Happy, engaged employees are 12 percent more productive while disengaged employees cost companies up to $500 billion a year.
Employees are kayaking together, playing Bubble Ball and archery tag, competitively decorating cupcakes, betting at the race track, golfing and more – all on company time. And not just once a year. Are these often-hefty team building expenditures worth the cost? Does the happy camaraderie and rise in team spirit really translate to greater creativity and performance back at the office?
According to a Forbes magazine article, “team building is the most important investment companies can make. It builds trust, mitigates conflict, encourages communication and increases collaboration. [It results in] more engaged employees … boosting the bottom line.”
Inc. reports a direct correlation between employee happiness and engagement: “Companies that have happy employees outperform their competitors by 20 percent, and contented salespeople rack up 37 percent greater sales. Happy employees are 12 percent more productive and, on average, take 10 times fewer sick days.”
Their counterparts? Inc. says that “discontented employees cost companies between $450 and $500 billion each year.” Among other factors, this group has a higher rate of accidents and absenteeism, and causes more errors and defects.
Despite expert sources that champion team building, companies may need far more of it to better engage workers. Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace” survey found that 85 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged (67 percent) or are actively disengaged (18 percent) in their jobs. According to a recent Gallup blog, non-engaged workers “are not your worst performers, but they are indifferent to your organization. They give you their time, but not their best effort nor their best ideas.
“The economic consequences of this global ‘norm’ are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity,” Gallup states.
Fortunately for New Jersey employers, numerous venues in our own backyard specifically cater to unique team experiences designed to build trust and confidence and improve communication, productivity and employee effectiveness.
NJ Coastal Sports
With two locations in Fairfield, Coastal Sports custom designs dozens of interactive physical and mental challenges that energize teams and maximize their problem- solving and decision-making skills.
General Manager Barry Martin says the most recent economic downturn has increased demand for the firm’s corporate services. “As many companies reduce the size of their workforces, they’re asking remaining employees to do more, often outside of their basic skill sets. Team building activities help employers as well as employees better understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses and interests. This understanding improves communication and collaboration, which leads to innovation and creativity.”
Redefined roles within a reduced workforce has led to more activities centered around collaboration. “Fun activities that require solving a problem promote a sense of shared struggle that leads to more collaboration in the workplace,” Martin reports. He says a smaller workforce results in smaller task teams, noting a trend in activities designed around small groups of employees, such as those working on specific projects.
Crystal Springs Resort
Located on more than 4,000 sprawling, rolling acres in Hamburg, Crystal Springs – a golf, spa and culinary resort – features: three golf courses; a tavern, Italian bistro and al fresco dining; pool complex with hot tubs and saunas; a spa; and business center.
The resort offers wide-ranging seasonal and year-round activities designed for team building, including a custom obstacle course, archery tag competition, trap and skeet shooting, scavenger hunts, geo-trekking, winter Olympics, water sports, a Swing n’ Sip 3-hole golf scramble competition, a search and rescue, croquet competition, foot golf, corporate Pictionary and much more.
Linda Alloco, regional sales director for Crystal Springs, sees a recent uptick in corporate cooking contests, such as the Iron Chef Competition – in which teams prepare a meal that’s judged based on presentation, taste, originality, best name and teamwork – and the Cupcake Challenge – during which teams have one hour to decorate 20 cupcakes to be judged on teamwork, creativity and originality.
In the Blind Wine Tasting Game, team groups have 15 minutes to guess the continent, country, region, grape and year of each wine offered, followed by a tour of Crystal Springs’ world-class Wine Cellar.
Charity activities also are growing in popularity. Teams participating in the Charity Bike Build race to construct the ultimate human-powered, no-gasoline-needed rocket, known to many as a child’s bicycle – without instructions. Concurrently, other teammates navigate entertaining, innovative puzzles and challenges to earn enough “money” to purchase that last crucial part needed to make their team’s bike the first produced. In the Hands of Gratitude Challenge, teams use provided materials, tools and information to build functional high-end prosthetic hands that are donated to those in need.
During Minute Mayhem, another increasingly popular event, team members perform their best under pressure by racing against the clock to compete in short challenges.
