Employer Associations of America Releases 2015 National Business Trends Survey

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Optimism, Strong Hiring & Training Trends Proceed Despite Long-Term Challenges

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“Despite strong continued optimism for 2015, employers are keenly aware of short- and long-term competition and talent challenges looming ahead.”

Employer Associations of America (EAA) announced today the completion of the 2015 National Business Trends Survey. The EAA, a not-for-profit national association consisting of 33 regional employer associations, provides this annual report to business executives, arming them with insight on 2015 business trends in the areas of:

  •     Business outlook
  •     Business investment plans
  •     Staffing levels
  •     Hiring plans
  •     Job creation barriers
  •     Pay strategies
  •     Business challenges

“Despite strong continued optimism for 2015, employers are keenly aware of short- and long-term competition and talent challenges looming ahead,” states Meredith Wise, Chair, EAA Board of Directors. “The 2015 National Business Trends Survey allows executives to make data-driven decisions and provides detailed information on how other executives plan to approach their business in 2015.”

An Optimistic Outlook
Results from this comprehensive survey of 1,417 organizations, covering 2,959 employer locations and all 50 U.S. states, indicate that the majority of executives surveyed are optimistic about 2015, are confident they will award pay increases, and look to invest in their existing employees, facilities and/or equipment.

When asked to compare 2014 business results to 2013, 94% of executives surveyed reported that 2014 was about the same or better than 2013. This is up from the 90% who had projected 2014 would be the same or better at this time last year. This optimism remains strong for the new year, as 94% of survey respondents expect the overall 2015 economic outlook to be about the same or better in comparison to 2014.

This optimism continues as 65% of organizations saw their own business results with a slight to significant increase in 2014, and 75% of business executives expect increases in their own sales/revenue in 2015.

Business Outlook: Short- and Long-Term Challenges Show Continuing Need for Keen Focus
Despite an optimistic outlook, employers are still focused on the following serious short-term challenges to their businesses: competition (30%), cost of regulatory compliance (26%), skilled labor shortage (27%), professional/technical staff shortage (20%), and ability to pay for benefits (23%). The percentage of executives expecting these challenges to be serious in the long term increases dramatically in all cases, with the ability to pay benefits reported as the top challenge at 39%, competition moving up to 36%, skilled labor shortage increasing to 34%, and professional/technical shortage moving to 27%.

Compensation Strategies Show Strength
Employer confidence has improved over one year ago, with 82% of participating organizations reporting pay increases in 2014. This is up from the 74% of participating organizations that had planned to award increases a year ago.

Compensation strategies for 2015 also demonstrate high employer confidence:

  •     78% of respondents reported plans to award wage/salary increases in 2015,
  •     40% plan to award variable/bonus awards, and
  •     13% will give lump-sum awards during the year.

Only 6% of organizations surveyed plan to freeze or reduce pay in 2015. This number is down from the 10% that planned this as a cost-cutting measure for 2014.

Increases in Hiring Continues Growth Trend
Increases in staffing levels for 2015 are expected for 52% of employers responding to the survey, up from 47% reported in 2014 and 34% in 2013. Newly created jobs account for 8% of the hiring, while another 62% of employers state their hiring is partly due to the addition of new jobs. The positions most difficult to hire remain professional staff, as cited by 44% of respondents. This is closely followed by skilled production workers (42%). Forty-three percent of employers plan to emphasize recruiting in 2015, up from 31% in 2014.

Training Investments for Existing Employees
To overcome challenges in recruitment and retention, 38% of executives said they plan to continue increasing their 2015 training budgets. A key focus is providing existing staff with additional training/development (58%). Fifty percent of respondents are filling jobs with existing staff who lack the job skills, while 46% are focusing on staff retention where recruitment is difficult.

Survey Information
EAA data reflects national conditions. A total of 1,417 companies, covering locations in all 50 states, were surveyed in October and November of 2014. In addition to reporting significant trends on a national level, the 2015 National Business Trends Survey offers a trends summary and detailed reports at the regional level for the Midwest, Northeast, Southern, and Western regions.

The percentage of respondents and their respective industries include 43% from Manufacturing, 6% from Professional and Business Services, 7% from Health Services, and 44% in other industries. The survey also represents companies of all sizes: 1-99 employees (53%), 100-249 employees (27%), 250-499 employees (12%), 500-999 employees (4%), and 1,000+ employees (4%).

About Employer Associations of America
The Employer Associations of America (EAA) consists of 33 regional employer associations that serve 35,000 companies and more than six million employees. The EAA’s mission is to advance a national presence and to promote local success among members through unparalleled collaboration, excellence, and efficiency. The regional employer associations that make up the EAA are dedicated to serving their members and are trusted partners that help members maximize the performance of their employees and their organization. The employer associations’ human resource and business professionals provide businesses with expertise in the areas of compliance, recruitment, retention, surveys, safety, training, and organizational development. To learn more about the EAA and membership, visit http://www.eaahub.org.

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Mike O'Connor