New Bullhorn Report: 75 Percent of Staffing and Recruiting Firms Anticipate Revenue Increases in 2018

Annual Trends Report Illustrates Overall Industry Optimism Despite Concerns about Automation, Digital Staffing Platforms, Macroeconomics, and Politics

 Bullhorn®, the cloud computing company that helps staffing and recruiting organizations transform their businesses, found that 75 percent of staffing and recruiting firms anticipated an increase in 2018 revenue versus 2017 revenue, according to its “2018 North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report: The Industry’s Outlook for 2018.” Overall, the report showed that staffing and recruiting professionals remained optimistic for a successful 2018, as they did for 2017, despite increasing concerns and emerging challenges related to automation, digital staffing platforms, macroeconomics, and politics.

Staffing firms identified their top three priorities for 2018 as increasing profitability (45 percent), driving top-line revenue growth (43 percent), and improving candidate sourcing (42 percent). Their next five priorities represented operational strategies. These included: improving the management of client relationships (27 percent), expanding into new markets (26 percent), automating and accelerating recruiting and placement processes (23 percent), engaging candidates and improving the candidate experience (23 percent), and increasing employment brand development and marketing (21 percent).

The survey also found that firms anticipated revenue growth with limited margin expansion for 2018. A majority of staffing firms expected increases in hiring needs (70 percent), billable hours (62 percent), and temporary placements (59 percent) in 2018. On the other hand, a majority of firms (about 55 percent) predicted that both bill rates and margins would stay flat or decrease in 2018, and about half of respondents (49 percent) ranked pricing pressures and margin compressions as a top three challenge.

Key findings include:

  • Promote or Replace—The Impact of Automation on Recruiting:North American staffing firms identified automation as both a top priority and a top challenge—23 percent of firms ranked automation as a top priority and 36 percent marked it as a top challenge, signaling more opportunities for improved adoption and utilization. Additionally, 40 percent of respondents attributed automation’s greatest value to increased efficiencies and the same percentage to increased engagement. When asked if automation would create more jobs or eliminate them in the staffing industry, respondents were split down the middle—38 percent on each side and another 24 percent undecided.
  • Friend or Foe—The Rise of Digital Staffing Platforms: Sixty-three percent of respondents said they were unsure about how digital staffing platforms such as Upwork, Shiftgig, Catalant, and others would impact their business. However, 21 percent of respondents said those platforms could help their business, compared to 16 percent who thought they could hurt their operations. Sales teams were more enthusiastic as 29 percent of respondents expressed positive opinions about digital staffing platforms, seeing them as a potential source of low-cost talent.
  • Confidence Levels Slip—The Concerns about Macroeconomic and Political Factors: Examining broader macroeconomic and political factors, 68 percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat concerned about the rate of economic growth, and large portions worried about healthcare policies and regulations (66 percent), inflation (59 percent), restrictive labor policies (57 percent), and the current administration (57 percent). Overall confidence levels for industry performance have slipped, with one-third of respondents (33 percent) feeling more confident about the future heading into 2018, compared to 38 percent last year.
  • More Technology, Less Expansion—The Planned Investments of Firms: Staffing firms said they were planning to considerably boost their technology investments, with 52 percent of firms anticipating an increase, compared to 40 percent last year. About half of firms (49 percent) also said their operating budgets would increase in 2018, an increase over last year’s 43 percent. However, firms weren’t planning to focus as much on market expansion. With 26 percent of firms ranking new market growth as a top priority—and far fewer interested in acquisitions—only 28 percent expected to increase their number of offices.
  • Text over Phone and Email—The Communication Methods that Millennial and Generation Z Candidates Demand: Staffing firms listed SMS (text) messaging as the fastest-growing communication channel in 2018, with 69 percent of firms expecting their usage to increase—especially communicating with Millennial and Generation Z candidates.
  • Missed Opportunities in Referrals and Redeployments—The Importance of Capturing Them: Referrals from existing candidates jumped to the top of the list of single best talent sources this year—nearly 30 percent of respondents said referrals were the absolute best source of high-quality talent. Twenty-six percent of staffing firms said they placed less than 10 percent of candidates on their next assignment, and half of respondents said they redeployed less than 25 percent of candidates, indicating missed opportunities and missed revenue.

“The year 2018 holds tremendous opportunities for North American staffing and recruiting firms as they look to continue growing their businesses during a period of relatively strong economic growth,” said Gordon Burnes, Bullhorn’s chief marketing officer. “While there are long-term strategic decisions to be made, especially around automation and digital staffing platforms, adoption of these new technologies has been relatively slow, and staffing firms should feel encouraged about the industry outlook for 2018 and prepare for another successful year.”

Bullhorn’s eighth annual North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report is the result of a global survey conducted among 1,442 staffing and recruiting professionals from Sept. 17, 2017 to Oct. 7, 2017. The findings spotlight the industry’s take on the current staffing landscape—from financial forecasts and top priorities to persistent challenges and emerging technologies.

To download the “2018 North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report: The Industry’s Outlook for 2018” for free, visit here.


About Bullhorn
Bullhorn is the global leader in CRM and operations software for the recruitment industry. More than 7,000 staffing companies rely on Bullhorn’s cloud-based platform to drive sales, build relationships, and power their recruitment processes from end to end. Headquartered in Boston, with offices around the world, Bullhorn is founder-led and employs more than 650 people globally. To learn more, visit or follow @Bullhorn on Twitter.