“More companies are recognizing that team collaboration is a recipe for success,” Alloco states. “Coworkers gain respect for each other as well as their companies.”
Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment
The thrill of live horse racing makes Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment a unique choice for corporate team building. From the seasoned participant to novice bettor, for whom beginners’ betting instructions are provided, teams of employees enjoy rooting for their pick, and learning to win and lose gracefully. Event spaces include private rooms, open air decks, a rooftop terrace, Skybox Suites, Victory Sports Bar & Club and more. The rooftop terrace and east deck offer stunning views of New York City.
In addition to horse racing, Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment provides custom menus for group dinners, BBQ contests, fundraisers and other offsite corporate events.
“Events at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment help build corporate team spirit as they drive new groups from various companies to an environment which is very different from their typical meeting or gathering,” claims Andrea Lokshin, vice president of sales and marketing for the company. “Who needs another boring hotel conference room when you can have rooftop views of Manhattan, live horse racing action, food from gourmet chefs and an atmosphere that brings people together in a much more exciting fashion? Creative juices and team bond flow when people are enjoying themselves.”
Colleges and universities strive to offer graduate programs to students whose adult lives are a composite of unrelated deadlines and commitments.
In tandem with graduate degrees increasingly becoming the “new credentials” necessary for career advancement in the 21<sup>st</sup> century, employed adults who seek them often have bustling personal schedules driven not only by work-related demands, but also childcare and elder care, for example. Within this mosaic, colleges and universities are competing amongst each other for these students. And while the extent to which institutions’ graduate degree programs are “flexible” may be among the many various factors that prospective students consider when selecting a school, it is nonetheless a crucial determinant.
“When students are looking at institutions and degree programs, we find that they compare price and the value of the degree – and convenience is [also] certainly a big player in their [decisions],” explains Steven E. Goetsch, associate vice president for enrollment management and marketing, Felician University. He also says, “My own, personal opinion is that higher education is one of the most competitive markets (among colleges and universities).”
Janice Warner, PhD, acting provost, Georgian Court University, stresses, “For adult learners, the convenience factor is the No. 1 factor. If what we offer matches what [students] need and it is convenient, that is going to ‘win it.’ For our adult learners, especially at the master’s level, they are not looking at a whole bunch of different schools, if they are working. They are looking at their local [colleges and universities.]”
Additionally, citing an unpredictable labor market, D. Elaine Frazier, director of EMBA and graduate programs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), says, “Our experience suggests that adults are less inclined to leave a [career] position to obtain an MBA degree, full time, especially when they can work and attend school. Then, they have the best of both worlds: They can keep their jobs and get their degrees simultaneously.”
In Frazier’s experience, there are various reasons why students seek degrees in the first place, one of which consists of senior-level career professionals who, in effect, want to ensure their subordinates do not possess more academic credentials then they do. Other experts cite younger persons who might not only need graduate education for its own, practical sake, but also require it in a marketplace in which, in certain cases, the baccalaureate degree has arguably lost some of its cache.
Frazier says, “Whether the adult learner is an executive or analyst, he or she wants a seamless admissions process and a clear, unobstructed path to degree completion; I see that with everyone we deal with. That’s what students want … but equally as important: They want to gain some skills that can be immediately applied to their daily job functions.”
Susan Forquer Gupta, PhD, associate professor of marketing and international business, and MBA director, at Monmouth University, says, “It just seems like every student we get in the program has a lot of demands on his or her time, particularly the successful ones. What I mean by that is they are very driven, and they are trying to do everything. Or, they are given a lot of opportunity, because they are competent, and they have a tendency to need the most flexibility, but they also care a lot about their education, and they take it seriously, too.”
There are near-endless iterations surrounding the ways in which colleges and universities are “flexible” for various students, including hybrid classes, when class time is divided between online participation and in-person classroom instruction. Separately, many college classes are held in the evenings as opposed to the daytime, once again, to accommodate working students. One educator even ventured that when he worked at a prior institution in a different state, it offered classes as early as 5 a.m. to avoid scheduling conflicts with students’ afternoon and evening schedules.
