Executive Focal Point Tackles the Evolving Workforce– April 23, 2014

As we’re excited to do every year, this year’s Executive Focal Point seminar brought business leaders together with experts to help analyze an issue important to their success. This year we had the privilege of collaborating with experts from higher education, private industry, and the credit world on perspectives and potential opportunities related to the evolving workforce. Read below for a glance at the insights provided to our audience. Or click to review available presentations.

Global Economic Outlook

Tom Haught, CFP®, ChFC®, of Sequoia Financial Group focused on global trends in his annual economic and investment update. As a whole, while growth around the globe remains cautious, it appears to be poised to accelerate this year with no indications of an impending economic recession.

In the U.S., fundamentals such as employment, output gap and the yield curve are improving but are doing so over a longer and less robust business cycle expansion, with unemployment still higher than desired. Interest rates are expected to remain low through 2014, since the current state of relatively low inflation should keep the Federal Reserve Bank from raising interest rates.

Overseas, the European Central Bank has been simulative to fight off deflation and will continue to do what is necessary to keep the economy on its current path, albeit slow, and successfully exit recession. Japan’s “text book” economic plan is yielding positive signs of growth, increasing GDP and combating deflation, but in the process is causing high absolute levels of government debt. Only time will tell if their formula for repairing their economy will cause more harm than good. China, on the other hand, is putting on the brakes, slowing its growth through a normalization of the investment-consumption tradeoff and positive economic reform.

In the investment arena, global equity valuations are currently inline to slightly higher than their 10-year historical averages; Japan, China and emerging markets are exceptions and remain undervalued. See important disclosures below.

Bridging the Higher Education Gap

Dr. Ronald Berkman, President of Cleveland State University, focused on creating new types of strategic partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses as a way for employers to cultivate the talent they need, while simultaneously reducing the amount of “out-migration” of Ohio college students/qualified candidates upon graduation. He suggested universities and businesses collaborate to create new curricula targeted toward the needs of businesses, ultimately providing the talent for anticipated career opportunities in the near future. He also encouraged business owners to embrace a new workforce model to develop and retain talent, such as having students intern for a committed period of time, e.g., two years, that would allow the company sufficient time to integrate students into the work culture, provide them with hands-on experience, and increase the chances of retaining the best talent here in our region.

Changing Workforce Trends

Aaron Grossman of Alliance Solutions Group addressed attendees on the changing workforce and what employers need to know to find and retain the right talent for their companies. The trends currently having the greatest impact include the Millenial generation workforce, social recruitment and online staffing. Aaron shared some commonalities among Millenials, or Generation Y, that will help employers better understand and utilize this growing workforce, such as their need to understand the value of the job they are doing, the expectation that performance is based on their outcomes versus number of hours worked at their desk, the emphasis on work-place recognition and flexibility, and the tendency to change companies more often than previous generations. Aaron suggested clearly defining the purpose of the company or role, creating recognition systems to acknowledge employees and remaining flexible when it comes to the scheduled work day.

Social recruiting and online staffing are also changing the face of the workplace and the workforce itself. LinkedIn remains the biggest social media site used to make professional connections, with Twitter and Facebook still widely used, while social media in general continues to blend marketing with recruitment efforts. Online staffing, a new concept introduced to the industry in 2009, is growing dramatically. The practice creates a new recruiting landscape through which non-traditional positions, such as freelance-type work often in the areas of marketing and information technology, are recruited for and filled entirely online. In 2020, 50% of the workforce will perform non-traditional services of some kind. Online staffing will allow employers to find the talent they need regardless of geography.

Workforce Incentives

Workforce incentives are out there, if you know where to look and how to apply. That was the message from Tracy Monroe of Cohen & Company and Dennis McAndrews of Silverlode Consulting as they discussed federal, state and local workforce-related incentive programs. Tracy focused on federal incentives, often designed to encourage specific behaviors, such as buying business assets, conducting research and development, and hiring employees. A few of the most recent initiatives include the FICA tax holiday for employers; bonus depreciation for the purchase of assets; and the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC), which encouraged companies to hire veterans, welfare recipients and other certain individuals. The WOTC has expired but is expected to be extended into 2014. In addition, many states often enhance federal credit programs to maximize their overall impact.

Dennis reviewed Ohio’s key grant programs. One significant program is the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, which reimburses employers in certain industries for training that will upgrade existing employees’ skills. The online application process is first-come, first-served. The first two rounds committed a relatively small amount of training funds, $20 million per round, in a matter of hours each time and required significant preparation to even apply. A third round is cautiously anticipated but the timing of its release has not yet been announced. The JobsOhio Workforce Grant funded by JobsOhio is another incentive, but this time is awarded as part of a comprehensive state incentive package for new jobs creation, training and/or capital investment. This program allows for flexibility in important areas, such as choosing who will conduct the training, which is not always the case in similar programs in other states. Additional programs to look into include Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit, which is applied to CAT but is refundable; and Ohio Third Frontier’s Internship Program, providing quality, college-level interns in the areas of advanced energy, manufacturing, materials and bioscience, at a cost subsidized by the state.

Employers can find a comprehensive list of programs at Ohio Means Jobs or Ohio Means Jobs / Cleveland-Cuyahoga County.

We thank all of our speakers and attendees for bringing us these insights and many more in this annual executive event. 

Sequoia Financial Group, LLC Disclosures: Past performance is not indicative of future performance and the value of investments and the income derived from them can go down as well as up. The views expressed in this document are based on current market conditions. They are subject to change without notice. Investment Advisory Services offered through Sequoia Financial Advisors, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Certain Third Party Money Management offered through ValMark Advisers, Inc. an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through ValMark Securities, Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC. 3500 Embassy Pkwy, Akron, Ohio 44333 Phone (330) 375-9480. Certain insurance products offered through Sequoia Financial Insurance Agency, LLC. Sequoia Financial Group, LLC and related entities are separate entities from ValMark Securities, Inc. and ValMark Advisers, Inc. This document and the information contained herein is for information purposes only. It is not intended as, and does not constitute, an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument.

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