Nearly all Northern Ireland firms polled in a new survey of top-performing companies are planning to recruit this year.
Nine out of ten indigenous companies, who have already been recognised as having a strong management base by Deloitte, said they planned to expand in the next year with the UK and Europe identified as the top locations.
The annual survey of companies recognised as 'Best Managed' over the last four years also found 80% of respondents plan to recruit in 2012, while half aim to complete mergers and acquisitions activity in the next 12 months.
Half of respondents observed an improvement in market conditions in the last 12 months, compared to 40% last year. Similarly, 74% feel more confident about the outlook for their company compared to last year.
Looking at Northern Ireland in greater detail, almost 40% of companies surveyed identified inward investment as key to improving the business environment and a further 25% called for improved transport links.
The companies surveyed have total revenues of more than €10bn (£8bn) and employ more than 24,000 people, emphasising the importance of indigenous companies to Ireland and Northern Ireland's economy.
With regards to the economic outlook, 43% of respondents believe that it will be the second half of 2013 before the economy returns to growth.
Similar to the 2011 results, 31% of respondents indicated that improving consumer sentiment was the single most important factor in returning the economy to growth.
This was followed by restoring credibility and integrity in the banking sector (24%) and growth in exports (12%).
One third of companies identified lack of customer demand as the biggest challenge facing local companies. Availability of funding and the high cost of doing business were also acknowledged as considerable challenges.
However, the majority of respondent companies indicated that they are not experiencing difficulty in obtaining finance for working capital (69%) or capital projects (67%).
Glenn Roberts, senior partner for Deloitte Belfast said that the positivity and focus on growth displayed by the companies is very encouraging.
"Approximately half of respondents indicated that growth and increase in market share was currently the most important focus for their organisation," he said.
"We are observing that Northern Ireland's 'Best Managed Companies' are achieving this goal through the execution of sound and well thought out strategies."