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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on October 12, 2021

Key HR Statistics to Help You Build Your Best Team

Human resources statistics provide valuable insights for recruiters.

Here are some HR statistics highlighting today’s top trends.

How Has the Pandemic Affected the Job Market?

The COVID-19 pandemic looms in the background of the other human resource management (HRM) statistics we will discuss here, making it a good starting point. Unemployment data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and analyzed by the University of New Hampshire highlights the impact of the coronavirus on today’s job market. Between February and November of 2020, 10 million jobs disappeared nationwide, a rate of job loss 6.5% above pre-COVID levels.

Impact has varied by region, hitting hardest in areas where the economy depends heavily on industries involving travel or close contact, such as tourist and restaurant industries. As of January 2021, Hawaii led states hardest hit, with job loss down 13.6% in December compared with February 2020 levels, followed by New York at 10.7%, Michigan at 11.2% and Massachusetts at 9.4%.

At the other end of the scale, unemployment levels were only down 0.2% in Idaho and 0.3% in Utah. Nationally, 27 states have lost more than 5% of their jobs. December saw 21 states post job losses, for a total of 140,000 jobs lost nationwide that month.

The accommodation and food services industry accounts for the majority of job losses by far, with some 3,119,500 jobs lost between February and December, more than 3 times more than the industry experiencing the second-highest impact, local government. Industries most affected are led by:

  • Accommodation and food services
  • Local government
  • Health care and social assistance
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation
  • Administration and support and waste services
  • Manufacturing
  • Other services
  • Educational services
  • Retail
  • State government

These trends indicate where job displacement has been highest and which types of workers are most likely to be looking for employment.

An employee working remotely from home sits at her desk. She’s wearing bunny slippers.

How Much Has the Pandemic Increased Remote Work?

The COVID-19 outbreak has increased the number of employees who work from home, although this trend has been mitigated as the pandemic has progressed. An October 2020 poll by Pew Research Center found that among employed adults whose job responsibilities allow them to work from home, the number who work from home all or most of the time rose from 20% to 71% in the wake of COVID-19. Of these workers, 54% say they would prefer to continue working from home after the pandemic subsides.

A September poll by Gallup showed similar trends, but further indicated that the number of employees working remotely had peaked in April and subsequently leveled off. At the time of the poll, 33% of workers were always working remotely, while 25% sometimes did and 41% never did. This reflected a decline in the number of workers who always worked from home, down from 51% in April. The number of workplaces where all or nearly all employees were working on-site rose from 28% in April to 46% in September.

How Has the Pandemic Shaped Job Seeker Expectations?

A study of candidate sentiments by the American Staffing Association released in November 2020 finds the pandemic has affected worker satisfaction with their current position, desire to seek a new job and preference for remote and independent work arrangements:

  • 57% of workers are satisfied with their current employment
  • 80% of candidates, including both active and passive candidates, expect to be working for a new employer in 2021
  • 69% now prefer working remotely to working on-site
  • 60% prefer permanent jobs to other working arrangements
  • 44% prefer to work as an independent contractor
  • 32% are more open to working as temporary employees through staffing agencies

These shifting attitudes will tend to increase the number of available candidates while making candidates more inclined towards employers willing to consider remote or contractor arrangements.

What Are the Top Recruiting Challenges Employers Face in 2021?

The latest annual global survey by employment website Monster identified 3 top recruitment challenges employers face in 2021:

  1. Finding candidates with the right skills (cited by 39% of employers as a top challenge)
  2. Meeting work/life balance expectations fueled by the trend towards remote work (26%)
  3. Recruiting in a virtual environment (26%)

Closing skills gaps stood out as recruiters’ most prevalent challenge, faced by 87% of employers who say they are struggling to find candidates with the right skill set. A third of employers feel that skills gap challenges have grown over the past year. The skills gap is most acute in the financial, real estate and technology industries

Employers and candidates both say that one of the challenges of recruiting virtually is it makes it more difficult to tell if there is an alignment of culture and values. This was regarded as a challenge by 3 in 5 recruiters and 3 in 4 job seekers.

Within the recruiting process itself, employers ranked these at the top challenges:

  • Assessing candidates during interviews (cited by 41% of employers)
  • Identifying qualified candidates quickly (40%)
  • Screening candidates effectively prior to interviews (36%)
  • Eliciting responses and engagement from candidates (31%)

The shift towards virtual interviews will increase the difficulty of candidate assessment. With respect to identifying and screening qualified candidates, the sheer number of candidates applying for positions in the wake of the pandemic will increase the challenge of sifting through unqualified applicants to find those with the right skill sets.