A different educator – Dr. Ed Petkus, Jr., dean of Anisfield School of Business at Ramapo College of New Jersey – adds, “If somebody is a working professional and his or her boss says, ‘You have go on a business trip next week’ – but he or she has two classes scheduled that week – we can use technology.
“Students are able to stipend, or otherwise use technology to be ‘here’ – so to speak – virtually. [Additionally,] we also have the ability to record lectures using software that [keeps] the professor talking in-synch with Power- Point slides, and then that can be accessed by the students as well.”
As previously detailed in New Jersey Business magazine, Seton Hall University, along with other institutions, may offer shorter academic semesters. This winter, Joyce A. Strawser, PhD., dean of the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University, said, “To be more flexible for students, instead of writing 15-week classes, we now run seven-week classes. That can be helpful if you have someone who works in a particular industry where he or she has a very defined busy season, a lot of travel or a big project scheduled.”
Evening and Weekend Classes
The points and counterpoints for obtaining a graduate degree can be debated, especially as certificate programs and industry credentials lure students with the promise of rapid returns on investment and associated lower price tags. That said, graduate degrees typically hold their value long term, and provide comprehensive, fundamental studies of the fields at hand. Graduate degree proponents cite that long-term return on investment and the notion that students’ careers span decades, not merely a few years. In this vein, a “web development” certificate from the 1990s could be considered not very useful today, while a masters degree in computer science from that era would likely still retain most of its value.
Siamack Shojai, PhD, dean, Cotsakos College of Business, at William Paterson Univerity, previously told New Jersey Business, “Prospective students still value the return on investment when they go to a graduate program. They know the field is extremely competitive; you can’t just get promoted – there are exceptions – without having a more advanced degree, either in your field or a related field. And, they also realize that the skills and the themes are changing so rapidly that they need to continuously retool. So, they come for certificate programs; they come back for stackable master’s degree program.”
A study by Sandy Baum, Ph.D., and Patricia Steele, Ph.D., released by the Urban Institute, titled, “Who Goes to Graduate School and Who Succeeds?,” reveals, “During the Great Recession, those with college degrees fared much better than those without degrees, but a number of college graduates struggled to find satisfactory employment, leading many to graduate study. The option of seeking an advanced degree has gained momentum in recent decades, and now some observers call the master’s degree the ‘new bachelor’s degree.’”
The millennial generation (persons born between approximately 1982 and 1999) is the most educated generation in American history. Generation Z (persons born after 1999) and Generation X (1965-1981) are often also striving to not only succeed in business, but gain a range of skills that will make them better world citizens during a time of change so substantial and rapid that, in recent centuries, it arguably compares only to the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps above all, the individual student must determine what are his or her life aspirations, at times above and beyond the day-to-day monetary considerations so many people ponder during their career ascensions. Some experts assert this must be weighed against the realities of the 21<sup>st</sup> century, again, in which data analytics, machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence are new images in the dawn of an unfolding technological era that permeates most aspects of our lives.
The Garden State has some 9 million residents and abuts both Manhattan and Philadelphia – major national and international metropolises. More than 60 colleges and universities dot New Jersey’s landscape, offering nearly every conceivable graduate degree, including the venerable MBA, now available in increasingly specialized iterations.
The Reality at Hand
As for the proverbial “busy student,” Felician University’s Goetsch, concludes, “The adult working student sometimes comes to an institution with a mish-mosh of previous programs of which they have been a part. They may have 15 credits from one institution, 10 from yet another, and 30 from another. They may be looking to finish their bachelor’s degree, or an adult student could be looking to get a graduate credential to enhance his or her career or knowledge in a particular area. … They are a great ‘market’; they are a great type of student; they typically do very well. But, they have a lot going on in their lives.”
Millennials surpass baby boomers as the US workforce’s largest generation, and surprising new benefits draw them in.
Millennials are now the largest working generation, with 35 percent of this group active in the US labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. As these workers, today aged 22 to 37, evaluate current and future employers, the benefits their moms and dads once treasured are eclipsed by new desires, such as student loan and childcare assistance, flexible schedules, open work spaces, wellness and other benefits options, financial guidance, atypical medical delivery methods, pet insurance and more.
