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Capital Region companies plan to add staff in 2022, but nearly nine in 10 expect hiring challenges

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Pat Bradley

A new business survey finds employers will keep hiring in the new year, but they’re not likely to find recruiting relief.

According to the results of the Fall 2021 Alaant Hiring Index, 86% of Capital Region employers expect recruiting to be difficult – the highest figure since the index began in 2015, while 3 in 4 companies forecast hiring to increase in the new year.

The pandemic has shaken the job market in unprecedented fashion: many businesses lost workers during temporary shutdowns. Many either found new jobs or left the labor force.

Alaant Managing Partner Miriam Dushane says the ball clearly is in the job seekers’ court.

"Employees absolutely have the upper hand. So whether they're currently employed, or they're looking for a position, regardless if they're employed or not, they have a lot more options and/or can hold out for the job that's going to work best for them and their family," said Dushane. "So it's challenging, companies are experiencing growth, they are experiencing the need to hire employees. What I see sometimes happening is that employers are not changing at the rapid pace that employees and job seekers have now changed. And that's really where their gap and that disconnect is between employers wanting things to be done a certain way and employees saying, 'I don't have to do it that way. I can do it this way.' And so that's a big challenge for companies to come together and hire the right people for their organizations."

Dushane says wages are another factor, as small businesses can't always afford to meet salary demands. Hiring strategies include adjusted recruiting processes, from improving the candidate experience and streamlining the interview and hiring processes to expediting job offers.

Capital Region Chamber president Mark Eagan says the federal Paycheck Protection Program tossed many businesses a lifeline but a number still had to lay employees off.

“One of the other challenges was, the federal government was very generous," Eagan said. "If you went on unemployment, there was a period of time that instead of the traditional unemployment, you got an extra $600, then over time, that went from $600, to $300. So there were some companies who were looking to bring folks back in, you know, for more of an entry level position, that that person was making more money staying at home than if they came to work. So since that, that retired in September, and I know that a lot of companies have seen more folks applying for jobs right now. Because I think they realize, you know, they need to they need to get back into the workforce.”

Of employers Alaant surveyed, 67% said they’re most successfully recruiting employees from within their region. Most companies, 53%, say they’re not considering remote employees – but nearly the same percentage, 54%, would consider remote workers if they lived locally. In terms of fastest-growing job opportunities, healthcare topped the list at 40%, followed by IT at 28%.

Dushane says that for the first time since the pandemic started, the majority of employers, 59%, said fewer than half of their staff was telecommuting, and more than half of employers, 55%, said they had returned to a regular in-office schedule. Of those that haven’t, 82% expect to remain a hybrid or fully remote workforce.

"I'm still seeing more companies saying that they're open to some type of hybrid model, and that if not one way, or the other, where this kind of seems like it's one way or the other," Dushane said. "So that is interesting. But again, if the other variants of this COVID continue to, you know, become present in our environment, there may be, you know, changes to that. It's very interesting right now, most of our companies that we're working with are requiring vaccines, and all are following the mask mandates and those types of things. So, yeah, every time we think it's going to get under control or what's going to we're going to start to see some type of you know, new normal, something happens and that flips it on its head again and then everybody's scrambling to figure out what's the next best solution."

Eagan agrees COVID has been a challenge.

"One of the biggest challenges businesses were facing pre COVID, was tied to workforce and hiring people and retaining them and being able to develop them," said Eagan. "But now with COVID, on top of it, and then the other element that often isn't talked about, but what is compounding it right now is we have the highest percentage of baby boomers who are leaving the workforce, a lot more who are leaving today than they were two years ago before the pandemic. So that's, that's even making the issue even more challenging for most businesses."

Dushane says 82% of employers reported a hiring increase in the fall, besting 51% in the spring and 36% last fall. 67% of survey respondents said they were very optimistic or optimistic about job growth in the new year.

Conducted between November 17 and December 10, the survey included responses from 98 hiring and human resource managers from Capital Region companies. Of those, 53% employ 100 or fewer workers, and 47% employ more than 100. You can view the survey here.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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