83% CHROs are considering or have reduced overall headcount- Report

83% CHRO say their companies are considering or have already reduced overall headcount Survey
In spite of increased job creation and declining unemployment, many companies are looking to strategically manage headcount to help navigate shifting economic headwinds.

The most significant change reported by CHROs over the past six months has been a shift in the nature of remote, hybrid, and in-person workers: Companies are pulling back on hiring.

PwC Pulse Survey shows that human resource leaders are looking to reduce overall headcount and focus on finding talent with specific skills.

In spite of increased job creation and declining unemployment, many companies are looking to strategically manage headcount to help navigate shifting economic headwinds. Maintaining strategic workforce investments while pulling back on overall spending shows a clear switch from a reactive to a proactive policy.

As more and more companies accept the new realities of flexible working environments, many are leaning into the benefits of streamlined, partially or wholly remote positions staffed by skilled workers.

Companies are focused on making sure they’re not just hiring people, but hiring the right people.

“83% of CHROs say their companies are considering or have already reduced overall headcount.

Today, the labor market is showing signs of returning to a more familiar state. We’re starting to see companies take more proactive steps to establish an appropriate mix of employees. 

Skilled workers, still in high demand, may be more empowered, more fulfilled, and more likely to grow. It will be important for leaders to manage workplace inequities between skilled and unskilled workers.

  • And when it comes to scaling back, CHROs are on the front line. Sixty percent indicate their companies are dropping or reducing signing bonuses (versus 46% of executives overall). 61% are rescinding offers entirely (compared to 44% overall).

Looking forward, CHROs see the recent shift in the labor market continues.

  • Almost half (48%) of CHROs say it’s likely that voluntary turnover will return to the pre-pandemic rate in the next 12 months.
  • Even more (53%) say it’s likely that the labor market will shift to favor employers over employees in the next 12 months. 

What you can do: Think strategically. What job functions are absolutely necessary for accelerating growth at your company? Which can be streamlined, automated, or reduced? Consider if you can scale back in some areas while still growing others. For example, if you want to reduce headcount through automation, the first step may be, ironically, hiring automation experts.

CHROs are reassessing their workforce policies

From compensation packages to vaccine mandates, human resource executives are starting to make changes.

“38% of CHROs report that they have increased employee compensation recently.

Temporary and one-off solutions run their course

Today, 38% of CHROs report they’ve recently increased employee compensation, and another 35% say they plan to but haven’t yet started. But CHROs are also significantly more likely than other executives to consider cost-saving measures like hiring freezes, rescinding job offers, and lowering or all-out dropping signing bonuses. 

Easing public health concerns have likewise contributed to some reversals in earlier in-office policies.

  • Whereas 62% of respondents had previously implemented vaccine mandates with another 19% weighing the idea, today a little over one-third of CHROs (34%) have already dropped mandates and another third (33%) are prepared to do so. (Just 7% say they don’t plan on rescinding it at all.)
  • Concern for on-site employee safety in regard to COVID-19 has likewise dropped seven points to just 24%.

Flexibility is here to stay

Investments in providing employees with choice and flexibility in where and when they work — and the well-being resources to maintain that flexibility — remain a leading priority.

“82% of CHROs are working on expanding permanent remote work.

Give employees flexibility in choosing when and where they work

Customizing the employee experience — including options for remote work and expanded mental health benefits — is now standard for most businesses, and CHROs know that better than anyone. Giving employees flexibility in choosing when and where they work is one way to demonstrate that you are investing in your workforce.

When asked how they’re addressing aspects of their workforce policy:

  • 82% of CHROs say they’ve already implemented or have a plan to expand permanent remote work options for roles that allow it — 12 percentage points higher than the average business leader.
  • Breaking it down further, 39% of CHROs say they’ve already made remote work permanent where possible, up from the 29% who said the same back in January.
  • Expanding remote work options means many CHROs are able to decrease their real estate footprint and save money, and 65% of those surveyed tell us they’ll maintain or decrease their real estate investments over the next twelve months.

The push for more mental health benefits has likewise increased with:

  • 76% of CHROs responded that they already have or plan to expand what they offer around mental health.
  • This is higher than the 64% of CHROs who said the same in January.
  • When specifically asked how they will prioritize talent initiatives in the next 6 to 12 months, 28% say they will make well-being initiatives a top-3 priority.
  • Further, 22% say that reimagining benefits and/or rewards programs are a top-3 priority. 

Transportation woes and employee backlash are top return-to-office challenges

Employers may want workers to go back to the office, but many can’t — or may not want to.

“31% of CHROs say transportation issues are a top concern when returning to in-person work.

CHROs have a number of concerns about plans to wind down work-from-home policies, but the main issues appear to be transportation and backlash from employees.

As inflation and gas prices remain elevated, 31% of CHROs are concerned that inadequate local transportation infrastructure can’t handle returning commuters or that their employees simply can’t afford the cost of driving into an office. 

Remote work weighed heavily on many public transportation systems. Ridership plummeted, impacting both service and safety.

Adding to local travel woes, air travel has remained fraught with additional headaches, ranging from ever-changing health regulations to an increase in flight delays and cancellations.

Some companies calling for employees to return to the office are seeing resistance from workers who got used to working remotely, with some even choosing to quit rather than give up remote work. 

Nearly one in four executives are concerned about remote workers being treated differently than in-person employees. Other concerns — such as maintaining a fully stocked and staffed office, the availability of dependent care and on-site safety of employees — are also on CHROs’ minds.

About the survey

The latest PwC Pulse Survey, fielded from August 1 to August 5, 2022, surveyed 722 executives and board members from Fortune 1000 and private companies about the current business environment, the risks executives are facing and the impact those risks have on company strategy and growth plans. Of the respondent pool, 98 are CHROs.


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