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​​​What’s Ahead for Jobs?
Five Trends to Watch
in 2018

Andrew Chamberlain, Ph.D., Chief Economist, Glassdoor 

This year was a landmark year for hiring. Despite two major hurricanes and political turmoil in Washington, D.C., the U.S. economy forged ahead in 2017, adding 1.9 million new jobs as of November and pushing stock markets to an all-time record high.

After eight years of steady growth, the nation’s unemployment rate plummeted to a 17-year low this year. That helped fuel an ongoing war for talent in tech, healthcare, e-commerce, and key professional services. Employers are relying more heavily than ever on recruiters in response as they struggle to fill a record 6.1 million open jobs in the U.S. today.

This year has been good for many — but not all — workers. Job seekers who’ve mastered key skills in data science, software development, and health professions are seeing rising pay and benefits. At the same time, average wages for many remain stubbornly flat. Despite a healthy job market overall, job growth is sharply divided, with tech skills earning a premium and others being left behind by rising artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.

What are the next big disruptors in jobs and hiring? At Glassdoor, we have a unique vantage point on the future of work and hiring, with access to millions of real-time job listings, salaries, and company reviews. That allows us to keep a pulse on what’s happening in jobs, recruiting, and company culture, and offers clues about what’s coming next for jobs. 

From a long list of candidates, we’ve selected five big trends we observed in hiring this year, and five big disruptions we see coming in 2018 and beyond to the fast-changing world of work and hiring. 

With that prelude, let’s get started.

Trend #1: Tech Jobs Are Spreading
A decade ago, working in a tech job like data scientist or software engineer usually meant working in a “tech” company. That’s no longer the case. Today, every industry is trying to transform itself into a tech industry in some measure, using software, automation, mobile apps, and big data to automate, make smarter decisions, and drive value to customers. 

This year, we saw a growing number of employers in finance, retail, manufacturing, and other traditional industries ramp up hiring for tech roles. Using millions of job postings on Glassdoor, we looked at shifts in tech hiring in 2017 from five years ago. We found two dramatic changes.

First, non-tech employers have sharply ramped up tech hiring compared to five years ago, with the biggest gains in retail, banking and finance, and manufacturing. Second is that a growing share of tech hiring today is happening far from Silicon Valley. Instead, employers are increasingly hiring these roles in smaller more affordable tech clusters like Seattle, Austin, Detroit, Dallas, and Raleigh.

What’s driving these trends? In retail, tech hiring is being fueled by booming e-commerce and the growth of online retailers like Amazon. In finance, growing use of mobile banking apps, online payments, and electronic trading are driving demand for tech talent. And, in manufacturing, employers are hiring tech roles to help build leaner, more automated, and more quality-focused production lines. Industries with the Largest Gain in Software Jobs. 

Share of Software Job Postings
Industry 2012 2017 Change
Retail 6.4% 13.9% +7.5%
Banking & Financial Services 2.4% 4.4% +2.0%
Manufacturing 4.5% 6.1% +1.7%
Information Technology 7.2% 8.8% +1.6%
Internet & Tech 5.0% 6.0% +1.0%
Consulting 2.8% 3.4% +0.6%
Biotech & Pharmaceuticals 1.4% 1.8% +0.4%

Note: Based on a sample of industries with at least 100 unique software-related jobs postings on Glassdoor on 6/1/12 and 6/1/17, respectively.
Source: Glassdoor Economic Research (glassdoor.com/research) 

What does this mean for job seekers? For one, it means that working as a software engineer today is a much more diverse role than a decade ago. It no longer means writing code inside a large, traditional software company. Instead it can mean building AI customer service chatbots for an online retailer in Seattle, optimizing stock trading algorithms in New York, or writing code to help automate a factory floor in Detroit.

For employers, this trend is raising a host of challenging HR issues. A growing number of employers looking to hire in-demand tech roles are being forced to re-think their value proposition to job seekers. Attracting tech talent requires fresh thinking on pay and benefits, workplace perks, office environments, adapting the hiring processes for skilled candidates, creating more flexible work options, and more. 

The good news is with tech jobs spreading across industries and metros, benefits are spilling over to nontech workers as well. As more employers find themselves competing for tech talent, we’re seeing workplaces throughout the economy modernize and adapt for all workers — investing in new technology, sharper perks and benefits, and more dynamic and flexible workplaces. Once these perks are rolled out to tech employees,
they’re often made available to entire workforces, a case of a tech-fueled rising tide lifting all boats. That’s a trend we saw take hold in 2017 and is one we expect to continue in the coming decade. 

Trend #2: Booming Hiring — But for How Long?
Despite many headwinds, the economy kept cranking out jobs in 2017. Companies added 1.9 million new jobs to payrolls this year as of November, pushing down the nation’s unemployment rate to a 17-year low of just 4.1 percent. There have been eight years of steady job gains since the end of the Great Recession. And today’s tech-fueled hiring market has rebounded into one of the hottest in a generation.

