Trends in Human Resources: Notes and Queries From Our Recent HR.com Webinar

By Robert Half on November 23, 2021 at 12:00pm

By Randall Micek, Robert Half regional vice president

I recently hosted a virtual presentation for national HR.com members, Robert Half clients and others to highlight the current most in-demand HR positions, skills and credentials, along with trends in human resources shaping the workloads for HR teams. Hundreds of people attended the webinar, but I’d like to share with those who may have missed it some of the key highlights and takeaways, related resources, and some of the audience Q&As.

HR.com is the largest social network for HR professionals and a trusted industry resource for education, career development, and compliance, and Robert Half is proud to partner with the organization to help HR professionals staff in-demand roles and assist HR talent in finding new jobs. Webinar attendees were primarily HR managers and directors, company leadership and those looking to move up the career ladder in the HR world.

I covered a lot of ground during this webinar, but if you need a one-sentence takeaway, here it is:

Starting salaries are expected to increase by 3.8% across the board in 2022.

Almost all of the other trends in human resources we discussed in the webinar are a cause or effect of this upward pressure on compensation.

Workers take control

Top talent has always been in demand, but few can remember a time when it seemed so scarce. Workers have been quitting their jobs at record rates in a phenomenon dubbed the Great Resignation. This has led to labor shortages — the issue most likely to keep executives up at night.

As the quit rate rises, so does pay. The three months ending in September saw a record jump in wages as employers pulled out all the stops to attract and retain talent. Robert Half research revealed almost half of employers are offering signing bonuses (48%) and cash incentives (46%) as well as beefed-up salaries.

Despite headwinds like the Great Resignation, business confidence has rarely been higher. Firms anticipate strong growth next year, which is why hiring is near or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The impact of remote work

The ability to work remotely is now standard across many industries. Remote workers who saw improvements in their work-life balance have no desire to resume their daily commutes.

Luckily for employers, this isn’t a zero-sum game. Companies that offer remote work arrangements stand to benefit from:

  • Better morale and performance
  • An edge in hiring and retention
  • A deeper candidate pool

With two-thirds (66%) of employers saying they plan to offer remote work even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it’s clear that telecommuting is here to stay. Full-time remote working, however, may begin to taper off. Some managers feel something is lost when their teams have zero face time. And, for their part, workers miss aspects of office-based culture, such as in-person collaboration with their boss.

In a poll taken during the webinar, most attendees said their firm’s employees wanted to work three days a week from home.

HR teams have never been busier

When COVID-19 hit, HR gained a seat in all the mission-critical discussions — and it remains a key player in the C-suite as never before. Leave of absence management, employee relations, health and safety policies, emotional wellness — these are just a few of the areas where HR stepped up to the plate during the pandemic.

Few expect this skyrocketing workload to tail off any time soon. In fact, most people expect it to increase further as more employees return to offices, with HR teams responsible for crafting new protocols for the post-COVID workplace.

HR talent is hard to find

Skilled HR candidates are scarce. You need to act quickly and decisively to hire them, either outbidding your competitors on compensation or offering a mission-driven reason why the candidate would want to work for you (a crucial differentiator for nonprofits). More than half (53%) of companies are offering signing bonuses for new HR employees.

These are the hottest jobs in HR right now:

  • HR assistant
  • HR benefits specialist
  • HR director
  • HR generalist
  • HR manager
  • HR recruiter

The burnout risk of being a jack-of-all-trades

HR encompasses a vast range of duties and specialties, and the higher up the ladder you go, the more skills you need. These may include:

  • Coaching
  • Community relations
  • Knowledge of multistate or international tax policies
  • Risk mitigation
  • Succession planning

Throw in COVID-related responsibilities, and it’s easy to understand why 41% of HR employees feel more burned out than a year ago. In the same survey, 44% of companies say they plan to ease the strain by outsourcing recruiting functions to talent solutions firms like Robert Half.

Why HR matters

The Great Resignation. Labor shortages. The demand for skilled talent in a hot hiring market.

Guess which department is front and center for all of these trends?

And that’s exactly where human resources needs to be. Now more than ever, organizations need to take care of their people, and only with a strong HR team can they make that happen.

Q & A

Participants submitted some excellent questions before and during the webinar, but I couldn’t address all of them. Here are a few of the queries we didn’t get around to, along with my subsequent answers.

Are sign-on bonuses now the norm vs. the exception?

In the current environment, don’t be surprised if a candidate requests a signing bonus once an official offer has been made. Top candidates have leverage, but you also have some cards to play. For example, you could add new conditions to the offer letter, such as increasing the enforcement period of the non-compete clause.

How does Robert Half calculate the 3.8% salary increase projection for 2022?

The 3.8% figure is the national average increase at the midpoint of all the starting salaries at companies of all sizes and industries across the United States that we list in the guide. It’s just an overall average. We do provide local market variances in the guide, though, and our Salary Calculator adjusts salaries to local markets.

Can you share some success strategies while recruiting during and after the pandemic?

We’re very proud of how our teams pivoted almost overnight in 2020 to a remote talent solutions strategy. In situations like the COVID-19 outbreak, the key is to act quickly and decisively and not worry too much about your inevitable missteps. Also, try to focus on the positives — how the pandemic bulldozed geographical barriers to talent, for example.

How can smaller companies that are hiring compete with larger companies that can pay higher wages?

Candidates are drawn to career-changing opportunities. Sell them the idea that your company offers a fast track to success that a larger firm may not. If you can, promise them active involvement in company decision-making at the highest level and input on the firm’s strategic direction.

How can a company like Robert Half help us increase our diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts?

Robert Half is an equal opportunity employer and an affirmative action company. Our goal is to find the best candidate for the job, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity or other criteria.

That said, one of the reasons we partner with organizations like the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) is to broaden our recruiting network, ensuring we bring clients a wide variety of candidates. We want to attract talent from all communities because that’s what our clients want, too.

That’s a broad-brushstroke summary of what trends in human resources companies and their HR teams need to know right now. You can dig into the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half for more details.

Missed the webcast? You can watch a replay here. It is free to attend, but registration is required and HRCI credit is not available for the on-demand version.

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