With retention problems growing and four out of 10 U.S. hiring managers expecting to increase their headcounts, the new year looks like bringing with it bigger paychecks, more opportunities for promotion and a greater sensitivity to work-life balance issues.
There are signs of optimism for the U.S. jobs market in the year ahead, with four out of 10 hiring managers expecting to increase their headcounts in 2007 and fewer than one in 10 (eight per cent) foreseeing any reduction in numbers.
A survey of more than 2,500 hiring managers and human resource professionals in private sector companies carried out for CareerBuilder.com has found that more than a third (36 per cent) of employers expect to add 10 employees or less in 2007, three out of 10 (29 per cent) will hire more than 50 and one in five will hire more than 100.
Nearly one in ten employers said they expect to hire in excess of 500 new employees.
Of the remainder, four out of 10 employers said they expect no change in headcount during 2007, while 12 per cent are unsure.
"Recent reports from the U.S. Department of Labor support a sense in the market that the economy is slowing at a gradual, reasonable pace and inflation has steadied," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.com.
"This bodes well for job creation as economists and employers alike predict a moderated, yet stable, hiring environment to carry over into the New Year."
Areas in which headcounts are expected to increase include healthcare (24 per cent), administrative/clerical (19 per cent), sales (17 per cent), accounting/financial operations (17 per cent), customer service (13 per cent), information technology (13 per cent), management (12 per cent) and engineering (9 per cent).
But as Matt Ferguson also pointed out, recruiting these new hires could prove both time-consuming and expensive.
"Employers expect to face greater human capital challenges as a large number of Baby Boomers retire and productivity growth plateaus," he said.
"Forty per cent of employers report they currently have job openings for which they can't find qualified candidates. Going into 2007, the U.S. workforce is likely to see employers become more competitive in recruitment and retention efforts evident in higher salaries, better training and career advancement opportunities and more flexible work cultures."
A raft of other recent research has made similar predictions, with a survey published last week by the Society for Human Resource Management suggesting that fully three quarters of U.S workers are actively looking for new jobs and that more than one in 10 have resigned voluntarily from a job since the beginning of 2006.
As a result, many organisations are scrambling to put in place special retention measures, with the CareerBuilder.com research finding that eight out of 10 are planning to increase salaries for existing employees and half will boost their salary offers to new employees.
Many employers also appear to have acknowledged the role that work-life balance plays in recruitment and retention, with almost one in five (19 per cent) very willing to provide more flexible work arrangements for employees such as job sharing and alternate schedules and a further third (31 per cent) fairly willing to do so.
Meanwhile, one-in-five employers say they are planning to rehire retirees from other companies or provide incentives for workers approaching retirement age to stay on with the company longer.
But with the perceived lack of promotion opportunities within organisations being a major driver for employee turnover, many employers also appear to be creating clearer career paths in an attempt to hang onto the talent they already have as well as investing in training and development.
A third (35 per cent) of employers plan to provide more promotions and career advancement opportunities to their existing staff in the New Year, while eight out of 10 say they are willing to recruit workers who don't have experience in their particular field and provide training to make up any gaps.
But for many organisations, these strategies alone will not be enough, leading more than one in 10 (13 per cent) planning to expand operations and hire employees abroad during 2007 and a further none per cent considering doing so.