A growing number of companies are finding it difficult to hire and retain workers, with little relief in sight, according to Willis Towers Watson.

The consulting firm said a survey of 380 employers it conducted earlier this month showed that 73% of respondents are having difficulty attracting employees, up from 56% in the first half of the year, and 61% are having a hard time keeping workers.

Seventy percent of employers expect their hiring problems to persist into 2022.

“Employers are in the middle of an intense war for talent that’s not likely to let up anytime soon,” said Adrienne Altman, managing director and North American head of Rewards for Willis Towers, said in a news release. “The challenge of hiring and keeping employees has now spread from isolated industries and skill sets to most industries and workforce segments.”

Respondents cited postponing return to work and collecting unemployment as the main driver of hiring and retention difficulties for hospitality and restaurant employees and warehouse and distribution employees. High wage expectations among digital employees are creating challenges for nearly half of respondents and more than half cited work-from-anywhere policies as the main challenge for attracting and retaining managers and professionals.

“Organizations with work-from-anywhere policies have been able to increase significantly their geographic area of recruitment, creating more competition for talent,” Willis Towers noted.

To attract workers, 30% of employers say they are boosting salary budgets for 2022, 43% are raising starting salaries, 39% are seeking to improve the employee experience, 36% are making changes to health and wellbeing benefits, and 33% are increasing workplace flexibility.

“Sign-on, recruiting, and retention bonuses can help employers get the upper hand in the short term, but those initiatives are temporary,” said Lesli Jennings, senior director, talent management and organizational alignment, at Willis Towers.

“If employers are serious about hiring workers with critical skills and keeping their top talent, they need to implement sustainable programs and policies that will enhance a powerful employee experience, reimagine career opportunities, and flex to the needs of their increasingly diverse workforces,” she added.

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