Survey Shows Both Employees and Employers Face Challenges in Tough Economy

Key Findings:

  • More than half of employers said it is challenging to find skilled
    professionals today; Generation Y workers are the most difficult to recruit.
  • Closely mirroring responses from employers, more than half of workers said
    it is challenging to find a job today.
  • Nearly two-thirds of workers are more likely to try to negotiate a better
    compensation package today than last year.
  • A lack of qualified workers and the higher cost of gas/commuting were among
    the top factors impacting companies’ ability to recruit skilled labor.
  • Many employers are likely to offer reduced work schedules, “bridge” jobs and
    consulting arrangements as an alternative to retirement.
  • The time to fill open positions ranges from four to 14 weeks, with
    senior-level roles demanding the most time.
  • Six-in-10 employers estimate at least a quarter of applicants who contact
    them are not qualified.

MENLO PARK, Calif., and CHICAGO, August 26, 2008 — While many workers are
having a tough time finding suitable employment in today’s uncertain economy,
companies also face challenges finding highly skilled people. According to the
fourth annual Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations (EDGE)
by Robert Half International and, employees rated
the level of challenge in finding a job at 3.56 on a one-to-five sliding scale;
similarly, employers rated the level of challenge in finding qualified
candidates at 3.47.

“A dual hiring environment seems to be taking shape,” said Max Messmer,
chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “Job seekers in some fields are
competing aggressively for open positions, giving employers the edge in those
segments of the hiring market. At the same time, however, companies continue to
face a shortage of highly skilled professionals in fields such as technology and
accounting. These in-demand workers may not be willing to leave secure positions
unless firms extend very attractive job offers.”

The Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations (EDGE) Report is an
annual survey on employment and compensation trends by Robert Half International
and The survey includes responses from more than 500 hiring
managers and 500 workers, and was conducted from May 7 to June 1, 2008 by
International Communications Research in Media, Pa. It was designed to compare
the perspectives of hiring managers and workers on the state of the current
employment market.

The Challenge of Recruiting Qualified Staff
The shortage
of qualified workers has grown more acute, with 59 percent of hiring managers
citing it as their primary recruiting challenge, up from 52 percent in 2007. Six
out of 10 employers estimate that at least a quarter of the applicants who
contact them are not qualified. Thirty-one percent report more than half of
applicants are not qualified.

Complicating the task of finding qualified talent are spiraling energy costs,
hiring managers said. Twenty-nine percent said the rise in fuel prices and
commuting expenses has negatively impacted their ability to attract skilled
candidates who may want to limit their travel distance to and from the

As employers manage through these challenges, recruiting has become time
consuming, taking anywhere from four to 14 weeks to fill open positions. More
than half of hiring managers (56 percent) said Generation Y employees (those
born between 1979 and 1999) are the most difficult to recruit, perhaps because
of high expectations around pay, career advancement, flexible schedules and
overall work environment.

The Compensation Question
When they find qualified
professionals, firms appear anxious to win them over. Nearly two-thirds (65
percent) of hiring managers said they are willing to negotiate compensation for
top candidates; 19 percent are very willing.

Despite not feeling overly confident in job prospects, professionals are
increasingly inclined to negotiate better compensation levels as fuel, food,
healthcare and other expenses grow. Sixty-three percent said they are more
likely to try to negotiate a better compensation package with a new employer
compared to 12 months ago. This contrasts with 58 percent in 2007.

“Businesses are operating on leaner resources and are competing to secure the
intellectual capital that will drive productivity and new revenue streams.
Companies are also replacing lower-performing employees to strengthen their
talent bench to prepare for a time when the economy shifts into higher gear,”
said Matt Ferguson, CEO of “Recruiting highly skilled
professionals may require a greater financial commitment or special perks that
provide a more attractive work environment, however. Nearly three-quarters of
employees surveyed said the availability of flexible schedules may cause them to
choose one job over another.”

Holding on to Top Performers
While employee retention may
be less of a concern in a tougher economy, many employers have nonetheless taken
measures in the last 12 months to prevent good workers from leaving their
organizations, including:

  • Allowing flexible work schedules – 63 percent
  • Providing funding for additional training/certification – 62 percent
  • Increasing salaries – 56 percent
  • Instituting telecommuting options – 29 percent

Companies also expressed an interest in retaining employees nearing
retirement age to manage through the exodus of the baby boomers from the
workforce. Forty-seven percent are likely to offer reduced work schedules as an
alternative to retirement. Thirty-nine percent are likely to offer “bridge”
jobs, while 37 percent are likely to offer consulting arrangements.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted by
International Communications Research on behalf of Robert Half International and among more than 500 employers (employed full-time; not self-
employed; with at least some involvement in hiring decisions), and more than 500
employees (employed full-time; not self-employed; with no involvement in hiring
decisions) ages 18 and over within the United States between May 7 and June 1,

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