As of 2017 – the most recent year for which generational work data is available – 56 million millennials (those born 1981 to 1996) were working or looking for work, compared to 41 million baby boomers (1946 to 1964), who represented just 25 percent of the total and continue to retire.
Around the corner is Generation Z (1997 to 2015), to reach 2.52 billion worldwide and by 2025 is slated to become the largest workforce ever.
“To attract and retain the best and brightest, companies must have a strategic benefit offering for all generations, but especially today’s millennials, who now represent the largest percentage of US employees,” Devin Blazier, senior vice president of Alliant Insurance Services, based in Morristown, tells New Jersey Business. “Known to be multi-tasking and ambitious, millennials value multi-platform benefits that offer many options. They value wellness programs, flexible and autonomous work schedules, the option to work remotely, paid time off, professional development and student loan financing. While competitive salaries and bonus potential are common desires across all generations, offerings that target millennials make a big difference as they compare pay, benefits and perks.”
Growing Popularity of the HSA
The younger generation has opened its eyes to the Health Savings Account (HSA), which – when part of a benefits package – makes employee contributions easier, and may be sweetened by corporate matching (which employers can deduct as a business expense). Like an IRA, employee contributions to the HSA are 100 percent deductible (up to the legal limit). Withdrawals to pay qualified medical expenses, including dental and vision, are never taxed, and interest earnings accumulate tax-deferred.
“We see many millennials starting their HSA contributions early in their careers; they will have thousands of dollars in their accounts by the time they’re middle-aged and start needing more medical services,” Steve Rosenthal, CEO and president of Triton Benefits and HR Solutions of Woodbridge, declares.
Telemedicine, a new offering from Triton, is a mobile healthcare app “that millennials love,” Rosenthal reports.
Telemedicine is a national network of US board-certified physicians and pediatricians offering on-demand, 24/7 remote medical care for routine medical issues via video consultations provided over mobile devices from wherever patients happen to be.
“Millennials expect the convenience that comes with a mobile app,” Rosenthal explains, “such as a new one we offer that allows them to self-diagnose the flu, for example. Then, instead of getting out of bed, they can search for a pharmacy that delivers what they need. From an employer perspective, this service also reduces claims costs and helps mitigate rate increases.”
Millennials Love Options
Millennials love options, Rosenthal says. “It’s no longer enough for companies to provide a single plan in which eligible employees must enroll. Millennials want to pick and choose the items included in their benefits programs – and it’s up to employers to design packages that provide these multiple choices.”
The need for options is one reason why younger workers are expanding their use of online support tools such as Healthcare Bluebook, which enables users to understand how much they should be paying for healthcare services before choosing a provider. “It’s like TripAdvisor for healthcare,” Rosenthal asserts.
Student Loans Reach Crisis Level
Competitive pay and the option for raises and bonuses are crucial to millennials, in particular as they address their hefty student loans, which have reached a crisis level of more than $1.5 trillion across the nation, according to a June 2018 article in The Asbury Park Press.
New Jersey’s student loan borrowers, on average, have more debt than their counterparts across the country: They owe a median $18,633 versus the national median student loan debt of $16,995.
Gen Z to Become Largest Workforce Ever
As mentioned previously, Generation Z, whose eldest members are about 21 to 22 years old today, is set to become the largest generation ever – reaching 2.52 billion worldwide – and by 2025 will account for 30 percent of the work-force, Rosenthal notes.
He asserts that Gen Z workers “want work that compels them to be creative and collaborative … they don’t like being put inside of a box, metaphorically and literally. Workspaces will need to be multifunctional to meet the variety of this group’s needs.
“Generation Z also wants its employers to take stances and show support on key social, political and environmental issues,” Rosenthal claims. “Through meaningful and authentic corporate action, companies can earn the loyalty of this group.”
New Benefits on the Negotiation Table
As tuition costs rise exponentially over the years, tuition assistance is being expected by Gen Z, and is being brought up in the interview process.
So is the corporate laptop. “Gen Z was raised with a cell phone in one hand and a laptop in the other and seeks these mobile business tools when considering an employer. For example, they expect to work on a laptop that’s connected to the company server and are asking about it in the interview process,” according to Jim Bell, founder and CEO of Abel HR Services of Cranbury.