In October, the economy crossed a historic milestone: The current economic expansion turned 100 months old. That makes it the third longest period of sustained economic growth in modern U.S. history. Since 1854, there have been 33 business cycles. Of those winding ups and downs, only two periods — the 1960s and the 1990s — have featured a longer stretch of rising jobs and incomes than today. 

While the economy remained strong this year, the pace of job growth is slowing down. The figure below shows the average monthly pace of job gains from 2010 to the present. Through November, the economy added an average of 174,000 new jobs per month this year. That pace has been slowing for three years — down sharply from the 250,000 jobs per month pace of 2014 and below last year’s pace of 187,000 new jobs added per month.

It’s normal for job growth to slow as the unemployment rate gets very low — as it is today — because it gets harder for employers to fill open jobs. However, the slowing pace of job gains this year is a trend economists are watching closely for signs of a possible economic slowdown.

Divided Pay Outlook
While the labor market heated up in 2017, average pay for most American workers did not. According to the Glassdoor Local Pay Reports, U.S. median base pay for full-time workers was up just 1.2 percent from a year ago in November. However, beneath that slow average pay growth, the wage picture was diverse in 2017.

In tech hubs like San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles, wages are soaring well above average. But in oil-rich Houston, average wages are barely growing. For in-demand tech jobs like software engineer, rising healthcare jobs like licensed practical nurse, and booming e-commerce jobs like warehouse associate and delivery driver, pay rose fast in 2017. But for common jobs like maintenance worker, quality engineer, and marketing manager, wage growth today is flat or declining. 

For employers, a booming job market meant hiring for many hard-to-fill roles was a major struggle in 2017. The number of unfilled job openings nationally reached an all-time record of 6.1 million this year. And it’s taking employers longer to get through the hiring process: Our research found job interview processes in the U.S. took an average of 23.8 days this year — up from 22.9 days in 2014. 

For job seekers, 2017 was a banner year by most measures — steady job gains, falling unemployment, and millions of Americans rejoining the labor force. However, a booming economy also sparked growing pains in many cities this year, with housing crises and worsening traffic in big metros like San Francisco and New York, as well as smaller tech hubs like Austin and Seattle. With rising Federal Reserve interest rates and slowing job growth, some economists think the U.S. may be nearing the end of its eight-year expansion. If so, now is the time to think ahead and prepare for an eventual economic slowdown — shoring up savings, reining in debts, and polishing up skills and accomplishments on resumes. 

Trend #3: The Power of Whistleblowers
An undeniable workplace trend in 2017 was the rising power of corporate whistleblowers. From Uber to The Weinstein Company to Barclays to Wells Fargo to Fox News and NPR, this year, employee whistleblowers spoke out like never before — and brought many big companies into the spotlight. Workplace transparency has been rising for years. The recent explosion of high-profile whistleblowing is really just the other side of this coin. Companies in 2017 got a stark reminder that suppressing bad behavior and dysfunctional workplace culture is not a sustainable strategy in today’s world of ubiquitous social media and online employer reviews. Getting workplace problems out in the open early, and addressing them head-on, is a strategy we’re likely to see more employers taking seriously in the wake of this year’s whistleblower scandals. In a world of online transparency, what happens inside the walls of companies — whether it’s fraud, sexual harassment, or poor workplace culture — is almost sure to come out. And when it does, the events of this year showed that corporate whistleblowers are being more protected today than ever. 

Companies Taking a Stand
A related trend is that we saw more companies taking a stand on social and political issues in 2017. And employees are increasingly looking to corporate America to lead the way on social issues. From climate change to denouncing hate groups, CEOs are speaking up on a growing list of public issues. It’s a trend that is being welcomed by many employees and customers.

An eye-opening 2017 survey from Glassdoor shows the extent of this trend. Nearly four in five (84 percent) U.S. workers say companies have an important voice in proposed legislation that could affect employers and the lives of employees. For younger workers aged 18-34, 75 percent say they expect their company to take a stand on political issues affecting the country, including immigration, equal rights, and climate change. In response, CEOs today are ramping up efforts to address social issues. A recent Glassdoor survey shows one-third of U.S. companies surveyed plan to boost investments in corporate diversity and inclusion programs over the next year. And a growing list of high-profile U.S. companies have made a public commitment to equality in pay and hiring on Glassdoor. 

Anonymous voices can speak truth to power. In 2017, we saw the dramatic impact employees’ voices can have — both in calling out bad corporate behavior, and in promoting positive social causes.

Trend #4: Goodbye Annual Reviews, Hello Workplace Learning
For years, a growing list of high-profile companies have been abandoning traditional annual employee performance reviews. Accenture, Microsoft, General Electric, Deloitte, Adobe, and others have said goodbye to employee rankings and once-a-year check-ins. This year, we began to see many small and medium-sized employers follow suit as well — including Glassdoor — marking a dramatic shift in management philosophy from past generations.

According to management research firm CEB, 49 percent of HR leaders have eliminated or are considering eliminating employee performance ratings. Why? Research shows annual reviews do a poor job of delivering on the promise of better employee performance in today’s modern workplaces. They’re too infrequent to give useful feedback; they focus on past performance rather than future development; they’re often demotivating rather than inspiring; and they’re a time-consuming ritual that’s often cumbersome and inefficient compared to the alternatives. 

