(Courtesy of Jacksonville Business News)
Nearly half of companies in a SunTrust (NYSE: STI) nationwide survey say attracting and retaining employees is their top challenge in 2018. Middle market companies – companies with revenues between $10 and $150 million – ranked it as their top concern.
Jacksonville is no exception to the nationwide findings, SunTrust Market President for Northeast Florida Brian Parks told the Business Journal. Jacksonville companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find and keep their talent, especially in the health care, construction and logistics industries, Parks said.
“There are significant challenges in the transportation and logistics industries,” said Parks.
He noted the impacts of Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) fulfillment centers, an aging population of truck drivers, increased consumer spending and new regulation requiring truck drivers to electronically log hours.
“Nationally, the industry has been hit by this confluence of factors,” said Parks. “As a port city, those factors are exacerbated here.”
For the transportation industry, Parks expects businesses will be forced to raise wages for truck drivers and other positions facing shortages, which will push up the price of shipping.
In general, however, businesses have a wide menu of options to attract and retain talent, Parks said.
One simple way to add talent is to find and acquire companies that already have the talent you’re looking for. This is an attractive option for many local companies that are looking to add product offerings, expand geographically or conduct business internationally, Parks said. He noted that SunTrust is currently helping a number of local businesses find companies to buy.
A simple way to keep talent is to offer employees personal finance training.
“Financial education is outpacing retirement and health care benefits as the way to develop loyalty,” said Parks.
To be effective, such a course should give employees confidence in their own finances. SunTrust offers a course called Momentum onUp. Parks noted that SunTrust first hired Momentum onUp to offer programs for its own employees, then became so enamored with it that it bought the company and now offers the program to clients.
Jacksonville is also a great magnet to attract outside talent, Parks noted. The tech sector saw more than 100 percent year-over-year growth in 2017, Parks said, while economic development agency JaxUSA brought in more than 5,000 new jobs last year.
Jacksonville’s beaches, river, low cost of living and absence of state income tax are powerful assets to leverage, Parks said.
“We are very bullish on Jacksonville,” said Parks. “We see this as a key growth market.”