A computer screen in a home office announces, “You’re Hired!”

How Much Recruitment Is Now Done Virtually?

Just as the pandemic has accelerated the tendency towards remote work, it has simultaneously promoted the trend towards virtual recruitment, interviewing and onboarding. According to Monster’s study:

  • 70% of companies now say at least of half of their recruitment and onboarding is done virtually
  • More than 1 in 3 companies say at least 75% of their recruitment and onboarding is virtual
  • 1 in 10 companies say that all their recruitment and onboarding is now virtual

Virtual recruitment is most popular in the technology and business/finance industries. Conventional recruitment methods remain more prevalent in retail, leisure and hospitality, real estate, health care, manufacturing and business services.

Which Tools Are Most Effective for Recruiting Qualified Candidates?

Monster’s survey found that recruiters ranked the effectiveness of online job board tools as follows:

  • Resume search tools (cited by 40% of recruiters as a top tool)
  • Applicant tracking system (ATS) integrations (29%)
  • Texting (25%)
  • Job ad posting on social media and partner networks (25%)
  • Video interviews (24%)
  • Resume feed updates (23%)
  • The option of sponsoring jobs to recruit targeted candidates (20%)
  • Video job descriptions (13%)

Small and midsize businesses ranked texting more highly than firms of other sizes, placing it among their top 3 options. Midsize companies favored job postings on social media among their top choices, while large companies favored video interviews.

How Are Employers Adjusting Benefits in Response to the Pandemic?

The coronavirus pandemic is prompting employers to make adjustments to benefits packages. According to a survey conducted by benefits consulting firm Mercer and analyzed by the Society for Human Resource Management, while 37% of employers don’t expect to change benefits packages in 2021, 48% are still monitoring the situation. 

Anticipations of rising health-care costs lead 12% of employers to expect making moderate cost-saving adjustments to benefits packages, while 3% expect to make significant changes. The most common changes employers are considering include:

  • Expanding virtual and telehealth programs (32% of employers)
  • Increasing mental health support (25%)
  • Increasing cost-sharing for deductibles, premiums, co-payments and other plan expenses (20%)
  • Adding or increasing voluntary benefits programs (16.5%)
  • Enhancing services to manage high-cost claims (13.5%)

These potential changes reflect expectations that employees who delayed treatment in 2020 or who need COVID-related treatment will drive up healthcare benefits costs in 2021. Some employers may also need to reduce retirement plan contributions in 2021.

What Benefits Do Job Seekers Want?

The pandemic also has affected how job seekers prioritize benefits. A survey by global advisory company Willis Tower Watson indicated that employees are seeking to lower benefit costs while increasing benefit security. 

When asked to rank their top benefits priorities in 2021, U.S. employees responded as follows:

  • 37% want reduced benefits costs
  • 26% want greater benefits security
  • 19% want more benefit choices
  • 18% want more flexibility about where, when and how frequently they work

When asked to identify where they most want help from their employers, 53% of workers identified saving for retirement as a top priority. Further asked how employers could best help support their need to save for retirement, employees favored these options:

  • 53% wanted a guaranteed retirement benefit
  • 42% wanted greater retirement benefits in exchange for other benefits and lowered pay
  • 41% wanted retiree medical benefits
  • 29% wanted access to other savings and investment options

Work-life balance is another area where workers want help from employers:

  • 46% want employer help with work-life balance issues
  • 52% say trading other benefits for more paid time off, vacation and sick leave would help them with work-life balance
  • 44% want greater flexibility in how often they work
  • 40% want greater flexibility in where they work

Employees also want employer help with getting the most value from their benefits. Approximately half of workers surveyed expressed a desire for assistance in such forms as a single web portal for benefit management, tools to help better understand benefit choices and the ability to speak with a benefit specialist when making decisions.

Use Insights from HR Statistics to Help Your Recruitment Strategy

Staying up-to-date on small business HR statistics can lend you insight into key trends such as how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the job market, what hiring challenges employers face, which tools work best for finding candidates and which benefits appeal to job seekers. 

These types of HR facts and figures can assist you in the process of finding, recruiting and hiring qualified workers. Follow our blog for more human resources tips.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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