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Staffing Industry Trends: Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

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A pessimist and an optimist—both in the staffing industry— walk into a bar. The optimist says, “The sky’s the limit. Revenue continues to grow and repeat client business is booming.” The pessimist says, “The sky is falling. Annual placement growth is in decline, and the staffing industry has reached its peak.”  

So, who’s right? Both of them. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic but also cause for caution, according to our findings from Bullhorn’s 2016 North American Staffing and Recruiting Trends Survey. Here’s a summary of what staffing industry trends to celebrate, what to watch out for, and what you can do about it.

Expectations Vs Reality

The Sky’s The Limit: 87 percent of surveyed staffing employees expect their compensation to grow in 2016.
The Sky is Falling: Only 63 percent received a raise in 2015. This rate has remained consistent over the last five years.
Takeaway:  Excellent revenue performance in the industry has led to optimism about future pay, but the gap between those staffing employees who expect raises and those who receive them is pronounced. Be transparent about your firm’s compensation plan. Specific benchmarks that dictate your company’s guidelines for raise distribution help avoid the disappointment that comes with misplaced expectations.
Low Fill Rates

The Sky’s The Limit: The technology industry is a huge segment for staffing firms, and the industry is only growing.
The Sky is Falling: Jobs in the technology industry had the lowest average fill rate (44 percent) and hit rate (38 percent) of any industry in 2015.
Takeaway: Maximizing placement opportunities is critical for recruiters in tech. Respondents who recruited for tech jobs in 2015 rated social media as their most preferred source for candidates, but ATS and referrals by candidates far outpaced social media as a placement source. Encourage your team to make the most of your firm’s staffing software even as you explore alternative avenues for recruitment.

The Sky’s The Limit: Digitization presents staffing firms with new opportunities to provide qualified candidates.
The Sky is Falling: 73 percent of staffing firms experienced a shortage of skilled candidates in 2015. Manufacturing (79 percent) and technology (77 percent) fared the worst in this respect.
Takeaway: Skilled labor is still hard to find, and social recruiting hasn’t made the impact that many have hoped it would. As acceptance of digital technology increases, firms can expect to see improved rates. Recruiters who’ve had trouble finding skilled candidates may want to look at similar industries for more opportunities. Biotechnology recruiters encounter the lowest skill shortage rate, 64 percent.

The Sky’s The Limit: Two out of 5 staffing CEOs predicted a revenue increase of at least 25 percent for 2016.
The Sky is Falling:  Only 46 firms in the U.S. had a compound annual growth rate of more than 25 percent over the five-year span from 2010 to 2014, according to SIA’s 2015 Fastest Growing Staffing Firms.
Takeaway: Given recent success, staffing firms have high hopes for future revenue gains. But for every upturn, there’s a corresponding downturn. Companies that want to maximize growth and safeguard against a potential decline in revenue need to use all available staffing solutions at their disposal to drive productivity.  

The Sky’s The Limit: Staffing firms are meeting or exceeding their revenue goals at a higher rate than at any point in the last six years.
The Sky is Falling: 67 percent of IT staffing firms reported total placement growth in 2015, down from 78 percent in 2014.
Takeaway: 2015 was a banner year for staffing in many respects, but the decrease in firms experiencing growth in their total number of placements could indicate the beginnings of an industry downturn. Should revenue results take a dip, customer relationships are crucial to success. Winning new customers or finding new opportunities with existing clients will lead to success in even the toughest business climate.

What Does This All Mean? There are more opportunities than ever for staffing firms, but firms shouldn’t assume that the recent success will last forever. Firms that are proactive in managing their customer relationships are primed to take advantage of the current upturn and avoid disaster in the case of a downturn.


Interested in 2019 staffing and recruiting trends? Check out Bullhorn’s Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) site to explore the industry insights that matter to your business.