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The human factor

Rochester Business Journal
February 7, 2014

Asked to identify business challenges that concern them, area executives participating in the RBJ-Siena Business Leaders Survey cited more than a dozen. In particular, they pointed to health care costs, government regulation, taxes, rising supplier costs and cash flow.

When asked in a follow-up question which of these challenges concerned them most, health care costs and government regulation tied for first at 20 percent, followed by taxes and adverse economic conditions at 15 percent.

Among the also-ran challenges was human resources, which was named by only 4 percent of executives in the second question.

Yet another part of the survey, in which respondents were asked about the skills and attributes of job applicants, suggests that finding good candidates for open positions can be difficult.

On technical skills, survey participants rated 44 percent of job applicants as fair or poor. For verbal skills, those rated fair or poor rose to 60 percent; for writing skills, the number was 73 percent.

Many employers believe attributes such as initiative and work ethic are just as important as specific skills. But here again, the ratings were negative—fair or poor marks of 65 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

In response to a more general question—“Is there an ample supply of local workers that are appropriately trained for your employment needs?”—the executives were more upbeat. Fifty-six percent said yes.

This seeming disconnect has a possible explanation: The supply of qualified workers in the Rochester area is sufficient at present. But will the same be true if the economy finally returns to a more robust level of growth?

Put another way, is enough being done to ensure that the Rochester area has the workers needed to allow for stronger growth?

It is right to point the finger at government for high taxes and burdensome regulations, but if there’s a shortage of qualified job applicants, responsibility for that will be much broader.

RBJ-Siena survey
Siena College Research Institute director Donald Levy will discuss the survey at the RBJ Power Breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 13. More information:

2/7/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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