September 1, 2012

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Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2012

C. THOMAS: I speak from time to time to communications classes at various universities, and I noticed that professors at a couple of the universities make a concerted effort to talk about expectations. And, in some cases, saying if this is not what you are looking for, maybe you should change your major. So there is some of that going on, but there is still a need for it.

FENWICK: Right. There doesn’t seem to be a general effort overall to get people prepared for what they are really going to face. Sure, they are being trained for $80,000-a-year jobs at some point down the road, but they don’t see that time in between.

FOSTER: One of the major effects we feel from the debt crisis is related to the student loan program. Even from the time that I was in college—and I’m not that old—it’s changed significantly. Now almost everybody can get a student loan. By the time they get out of college, they’ve got $50,000-plus in student loans, and that makes them feel pressure. That’s one of the reasons there is a lot of job hopping. They come in, they get a year under their belt, then they have enough experience to get a higher-paying job. So they jump ship, and they do this because they need more money to pay off these loans.
They are not educated on the impact those loans will have later on. I think it’s an employer’s responsibility to provide more financial education in our training and in the professional development that we offer. That is something we’re going to focus on this year because if people are worrying about their finances, they are not focusing on being productive.

CARTER: From my clientele perspective, regarding the debt crisis—I don’t think it’s a lack of willingness. It’s a fear of investing in their employees. It isn’t trying to be mean. It’s a literal fear of spending any more money, not knowing what the economy is going to do the following year.
The result of that is long-term employees get a 1- or 2-percent increase, and they bring people in 1 percent below the five-year employee, and then there is compression in the salary ranges that then has an effect on morale in the organization.

NORTON: Even with very solid companies, the debt crisis ultimately trickles down again to salaries, to stress in the home, and all that comes with that. Everybody is uneasy and it causes depression and illnesses. They are worried. Are they ever going to be wealthy? Are they ever going to progress? And they are jumping maybe in hopes of getting those things—the security. The debt crisis is ultimately affecting all of us in every aspect.

CARTER: The boomers are wary to retire, which has an effect on the new hires because they are accepting jobs not even in their field. College graduates are accepting $10-an-hour jobs just to work, while many of us are refusing to retire because we are too worried about our own futures. I’m part of that, so I’m not blaming us. And it’s not infusing fresh blood and new ideas into the workplace either because so many of us that have so many years of experience are afraid to retire, even though we’d like to.

A. THOMAS: As a corollary to that, we are losing the opportunity for training because if you wait until someone retires to bring that new person on, you’ve lost all the intellectual capital, all of the knowledge. So when you’re working with something that’s a skill—whether it’s a hard skill, soft skill, intellectual skill—these younger people need to be trained, they’ve got to learn what it is a company expects.
Somebody mentioned that attrition is a big issue—someone always jumping for the next salary. Corporate knowledge is evaporating. I don’t know whether it’s the debt crisis driving this or just the demographics driving this, but we’re losing the ability for companies to retain their identity, for lack of a better word. And the identity, for some companies, that is what they have. That is how they sell. That is how they make a difference.

SISK: What’s interesting is the trickle effect of all of this. We were talking about people coming out of college expecting the norm, and the norm is not there anymore. We’re talking about people expecting the norm from a retirement plan. The norm is not there anymore. You are expecting people to retire at the normal age. The norm is not there anymore. What I think it’s done is challenged and pushed a lot of those things, and the trickle down of all of those implications makes for an interesting environment.

WHALEN: The debt crisis is a global issue, and it started with the talk of austerity measures. And on this side of the pond, looking at Europe in particular, it was easy for us to say, what? Retire at 50? Of course that is ridiculous. They should tighten their belts. Or four weeks of vacation? Oh, my gosh. I wish I had that. They should tighten their belts.
But one thing about Americans is we have always been willing to work hard and raise ourselves up by our own sweat equity. But when the austerity measures hit Americans and it starts impacting these programs that were set up to give a certain level of security and a certain basic bundle of rights to workers, that is when we will really need to begin to take a closer look. I see two issues. One is we need to define what is our expected basic bundle of rights. Is it Social Security? Is it a certain basic level of healthcare? Is it a living wage? What do we stand for as Americans?
Now, we know we don’t stand for retiring at 50 and four weeks of vacation in your first year of employment, but there will be a backlash if we cut so deeply that that basic bundle of rights begins to be impacted. And I believe we will see a rising up of the ranks there.
The second issue is this: Americans are willing to tighten their belts, but we are founded on this basic notion of fairness. When we read in the paper about a CEO of some investment firm forgoing his multimillion dollar termination package, but that he’s doing this hugely magnanimous gesture, it really seems unfair to the employee to whom you said, “We’re freezing salaries. We’re not going to do a match on your 401(k) this year.”
So the answer in America needs to keep in mind the issues of what is our culture, what do we stand for, what is our basic bundle of rights we offer our employees and this issue of fairness, because in the technology age, things are becoming more and more and more transparent. The minimum-wage employees will know what the executives get and their lifestyle and their safety net and how it compares to theirs. 

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