EANJ Convenes 106th Annual Meeting

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On May, 18, 2022, the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ) convened its 106th Annual Membership Meeting, the first in person meeting since March, 2020.  The following is an excerpt from the opening remarks by John Sarno, EANJ’s president.

2019 – New Jersey had achieved a “full employment economy” Unemployment 3.6 %, more job vacancies then people looking for work.

Biggest challenges faced by EANJ members were 1) finding skilled workers to fill jobs and 2) retaining skilled workers to operate the business.  Majority of members said that these issues were hitting he bottom line.

To say that the pandemic disrupted the workplace is an understatement.   Overnight, the biggest challenges were 1) ensuring the health and safety of the workplace, 2) managing a hybrid workplace 3) dealing with employee stress, mental health and wellness.

2019 – World Health Organization identified “burnout” as major contributor of occupational disease and workers reported work stress was at an all time high (downside of the full employment economy”  An EANJ seminar that year – Mental Health and Wellbeing: An HR Toolkit – 7 people attended

Employee wellbeing, always a back seat issue for most employers – became a top concern. Adjust priorities 2020-2021.  Biggest challenge for HR in 2020-2021 was to acquire and analyze new information.   HR has become permanently information-intensive, difficult for those who work part-time HR jobs.

Like many members, EANJ went virtual. This had to be done as legal and medical information were changing dramatically

April, 2020 – March, 2022,  EANJ staff delivered 17 COVID and COVID-related webinars – New Jersey’s ongoing response to the public health emergency, OSHA standards, CDC guidance,  ADA guidance, EEO guidance, FMLA, sick leave, COVID testing, vaccines and all the updates

2,050 people representing EANJ members attended

Other webinars covering HR Law and management topics – 1,047

Certificate Programs – HR Law, HR Administration – 120

Premier Courses – Strategic HR – 94 people

EANJ staff fielded 3,708 calls and emails form members – Health & Safety, Benefits Administration (disability and sick leaves)

WE. EANJ members and EANJ staff, STEPPED UP – mastering new subject matter at the same time as learning to work virtually, staying focused and managing our own stress and anxiety.

Where are we now?

Economy is about 95% back to pre-pandemic levels, even as the Corona Virus proliferates

Unemployment – 3.6% - prepandemic levels  

Top Concerns - 1) finding skilled workers to fill jobs and 2) retaining skilled workers to operate the business.  Majority of members say that these are  hitting he bottom line.

We know that we have gone through two years of disruption, dislocation, fear, stress, grief and anxiety

What have we learned?  Charles Darwin did not say that the strongest survive.  He said that the imperative of survival is adapting and learning.  Not going backwards, but going forward – with new skills and techniques

Even as COVID remains unpredictable –

  • What strategies can we utilize to address these persistent workforce challenges?
  • What new knowledge is necessary to be better at our jobs?
  • How do we create better workplaces?
  • How do we Re-imagine, Re-engage, Retain and Recruit in a new era?
  • What do leaders at all levels need to do now?

These are the questions we are going to try to answer this morning.

Questions for panelists

1.    Over the past two years, millions of people have decided to quit, retire or leave the workforce.  Some industries are more impacted then others. Throughout our surveys and focus groups before and during the pandemic, the importance of workplace culture came up repeatedly – as both an asset and a detriment.   Asked about their best asset for recruiting and retaining talent, many said “positive workplace culture.” Asked about their biggest challenge, many said “inflexible workplace culture.” How can workplace culture make or break a business?

2.    What role does training play in promoting a positive workplace? What would you recommend to an employer that does not want to go back to a pre-pandemic HR model?

3.    According to a Monmouth University Poll, 70%  of Americans say we must accept that COVID is here to stay.  What impact to you think this acceptance will have on the workplace?

4.    Business owners and executives must take direct responsibility for making workplace health, safety and wellness core values.  Would anyone disagree with that? Many employers are reluctant.  Many take a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach.  Is there a business case that can be made?

5.    Pre-pandemic morale and engagement were at record lows pre-pandemic.  Who would like to comment on what strategies can be employed to increase morale and engagement.