A happy new year for job seekers
A raft of new surveys says hiring will (finally) jump this year. A good time to ask for a raise?
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Friends, it's that time again, a fresh new year -- which means that just about every human-resources consulting firm, outplacement specialist, salary expert and career guru in sight has come out with brand-new predictions for the 12 months ahead. This time around, almost everybody's crystal ball is bright and sunny, predicting job growth and increased hiring. That means companies will try harder to retain their stars, which translates to fatter raises and more perks like telecommuting and flextime.
Mind you, all of this is coming on the heels of a pretty dismal 2005. According to Chicago career-development firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, last year U.S. companies cut loose 1,072,054 employees, 3.1 percent more than were laid off in 2004. Nonetheless, the Five O'Clock Club, a New York-based career-coaching network, reports that in businesses like advertising, real estate, insurance and financial services, there are already too few applicants for the number of available jobs, and that splendid state of affairs (for job hunters, anyway) is likely to spread across other industries this year.
"There's enough breathing room in the economy today so that employees can now reevaluate their direction, their decisions and their salaries," says Richard Bayer, the Five O'Clock Club's chief operating officer. "After keeping our noses to the grindstone through years of recession and retrenchment, 2006 will be a break-out year."
CareerBuilder's poll of over 1,000 hiring managers supports that notion. Says CEO Matt Ferguson, "Despite record energy costs and the destruction caused by hurricanes and other disasters, the U.S. economy has managed to expand at a healthy pace. That's paving the way for a sturdy job market in 2006."
The CareerBuilder survey says 54 percent of hiring managers plan to take on new staff this year, while only 9 percent expect to cut headcount. If you're thinking of changing jobs, act fast: Most of those managers plan to do the bulk of their recruiting during the first few months of the year. What kinds of positions will they be trying to fill? Customer service is the number one category, followed by jobs in sales, retail, accounting and finance, and health care.
Another survey, this one by Boston-based human-capital consultants Novations, asked 3,100 senior HR people about their plans and found that fully three-quarters expect to do significant hiring this year. But, says Novations president Mike Hyter, some of that hiring will be needed just to replace people who will quit.
"Two-thirds of the organizations we surveyed expect increased employee defections in the year ahead," Hyter notes. "And 9 percent predict 'a great many' of their current employees will probably leave. There's a lot of pent-up frustration in the workplace."
Indeed. Consider what Adecco, a global staffing and coaching company, found when its researchers polled employees on their work-related resolutions for 2006. About one quarter (24 percent) said they hope to make more money this year, while only 3 percent chose "build a better relationship with my boss" as one of their chief goals. Employees were two and half times more likely to want a pay hike than to yearn for a promotion.
The survey found some gender differences, too: Women more often than men (27 percent versus 20 percent) put getting a raise first, while men were more likely (15 percent versus 11 percent) to want a new job.
Employers intent on keeping their best people from leaving may loosen the purse strings a bit this year, most experts say, but it seems that many will offer something their top employees value even more than money: Time. According to Salary.com, the single hottest compensation trend for 2006 will be "a commitment by employers to expand their use of work-at-home programs." The Salary.com report says the reasons range from high gas prices, to concerns about balancing work and family, to the ready availability of technology that makes telecommuting practical.
It all adds up to this: If you've been thinking of removing some stress from your life by working from home at least a couple of days a week, there's never been a better time to ask -- especially if your boss can't give you that big raise you really want.