Commuting costs also are on the negotiation table, “which is a new conversation for employers since baby boomers rarely asked for such a benefit,” Bell reports. Additionally, future help with childcare costs, which often equals one salary, is something Gen Z is beginning to request. “Gen Z, as well as younger millennials, looks for onsite or subsidized daycare as a valuable part of the benefits package. In addition, baby-centered benefits, such as generous baby bonding time and health plans that cover entire families, also are being requested.”
Gen Z employees – who value their pets more than other generations, as “family members” – are making pet insurance another talking point, Bell notes. “As much as 25 percent of Gen Z workers already have taken a sick day to care for a pet and/or visit a veterinarian.”
In-office digital communication tools and social media platforms also are important to Gen Z in fostering collaboration and camaraderie.
And, because the Gen Z group was given things more easily, they look at a job as disposable and will move on quickly if they are not happy, Bell claims.
Warehousing and distribution remains state’s most vibrant sector.
In a word, the performance of New Jersey’s economy over the past year has been, “okay.”
“New Jersey has been in a post-recession period where its growth has been modest. It’s been lagging the growth pace of the nation as a whole, and that pattern continued through 2017 and probably will continue through 2018,” says James Hughes, distinguished professor and Dean Emeritus of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
Hughes adds that New Jersey has been “middle of the pack” compared to its neighbors – performing better than Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but lagging behind New York.
Hughes points out the last time New Jersey did surpass the economic growth rate of the nation, it was due to the state being an epicenter of the telecommunications capital investment bubble of the late 1990s, when the state saw massive growth in high technology, but eventually was hit with the dot-com stock bubble bursting.
“We don’t have to worry about that now,” Hughes says. “There doesn’t appear to be a unique bubble in New Jersey that will come to cause pain in the future.”
Despite modest growth, there is still some optimism, according to Hughes. “The national economic expansion is now the second longest in history, starting in June of 2009 and [continuing to the present].”
“In general, there is a better economic environment,” says Joel Naroff, president at Naroff Economic Advisors. He points to business friendly federal policies such as corporate tax cuts as one single contributor. “Even when you just have slow to modest growth, if you do that for an extended period of time, eventually the level of activity gets to be pretty good – it just took you a long time to get there,” he says.
This slow – but steady – ramping up of the state’s economy has supported some of the optimism surrounding the state’s business climate.
“The state may not be growing as rapidly as other states are, and it may be underperforming the nation, but it has still been growing. A lot of the problems that we face, such as the housing market, are largely behind us or beginning to fade,” Naroff explains. “There’s a much greater comfort level, especially within the business community.”
NJ Unemployment Rate Marks 10-Year Low
According to preliminary estimates produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (the most recent data at press time) New Jersey employers added to their payrolls in May while the state’s unemployment rate lowered to 4.4 percent.
BLS statistics show total nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by 4,100 in May to reach a seasonally adjusted level of 4,179,200, with the majority of the increase occurring in the private sector (+3,400) of New Jersey’s economy. The state’s 4.4 percent unemployment rate represents the lowest statewide rate since November 2007, according to BLS.
Looking at the longer term, over the year May 2017 – May 2018, employment in New Jersey was higher by 57,200, with the majority of the gains recorded by private-sector employers (+54,200), according to BLS.
Since February 2010 (the low point of the last recession), New Jersey’s private-sector employers have added 372,900 jobs. In May, employment increases were recorded in seven out of nine major private industry sectors.
The Warehouse State
Both Hughes and Naroff agree that logistics, warehousing and distribution is today the state’s best performing sector – a sector that Hughes describes as “vibrant.”
New Jersey is the third largest warehouse distribution market in the country, and the sector has been growing rapidly, with Amazon’s various fulfilment centers at the forefront. Amazon recently announced plans to open its ninth fulfillment center in the state, a 1-million-square-foot facility in Burlington which is expected to create 600 jobs. This comes on the backs of the company’s plan to build a 650,000-square-foot fulfillment center in West Deptford, which is expected to employ 1,000 people when it opens.
