CFOs working around cost pressures, labor availability

Labor Shortage, Rising Costs, Supply-Chain Hiccups Hit Manufacturers -  Bloomberg

Dive Brief:

  • While CFOs, on the whole, remain optimistic about an economic rebound this year, they’re concerned about labor availability and accompanying cost pressures, according to a quarterly survey by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Federal Reserve Banks of Richmond and Atlanta.
  • Over 75% of CFOs included in the survey said their companies faced challenges in finding workers. More than half of that group also said worker shortage reduced their revenue—especially for small businesses. The survey panel includes 969 CFOs across the U.S.
  • CFOs expect revenue and employment to rise notably through the rest of 2021,” Sonya Ravindranath Waddell, VP and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond said. “[But] over a third of firms anticipated worker shortages to reduce revenue potential in the year.”

Dive Insight:

As many companies struggle to find employees and meet renewed product demand, it’s unsurprising CFOs anticipate both cost and price increases, Waddell said.

About four out of five CFO respondents reported larger-than-normal cost increases at their firms, which they expect will last for several more months. They anticipate the bulk of these cost increases will be passed along to the consumer, translating into higher-priced services.

Despite labor concerns, CFOs are reporting higher optimism than last quarter, ranking their optimism at 74.9 on a scale of zero to 100, a 1.7 jump. They rated their optimism towards the overall U.S. economy at an average of 69 out of 100, a 1.3 increase over last quarter. 

For many CFOs, revenue has dipped below 2019 levels due to worker shortage, and in some cases, material shortages, Waddell told Fortune last week. Even so, spending is on the rise, which respondents chalked up to a reopening economy.

“Our calculations indicate that, if we extrapolate from the CFO survey results, the labor shortage has reduced revenues across the country by 2.1%,” Waddell added. “In 2019, we didn’t face [the] conundrum of nine million vacancies combined with nine million unemployed workers.”

Consumer prices have jumped 5.4% over the past year, a U.S. Department of Labor report from last week found; a Fortune report found that to be the largest 12-month inflation spike since the Great Recession in 2008. 

To reduce the need for labor amid the shortage, many companies will be “surviving with just some compressed margins for a while, or turning to automation,” Waddell said.

Show Me the Money

DevOps for Defense

How much transparency is too much?

That’s the question business leaders are facing after Colorado lawmakers passed a bill requiring companies to post salary ranges for open or remote work positions in the state. California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Washington already have laws on the books mandating companies provide pay ranges to candidates who specifically ask for them or during an offer. The Colorado law takes it one step further by making companies proactively disclose the minimum and maximum salary as part of the job posting.

Though Colorado is the first state to make salary ranges available to any applicant, it won’t be the last, says Benjamin Frost, a solutions architect in Korn Ferry’s Products business. The wind is clearly blowing in the direction of this becoming commonplace,” he says. Investors and employees want more transparency from companies, particularly around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Moreover, supporters argue providing salary ranges up front can help companies better match candidates to positions, making the hiring process more efficient.

But some companies, already under increasing wage pressure brought on by the hiring boom, apparently don’t see it that way: some recent job listings have specifically excluded candidates who live in Colorado from certain open positions. Frost says the move is less about Colorado’s talent pool and more about losing negotiating power with talent overall. “Excluding Colorado workers seems like a decent price to pay for not needing to disclose salary ranges at the moment,” he says. By contrast, he says, if and when a state like New York or California takes the step toward proactive disclosure, it will be a much bigger deal: “It is about talent pools and where companies can and can’t afford to close off access.”

Human resources leaders also argue that proactively providing pay ranges will actually make the recruiting process less, rather than more, efficient. For one, designating a salary range is tricky business. “You don’t want to limit the talent you get to look at,” says Andy De Marco, Korn Ferry’s vice president of human resources for the Americas. At the time, the range can be so broad that it could become arbitrary. A span of $100,000, for instance, expands the candidate pool and skills spectrum so much that it could slow down recruiting and, by extension, operations.

Excluding applicants from Colorado for now might give companies more time to clean up their pay practices, says Tom McMullen, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and a leader in the firm’s Total Rewards practice. He notes that posting pay ranges could expose internal inequities leaders aren’t yet prepared to deal with. For instance, suppose a company posts a range of $80,000 to $100,000 for a role, but an existing employee is still earning the minimum number after five years with the firm. “How upset will that employee be after seeing this posted range?” asks McMullen.

