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77% of executives plan to hire in the months ahead, according to a new poll

  • July 08, 2021

Last week, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its latest employment situation summary with the U.S. economy adding 850,000 jobs in June. On Thursday, West Monroe published its Quarterly Executive Poll detailing hiring expectations for the months ahead, cybersecurity preparedness, investments to digitize business operations and more.

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Executive hiring plans

Overall, the West Monroe poll included responses from 150 U.S. executives. A portion of the poll asked respondents to detail their third-quarter hiring plans. More than three-quarters of respondents (77%) said they expect to hire additional workers in the third quarter. About one-in-five respondents (19%) expected “little to no change” in the third quarter, and 4% said they “expect to lay off more people.”

“Increased hiring will bring additional impacts and challenges as organizations are still trying to pivot toward their hybrid work models,” said Mike Hughes, managing partner, advisory and transformation at West Monroe. “Organizations will need to balance bringing on new talent while they are also “reboarding” or adjusting their current employee base to new ways of working.”

Hughes described this situation as a “double whammy” of sorts for “HR, IT and business leaders who are already exhausted from helping their businesses adapt during the pandemic.”

Hiring and resourcing challenges

The survey also asked respondents to provide feedback about the “biggest challenge in hiring and/or resourcing” in the third quarter. About half of respondents (51%) said “not enough people with the right skill set” and 16% said “heightened competition from other employers” were the biggest third-quarter hiring and resourcing challenges. Not being able to “keep up with turnover/attrition” (11%) and “paying people their asking salary/wage” (9%) were other top responses.

“The “not enough people with the right skill set” challenge is a culmination of many factors: Millions of people changed occupations and employers during the pandemic, populations have shifted from urban to suburban and rural areas, and new skill sets are in higher demand,” Hughes said.

These factors have heightened the “focus on skilling, reskilling and upskilling a company’s existing workforce or incoming workforces to gain the skills it needs to keep up with consumer needs and demands across industries,” Hughes continued.

Opportunities and threats

Respondents were also asked about the “biggest threat” to their businesses and company opportunities in the third quarter. Nearly half of respondents (49%) selected “hiring/retention of workforce” as the biggest threat to their business with other top responses including cyberattacks (13%), inflation (10%) and “adapting to new remote/hybrid work” (9%).

Overall, mergers and acquisitions topped the list of opportunities for 18% of respondents, followed by “connecting and using new digital technologies” (17%) and “market expansion due to more digital/remote business” (17%). One in ten respondents said “accessing and using data to make real-time decisions” was the biggest third-quarter opportunity.

Cybersecurity and IT budgets

In recent months, a string of high-profile cyberattacks has caused disruptions across critical infrastructure and supply chains. The West Monroe survey asked respondents whether they’d been “hit by a cyber attack, ransomware or breach” this year.

While the vast majority of respondents (81%) said they had not suffered a breach, cyberattack or ransomware attack this year, 16% said they were hit by such an incident. Despite these risks, 32% of respondents said they had not conducted a cybersecurity incident response drill this year.

The switch to fully remote and hybrid work models presents new cybersecurity challenges for companies and IT teams as employees log on from their home networks and personal devices. Marc Tanowitz, managing partner, advisory and transformation at West Monroe discussed the potential for increased IT budgets in the months ahead.

“Many of our clients have spent the last several years transforming their IT operations to enable more of a self-service approach and to automate many of their activities. This has created scalability to allow them to continue to service their internal stakeholders as the business evolves,” Tanowitz said.

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While companies that have “transformed their IT organizations may not find that it is necessary to increase staff depending on the efficacy of those investments,” Tanowitz said, IT organizations that have not invested in these transformations “will likely find the need to increase the scale of their staffing levels to meet business demands.”

“Companies that have not invested in automation and self-service may need at least one additional IT end user support resource for each 100 to 125 employees they are required to support,” Tanowitz said.

Digitizing operating models

The poll asked respondents about company investments to make operating models “more digital.” More than half of respondents (60%) said they are investing in “automated, iterative, data-driven management” and 53% are using “cloud-based platforms leveraging common frameworks” to digitize their operating models

In order, integrated experiences (49%), “broad access to data and decentralized decision making” (47%) and “real time data drives algorithmic decision making” (36%) round out the top five investments.

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