.
  • Increasing challenges of talent shortages. Sixty-one percent of staffing and recruiting professionals said shortages of qualified talent represented one of their biggest expected challenges of the year. Information technology skills dominated the list of skills shortages most reported by recruiters. Engineers and developers, especially those specializing in Java, topped the list of hardest-to-find skills.
  • Tapping into existing and new clients for revenue growth. Nearly 80% of staffing and recruiting firms said more than half their revenue would come from current accounts. The majority of North American staffing firms – 57% of those surveyed – anticipated that revenue from new clients would account for less than a quarter of total revenues.
  • Focusing more on clients than candidates. Ninety-two percent of respondents said they provided “good” or “excellent” service to clients and 86% to candidates which showed that staffing firms are marginally more focused on serving clients than candidates.
  • Neglecting internal databases for untapped candidates. Staffing and recruiting professionals ranked existing internal candidate databases as the best source for identifying quality candidates, but nearly 60% said those databases accounted for less than half of their placements.
  • Lacking key performance metrics to keep business. More than one-third of staffing and recruiting firms said they didn’t measure client satisfaction, and less than half didn’t measure candidate satisfaction, which suggested that companies could be blindsided by negative feedback and lost business.

The global survey was conducted among 1,440 staffing and recruiting professionals from December 2016 to January 2017 and this report is based on 806 responses from individuals working for companies with US or Canadian headquarters.

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