“New Jersey is perfectly situated for a global economy,” Naroff says. “The success of this sector is an indication that the geographic location of New Jersey is having an impact on its economy.”
If New Jersey is to continue on a positive economic path, it will need to take advantage of its geographic location to capitalize on today’s global economy – and that will be buoyed by its warehouse and distribution sector.
Hughes does caution that one potential problem is that the state has been running out of easily developable sites.
“The distribution market is spreading out westward along I-287 from the Turnpike, and we are seeing re-use of older properties,” he says. This will be something to monitor going forward.
Recognizing the Necessity to Adapt
Though too early in the term to have a measurable impact on the economy, the Murphy administration has shown signs of taking steps that could have a long-term effect on the state’s competitiveness when it comes to innovation and high technology, which, in turn, could have positive effects on the overall economy.
“One real positive is a recognition of public-private partnerships, particularly in the high-technology sectors,” Hughes says.
He cites the creation of an innovation hub in New Brunswick (“The Hub”), as one example. The Hub is being viewed as a pivotal redevelopment site in downtown New Brunswick that will support New Jersey’s economic future as the state’s home for research and startup incubation.
“By creating a site where high-growth industry can thrive, New Jersey will begin to foster new ideas and take advantage of the once-in-a-generation chance to remake the state as an engine of economic opportunity,” Governor Murphy said of the project.
“I think the governor recognized that if we are going to be competitive with Massachusetts and the like, [innovative partnerships] need to be one of the feature focal points of the economy,” Hughes says.
“I get the sense that there is recognition from this administration that future growth requires positioning of the economy,” Naroff adds. “It seems to recognize that there are issues out there that we are either well suited to take advantage of or not, and we need to position ourselves to deal with the way the world is changing.”
> JPMorgan Chase & Co. is proud to be among New Jersey Business magazine’s Top 100 Employers in New Jersey. We remain committed to the local community and will continue to serve its business and personal needs. JP MORGAN CHASE & CO.
Presenting the 46<sup>th</sup> Annual Top 100 Employers Listing
Throughout the month of June, New Jersey Business contacted and researched more than 100 target companies throughout the state (non-profit higher education institutions, nonprofit hospitals and government entities are excluded) in an effort to compile information that includes 2018 employment figures (New Jersey and companywide) as well as financial (if applicable) and executive information. The 2018 New Jersey employee numbers were then compared to the previous year’s numbers, both individually and in the aggregate. One must keep in mind, however, that these numbers are only a small sample of the state’s employers and they may not necessarily reflect the overall landscape of the economy and its job losses or gains, among other factors.
From the data received from employers as well as New Jersey Business estimates, 39 percent of the employers in the Top 100 showed an increase in employment in 2018, which equaled the 39 percent that had an increase in 2017. Thirty-six percent of the companies displayed a decline in employment in New Jersey, compared to 29 percent in 2017. Also, 23 percent of the companies in the Top 100 went virtually unchanged from 2017. Due to new companies making their way into the listing, comparative data is not available for 2 percent of employers.
In 2018, the total number of New Jersey-based workers who were employed by companies in the Top 100 was 518,087 compared to 511,007 that were in the Top 100 the previous year. This shows a +7,080 difference in employees and a nearly 1.4 percent increase.
Team Building ■ Millennial Benefits ■ Top 100 Employers ■ Flexible Degrees
At press-time, the United States labor market is roaring with high levels of employment, and – as this magazine reveals – New Jersey is humming with middle-of-the-pack job growth, the latter explored and analyzed in our annual Top 100 employers listing and article.
Additional stories in this employment series examine: how corporations can lure millennial workers via an array of benefits, perks and policies; the myriad and arguably worthwhile benefits of team building exercises for employees; and how colleges and universities are accommodating working students who have extremely hectic personal schedules. On the latter point, this may be achieved through special class-hours scheduling or hybrid courses (a combination of classroom and online participation), for example.
If there is a recurring theme in these stories, it may be that employees are under tremendous personal pressures, and companies and higher education institutions that strive to ameliorate such stresses are the very ones that will lead the way in employee talent and attraction, and, ultimately, profits.