To be sure, optics are a huge part of the disclosure calculus for leaders. McMullen says companies are running out of time to institute fairer pay practices on their own before regulators push them to do so. “Employees will give their leaders credit for making these changes proactively,” he says.

A new divide is making the workforce crisis worse

https://mailchi.mp/bfba3731d0e6/the-weekly-gist-july-2-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

How the Hybrid Workforce will Drive the Future of Work

Health system executives continue to tell us that the top issue now keeping them up at night is workforce engagement.

Exhausted from the COVID experience, facing renewed cost pressures, and in the midst of a once-in-a-generation rethink of work-life balance among employees, health systems are having increasing difficulty filling vacant positions, and holding on to key staff—particularly clinical talent. One flashpoint that has emerged recently, according to leaders we work with, is the growing divide between those working a “hybrid” schedule—part at home, part in the office—and those who must show up in person for work because of their roles. Largely this split has administrative staff on one side and clinical workers on the other, leading doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to complain that they have to come into work (and have throughout the pandemic), while their administrative colleagues can continue to “Zoom in”. There’s growing resentment among those who don’t have the flexibility to take a kid to baseball practice at 3 o’clock, or let the cable guy in at noon without scheduling time off, making the sense of burnout and malaise even more intense. Add to that the resurgence in COVID admissions in some markets, and the “help wanted” situation in the broader economy, and the health system workforce crisis looks worse and worse. Beyond raising wages, which is likely inevitable for most organizations, there is a need to rethink job design and work patterns, to allow a tired, frustrated, and—thanks to the in-person/WFH divide—envious workforce the chance to recover from an incredibly difficult year.

Is it time to take Physicians off the Hamster Wheel?

https://mailchi.mp/bfba3731d0e6/the-weekly-gist-july-2-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

7 Smart Strategies for Paying Off Medical School Debt | Student Loan Hero

In theory, the idea of salaried compensation for employed physicians makes a lot of sense. For one thing, it’s blessedly simple, with the potential to remove the tensions that arise in shifting to value-based payment or implementing lower-cost (but lower-reimbursement) care models like telemedicine.

However, medical group leaders have long feared that productivity would tank if doctors were put on salary. (As a consulting colleague said recently, the switch to salary would cause a 20+ percent drop in productivity in the medical group, creating a challenge akin to keeping an airline profitable after removing a quarter of the seats on its planes). We’ve been expecting that more doctors might seek stable compensation models in the wake of the pandemic, and so weren’t entirely surprised when the question of moving to straight salary came up in three conversations over the past two weeks.
 
In all three cases, leaders are hoping to create more predictability, and to decrease the resources and effort needed to execute against a menu of complex plans. They believe that a move to salary is inevitable, and their questions have more to do with timing. 

Gauging when to make the move should be determined not by external market shifts, but by internal cultural and operational readiness. Are the systems in place to enable doctors to work at a high level of efficiency? And do we have the group collaboration needed to maintain high performance without paying doctors as if they are salesmen on commission?

Another wrinkle has popped up for groups who might be ready now: the past year has upended the benchmarks that groups might otherwise use to inform decisions on where to set salaries. Nevertheless, over time we expect more groups to move in this direction, with the hope of getting off the “hamster wheel” of compensation committee meetings and ever more exotic permutations of bonus plans, in search of a more stable model.

An “employee diaspora” is complicating network contracting

https://mailchi.mp/bade80e9bbb7/the-weekly-gist-june-18-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

Home - Diaspora Dialogues

This week we caught up with a benefits consultant colleague to get her perspective on how employers are thinking about health benefits as they come out of the pandemic. “It seems like employers and health systems have switched places in their enthusiasm for direct contracting,” she shared.

Prior to the pandemic, employer interest in working directly with a health system around a narrow network product to deliver coordinated care was growing, but there were few systems offering attractive solutions. Now more health systems are ready, but the number of employees working remotely has created a new obstacle for direct contracting.

One chief people officer for a large employer noted that while some employees have relocated permanently, others are still hopping from one Airbnb to another: “It’s at the point where I have no idea where half of our people are living on any given day.” In this new “employee diaspora”, some firms are seeing ten percent or more of their formerly office-based workforce now located outside the market, creating challenges for a geographically concentrated network to meet their needs.

How many companies will allow permanent telework, and how many employees will take them up on it, remains to be seen (our colleague suggested we’ll know more in the fall, after the return to school anchors many families in place). But for now, the best employer partners for direct contracting efforts are likely mid-sized regional employers, who are more likely to retain a local workforce, and face fewer obstacles to making benefit design changes.