The No. 1 challenge most executives face today is simply defined, yet exceedingly difficult to execute: hiring the best people.
The employment market, nationally and in Florida, is going gangbusters, with jobs seemingly as plentiful as summer showers. Some recent key jobs data nuggets include:
• The national jobless rate was 4.1% through March — the lowest in 17 years, according to federal employment data;
• Employers nationally have added to payrolls for 90 straight months;
• Florida added 17,500 private sector jobs in March, according to an ADP Regional Employment Report. The jobs broke down between 14,500 in service-producing industries and 2,900 in goods-producing sectors;
• The unemployment rate in Florida dipped below 4% in February and August 2017 — down from more than 11% those months in 2009;
While more people working delivers a well-known economic multiplier effect, the barn-burning jobs market presents a challenge for business owners and top executives: finding and retaining the top people. On the west coast of Florida, the problem is critical, from construction and manufacturing to retail and hospitality — all key job sectors.
Sean Dotson, president of Manatee County-based RND Automation & Engineering, is a poster-child for how tough it can be to find the right — or sometimes, any person. His company, with around $4 million in annual sales and 40 employees, designs and assembles custom-made automation and robotic machines used by other manufacturers.
RND has been searching for an application engineer — someone who can develop pricing for its machines — for six months. It's a task Dotson himself has done but he’s looking to offload it due to the company's growth, so he can focus in other areas. “We have very specialized needs," says Dotson, who has expanded the search beyond Florida and the South the Rust Belt. “We're picking from an already small pot of possible applicants all over the country.”
While not every company faces that kind of specific shortage, the situation is primed to thicken in coming years, given future jobs projections. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, for example, projects employment in education and health care will increase nearly 20% by 2025. Professional/business services will rise by 15%, the DEO projects, and leisure/hospitality jobs will increase 12.2%.
Going deeper into the data for Florida proves health care wears the crown. The top four in-demand positions in the state through 2025 — nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapist assistants and home health aides — are all health care related.
The workforce challenge isn’t without some solutions. Companies and entities on the west coast of Florida have tried a variety of things to fill positions and hold on to the good people. Some use technology advances, like virtual job fairs. Others boost and enhance benefits packages. Several focus on training, with in-house company universities that handle training and development.
This package of stories details what a dozen different companies in the region are doing to improve recruitment and retention. Other stories are glances at the future of workforce issues and solutions, from a Tampa company with an innovative software app to what do to about the generation after millennials — Generation Z.
No matter the generation or position, Brian Murphy, CEO of fast-growing Tampa-based It security firm ReliaQuest, has one core hiring philosophy that could transfer well to just about any business. The company focuses on finding intangibles. “We don't hire for experience or technical skills,” Murphy says. “We hire for three things: attitude, energy and effort.”
— Mark Gordon