The Top Staffing and Recruiting Trends for 2018

Staffing and Recruiting Trends

What are the top trends that are shaping the staffing industry in 2018? What do staffing pros see as top priorities? Opportunities? Obstacles? For the eighth consecutive year, we asked and you answered: More than 1,400 staffing and recruiting professionals worldwide, from firms of all sizes operating in all sectors, weighed in with their thoughts on the current staffing landscape.

In North America specifically, more than 900 respondents provided insight on what’s affecting their firms in 2018. They shared their outlook on future performance and revenue growth, top priorities and challenges for 2018, and their outlook on the economy and technology.

Here are just a few of the many key takeaways from the 2018 North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report: The Industry’s Outlook for 2018. Get your copy of the full report here.

Optimism for 2018 (within reason)

Staffing professionals are expecting big things for 2018, but they’re keeping their expectations grounded, compared to past years. Seventy-five percent of respondents expect to see their revenue increase in 2018 over the past year, slightly down from the 80 percent figure from last year.

This grounded optimism is reflected in other predictions as well. Sixty-two percent of respondents think billable hours will increase (compared to 69 percent last year). On the plus side, expectations for increased hiring needs are higher than ever (70 percent compared to an already robust 69 percent from the previous year.)

What’s changed?  One possible explanation is a dip in confidence about the current economy and business climate. A full 68 percent of respondents are very or somewhat concerned about the rate of economic growth and more than half of respondents are concerned about healthcare policies and inflation.

Technology Takes Precedent

Technology is moving at a blistering pace and staffing firms are taking notice. More than half (52 percent) of staffing firms anticipate an increase in tech spending in 2018, compared to forty percent last year.

Automation remains a hot topic for staffing firms. Twenty-three percent rank automation as a top priority and 36 percent rank it as a top challenge. Still, the potential for significant opportunity remains. More than a third (35 percent) of firms don’t automate during the prospecting, client engagement, or account management stages. And about 40 percent don’t automate candidate selection, screening, or nurturing.

Need more convincing to embrace automation? Forty percent of respondents say automation’s greatest value to increased efficiencies and the same amount say its biggest benefit is increased engagement.

How do staffing firms feel about digital staffing platforms like Upwork, Shiftgig, Catalant, and others? The jury’s still out. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they’re unsure whether these platforms will hurt or help their business. The good news: slightly more respondents say they’ll help their business than those who say they’ll hurt it (23 percent to 16 percent).

Candidate experience matters (but who’s responsible?)

The candidate experience is arguably more important than ever. Why? Staffing firms have an unprecedented incentive to make their candidates happy. Candidate-related concerns dominate the results of the survey. Candidate acquisition is again one of the top three priorities for staffing firms (42 percent say it’s a top priority), and the talent shortage is once again the top challenge for staffing professionals (64 percent). Perhaps most alarmingly, only 13 percent of respondents redeploy at least half of their candidates. In all these cases, an improved candidate experience can have a dramatic positive impact.

If you do decide to prioritize the candidate experience (and you should), who’s responsible? Respondents have mixed views. Forty-eight percent say individual recruiters are responsible and 45 percent say it’s a shared responsibility. We side with the 45: delivering a truly rewarding candidate experience is something the whole firm contributes to, regardless of who’s on the front lines with candidates.

Recruiting Trends


Referrals Are The New King of the Hill

Another reason to focus on the candidate experience? Referrals are critical to your firm’s ability to place new candidates. Referrals from existing candidates jumps to the top of the list as the single best source of talent this year. Nearly 30 percent say referrals are the absolute best source of high-quality talent, and 62 percent place them in their top three. Delivering a great candidate experience can pay off not just for filling a position today, but also for sourcing other candidates in the future via positive referrals.

Referrals are important for growing your client base as well. If you want to bring in new business (11-25% of a typical staffing firm’s revenue), referrals from happy clients are key. How should you best bolster your relationship with existing clients? To keep client relationships going strong, firms cite consistent communication with hiring managers as the best strategy (86 percent), followed by quarterly business reviews (51 percent) and performance scorecards (38 percent).

Don’t sleep on the value of customer satisfaction. Although it was last year’s number one metric, customer satisfaction fell to third place this year on the top metrics used to measure the recruiting/recruitment delivery process, behind fill rate and hit rate. While production numbers are important for profitability (the top priority for staffing firms in 2018), you’ll be able to sustain that success only by delivering an incredible customer experience.

2018 looks to be a pivotal and profitable year for staffing firms poised to handle the challenges ahead. Are you ready to be proactive—about owning the candidate experience, embracing new technology, and making new ground? This year will be your chance to find out.

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.

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