The Four Challenges We Need To Address
Utah business leaders are concerned about their employees. It’s a recurring theme as I meet with them throughout the state. They feel a sense of responsibility and a desire to engage in their communities to support their employees, not only on the job but in their overall quality of life. This is something of a tradition in Utah, our identity as a state has always been tied to living a life focused on wellbeing and a high standard of living.
To support this feeling of social responsibility throughout the business community, the Salt Lake Chamber launched the Utah Community Builders Foundation in June 2018. Over the last year, the foundation has gathered information, met with issue experts and service providers, and coordinated with leaders inside the Salt Lake Chamber to understand the most pressing challenges for Utah’s communities: social mobility, behavioral health, immigration, and childcare.
As our economy and demographics continue to change, many families in neighborhoods across the state cannot break the cycle of intergenerational poverty without broader support from the community. We are well represented by the government and nonprofit organizations (many of which go above and beyond), but we know the business community must play a critical role as well.
Coordinated engagement, along with data and research, can take efforts to address poverty to the next level, pinpointing areas of greatest need and working with employers to create real opportunities and cumulative strategies that lead to greater social mobility for their employees.
According to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Insititute, baby boomers currently make up 16 percent of Utah’s overall population while Gen X and millennials combined make up 42 percent. What does this mean for employers? Research and related reports show that a wave of younger employees is entering the job market while dealing with higher rates of anxiety and depression than those of generations before.
Essentially, Utah has more work to do to provide better access to mental health care. According to Intermountain Healthcare, nearly 72 percent of employees want their employer to prioritize mental health in the workplace–and every generation ranked mental health as the highest priority over other concerns.
Utah Community Builders will work with insurance and health care providers, employers, and employees to better understand this growing issue and equip business leaders with the knowledge and tools to prioritize wellbeing and behavioral health in the workplace. Likewise, the foundation will offer information on existing programs and collaborative opportunities for businesses to come together on behalf of their employees.
The Salt Lake Chamber has long been on the cutting edge of immigration, understanding its nuanced complexities as they relate to law and order, family welfare, employment needs, and future prosperity. Utah Community Builders Foundation will take these efforts by the Chamber and its members to the next level by working with state and local leaders to specifically inform the business community about H1-B visa reform and related matters.
Utah employees must have the ability to recruit and retain a skilled, talented workforce, as well as assure that while laws and public policies are inviolate and conducive to smart growth, that a well-informed business community remains actively engaged in the process. The foundation will work to establish and maintain this balance with an eye toward achieving sustainable economic opportunity and strong communities.
The quality and affordability of childcare are consistent concerns for working parents as well as businesses who want to retain employees. Addressing this important concern, Utah Community Builders is convening conferences and working groups, as well as talking with service providers and companies who have successful childcare programs.
In the months ahead, the foundation will promote best practices and work not only with employees, employers, and service providers, but with state and federal officials to advance those ideas and programs that support families and contribute to the quality of life Utahns expect and deserve. These initial areas of focus are workforce issues that underscore the desire of business leaders to improve the wellbeing of employees by supporting their families and contributing to their communities.