Instead, companies today are turning to lighter, more frequent check-ins; informal feedback that helps companies work as agile “teams of teams”; and career development that unleashes employees’ passion, boosts productivity, and encourages talent to stay and thrive within companies. By separating annual pay adjustments from performance check-ins, employers are harnessing lessons from research that shows pay isn’t the primary motivator at work — instead it’s having great career opportunities, a healthy workplace culture and values, and senior leadership that employees believe in.

Growing Employee Learning & Development
With annual reviews on the way out, one rising trend we saw this year is expanded employee learning and development programs. More employers are rolling out workplace learning programs, offering workers creative ways to upskill and grow into new roles inside companies. Partly this is in response to today’s competitive labor market. Learning and development programs are being seen as a perk that can help attract and retain key talent. Research shows career opportunities rank as one of top three factors driving employee satisfaction, and offering formal programs that help talent grow is becoming a more common way of drawing in ambitious talent who are looking ahead to the future of their careers. The recent growth of learning and development programs also partly reflects the broader trend toward tech hiring outside of traditional tech hubs. As companies scramble to keep up with the fast-changing landscape of tech skills, they’re rolling out learning and development programs aimed at software engineers, data scientists, technical product managers, and more. As employers roll out programs company wide, a fortunate side effect is that many non-tech employees today are also benefiting from growing learning and development opportunities.

What do these programs actually look like today? They’re increasingly digital and online, bringing training to where employees are, rather than in traditional classrooms. They’re often focused on learning a specific skill, rather than a broad traditional curriculum. And they’re increasingly focusing on “micro-learning” with short, self-contained videos that can be spaced out and fit flexibly into busy employee schedules. This trend toward more flexible and skill-based digital learning programs has great potential — to facilitate employee growth, boost retention, and help companies address long-standing tech and other skills shortages. For these reasons, we hope it’s a trend we’ll see continue in 2018 and beyond. 

Trend #5: The Year of the Informed Candidate
Today nearly every job seeker — and most jobs — are online. It’s easier than ever today to find and apply for jobs online. While that’s broadened the pool of potential candidates for employers, HR teams are facing a new problem: how to sort through an ocean of resumes for the informed, well-qualified applicants. In 2017, we saw an escalation in the number of employers saying their main hiring problem is attracting high-quality, informed candidates — candidates who’ve researched the employer, understand the requirements for a role, and set reasonable pay expectations before applying.

Employers are increasingly looking for ways to identify the needle of informed candidates in the haystack of online applications. With growing workplace transparency online, employers are learning that candidates who self-select into becoming more informed about company culture and pay by doing research online can be an extremely valuable pool for hiring great talent at scale.

A 2017 survey from Glassdoor shows the extent of this trend. When asked what types of candidates employers value most, companies said they prioritize informed candidates above all other types, and that recruiting strategies of the past are no longer enough to attract candidates who today are much more knowledgeable upfront about compensation, benefits, working conditions, and more. 

According to the survey, three in four companies say attracting quality candidates is the number one challenge they face today — more than HR budgets, or trouble competing with other firms. And what makes a quality candidate? According to the survey, employers say good candidates are informed candidates. Forty-nine percent say an ideal candidate comes prepared to interviews with questions; 46 percent say they should be knowledgeable about the role; and 36 percent say they should understand the company’s culture and values — all information that’s increasingly available online to job seekers. 

Employers who are tailoring their recruiting strategy to focus on informed candidates are seeing benefits. Forty-two percent say hiring informed candidates improves employee retention; 42 percent say informed candidates are more productive; and 41 percent say informed candidates are more engaged and satisfied employees when they’re hired. According to April Garvey, Vice President Digital Marketing at Revature,“combining the job postings with our Glassdoor corporate page has allowed candidates to better understand who we are and what we have to offer, all in one place, and that for us has made a big difference.” In the early days of online job search, job boards were “candidate mills” sending floods of unqualified candidates to employers. In 2017, more HR professionals started rethinking that approach. Employers are increasingly looking for ways to narrow the flow of applicants, focusing on informed job seekers who’ve done their homework beforehand, and who are most likely to create productive and lasting job matches. For that reason, we’ve dubbed 2017 “the year of the informed candidate.” 

Today’s labor market is changing rapidly. It’s becoming more flexible, more transparent, and more focused on skills — rather than job titles — than ever before. While these changes are sparking anxiety among some job seekers and employers, they also present tremendous opportunities. The choice of where we work — and why — is one of life’s most important decisions. Today’s labor market is doing a better job of matching people with their best possible career opportunity than ever. However, the same rapidly changing technology that is making job markets work better today is also changing many jobs themselves, putting workers who fall behind technology trends at risk.

As we enter 2018, the nation’s labor market is strong and growing. It’s an opportune time for both workers and employers to position themselves to benefit from these coming trends, and to invest in new skills and technology now while times are good.