More than half of all US companies are planning to lay off employees as they brace for an economic downturn, according to a new survey.
The PwC survey — which polled 700 executives and board members across the US — found 52% of companies have already enacted hiring freezes, four out of 10 have rescinded jobs or axed signing bonuses for new hires, and roughly half have started laying people off or are preparing to cut headcount.
The grim numbers underscore how dramatically sentiment has changed from a year ago when employers were handwringing over losing staff amid the so-called “Great Resignation” when employees left corporations en masse.
Nevertheless, companies are still trying to keep top talent happy, with two-thirds of employers increasing pay, expanding benefits or allowing more flexible work schedules for other workers. Some companies are embracing full-time remote work as a way of keeping high performers happy.
Seventy percent of respondents said they’re increasing remote work options and flexibility and 61% of employers said they’re requiring employees in collaborative roles to be in the office more. Thirty-one percent of companies are spending more money to increase their real estate footprint.
Unemployment remains historically low across the board but major corporations are gearing up for an economic contraction, and in recent weeks, notable companies like Walmart, Apple and Oracle have made headlines for axing corporate staff.
“Firms are playing offense and defense with their talent strategies,” said Bhushan Sethi, who runs PwC’s people and organization practice and helped compile the report.
Sethi emphasizes the importance of handling sensitive situations like laying off workers or rescinding offers in a professional way — and not cutting costs in the short term in ways that will damage companies’ reputations down the line.
“People have long memories, and social media plays a much bigger role now.”