Executives Expect Outlook to be Improving According to Employer Associations of America 2021 National Business Trends Survey

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Employer Associations of America 2021 National Business Trends Survey Results

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57 percent of executives project slight to significant increases in sales and revenue. American businesses are showing their resilience and readiness to tackle today’s challenges and come out stronger than ever before.

In the just released 2021 National Business Trends Survey from the Employer Associations of America (EAA), 44 percent of executives expect the overall outlook for the 2021 economy to be improving. This annual survey shares information on what executives nationally are doing to address the changing business climate. Survey responses also reflect the impact COVID-19 has had on this year’s business trends.

When executives were asked if the overall U.S. economy in the next 12 months will “improve, stay the same, or decline,” the largest segment of respondents (44 percent) think it will improve, as opposed to last year with only 12 percent planning that the economy would improve. This year, 33 percent think it will stay the same (last year 52 percent expected the economy to stay the same). Only 24 percent think it will decline (compared to 36 percent in 2020).

“COVID certainly has had a significant impact and perhaps many are feeling that the economy can only get better moving forward into 2021,” said EAA Board of Directors Chair Thoran Towler. “In fact, fueling that optimism, 57 percent of executives project slight to significant increases in sales and revenue. American businesses are showing their resilience and readiness to tackle today’s challenges and come out stronger than ever before.”

An additional 11 questions were added to this year’s survey regarding COVID-19’s impact on business, addressing employee safety, stay at home/social distancing, work from home/remote work, interviews/training online/remote meetings, hazard pay/bonus, and candidates unwilling to work in the office/field. When asked how concerned respondents are regarding COVID-19 and its impact on business continuity (e.g. supply chain, financial implications, temporary shutdowns), 52 percent indicated that they are “extremely to moderately concerned.”

Following are the top five measures that executives say they have been or are planning to implement in 2020 and 2021 to address COVID-19 (listed in order of the top responses from 2021).

Measures to address COVID-19                                        
Deep clean/disinfect work areas on a regular basis: 85% (2020 response), 72% (2021 response)
Enforce plans/policies regarding employees who become ill or exhibit COVID-19 symptoms while at work: 84% (2020 response), 70% (2021 response)
Communicate frequently to employees about self-screening protocols: 70% (2020 response), 55% (2021 response)
Increase signage regarding COVID-19 prevention protocols: 77% (2020 response), 52% (2021 response)
Enforce plans/policies to accommodate employees who need to remain home due to underlying health issues: 65% (2020 response), 50% (2021 response)

Similar to last year’s survey responses, the top three serious challenges for business executives include:

  • Talent acquisition
  • Talent retention
  • Ability to pay competitive wages

“Ability to pay for benefit costs” and “Cost of regulatory compliance” rounded out the overall top five business challenges facing 2021.

Also noteworthy for 2021 wage/salary strategies, 64 percent of the executives responding to the survey are planning to award wage/salary increases, along with 29 percent awarding variable pay bonuses for 2021.

According to 2021 survey responses, following are the top measures that executives say they have been implementing or are planning to continue in 2020 and 2021 to strengthen business results (listed in order of the top 2021 responses).

Top 5 measures                                                
Invest in technology: 38% (2020 response), 47% (2021 response)
Invest in equipment: 33% (2020 response), 41% (2021 response)
Increase flexible work arrangements: 39% (2020 response), 39% (2021 response)
Increase recruiting emphasis: 20% (2020 response), 26% (2021 response)
Use data analytics to improve business strategy: 15% (2020 response), 21% (2021 response)

The EAA is a nonprofit national association that provides this annual survey to business executives offering insights and trends for business outlooks, business investment plans, staffing levels, hiring plans, job creation, pay strategies and business challenges. The 2021 survey saw an increase in participating organizations, up nearly 400 from last year with 1,484 participating organizations throughout the U.S. For a copy of the full report, contact Cindy Mixon, MRA, 262-523-9090.

About Employer Associations of America (EAA)
EAA consists of 30 regional employer associations serving 35,000 companies and more than six million employees. Regional employer associations are dedicated to serving their members as trusted partners that help members maximize the performance of their employees and their organization through business expertise in compliance, recruitment, retention, surveys, safety, training, and organization development. EAA’s mission is to advance a national presence and to promote local success among members through unparalleled collaboration, excellence, and efficiency. To learn more about the EAA, visit http://www.eaahub.org.

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