What challenges are Northeast Ohio companies are overcoming in 2014?

If you had any doubt whether the recession is finally a bad memory, consider this finding from the 2014 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey. In the last 15 years, only two years — 2009 and 2010 — have returned results with Northeast Ohio companies reporting the poor economy as their toughest challenge. For the 12th year, companies in 2014 are reporting that the biggest challenge has been hiring and retaining talent.

And here is some good news — 92.5 percent of the companies surveyed said they do not expect to lay off employees this year.

cle_erc_LaurenRudman“It’s great news that more organizations are recovering from the economic downturn by filling open positions,” says Lauren Rudman, president of the Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The survey, which has been a collaborative effort between ERC and Smart Business since 2001, aims to find out how Northeast Ohio companies are driving their businesses forward.

Top challenge: talent

This year in showed a significant amount of companies, 45.9 percent, listing hiring and retaining talent as their No. 1 challenge, but slightly down from 49.5 percent last year.

“But the question remains: How do we retain our high performers?” Rudman says. “These individuals also recognize that organizations are recovering, so they are more willing to consider a move to a new organization.

“I see more and more organizations investing in professional development and learning opportunities for their employees, in addition to revamping their recognition strategies.”

A little more than 63 percent of companies, the survey reported, provide long-term service awards to employees including 75 percent of manufacturers and 53.7 percent in non-manufacturing fields.

cle_erc_AaronGrossmanAaron Grossman, president of Alliance Solutions Group, sees an increased use of alternative offers to attract the best-qualified job candidates.
“There is a war over talent,” he says. “As a recruitment firm we have seen counter offers made to employees that have shown commitment to leave in an unprecedented way.

“At our company, we want to scale and the only thing holding us back is top talent. It is our No. 1 priority.”

Revenue concern a priority

About 15 percent listed revenue growth as a big challenge. This was second only to hiring/retaining employees.

“Some organizations are just beginning to get back to the revenue levels they were at back in the mid-2000s, so the next logical challenge is determining the growth strategy,” Rudman says. “So how can they differentiate themselves from their competition? How can they retain current customers while giving attention to potential customers?”

The other concerns many Northeast Ohio workplaces have include health care costs and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The good news is that only 11 percent of companies named health care costs as the toughest challenge, but that is up from 8 percent last year.

“ACA is still a question for many, which could be the reason for the increase,” Rudman says.

Grossman sees the economic conditions as favorable to the recruiting business.

“I believe that the ACA act will fundamentally change how work gets done long term,” Grossman says. “If medical benefits become a given, employees will increase their willingness to explore a better work environment, and be more open to shifting jobs.”

Companies in Northeast Ohio are continuing their recruiting efforts with 83.3 (84.2 last year) percent utilizing Internet job boards, with a 12 percent increase to 62.4 percent utilizing social media to recruit talent compared to 50 percent last year.

On the hiring side, LinkedIn received a sizeable uptick in activity from 98.5 (90.9 in 2013) percent of all organizations followed by Facebook at 30.8 percent (45.5) and Twitter at 24.5 percent (21.8).

Ways to retain workers

While companies are finding ways to recruit more talent, they are also very focused on retaining that top talent once they have it.

According to the survey, 80.7 percent (77.7 last year) of companies provide financial assistance to employees to upgrade their skills through advanced education or job-related training. In addition, 26.2 percent (28.6) offer a mentoring program.

“I believe organizations that are in a solid financial position can now offer financial assistance to their employees from a reputable institution, or are able to re-introduce it within their organization when it may have been on hold during the economic downturn.” Rudman says.  “Training is one of the first items on the budget that is cut or eliminated, but now it is showing an upswing.

“More employees and employers need to offer job related training or learning opportunities in order to remain competitive within their industry,” she says. “This can include participation on a cross functional project, coaching, participation within a leadership development program, etc.”

“Having the right talent will drive revenue growth, but I also believe a strong training and development culture must be instituted to promote talent to generate revenue growth,” Grossman says.

According to the companies that responded to the survey, roughly 61 hours of training are provided to new-hires in their first 90 days. Another way more companies are incentivizing employees to stay at their current company is through workplace flexibility.

The survey reported that 45.9 percent (44.3 last year) of companies in Northeast Ohio are offering flextime, 10.1 (14.8) percent are offering compressed workweeks, 18.3 (17.2) percent offer telecommuting and 35.8 (32) percent offer a work-from-home option.

Grossman agreed with these trends.

“Over the past few years, we have leveraged technology to promote an outcomes-based culture with the ability to drive these outcomes from anywhere at anytime,” he says. “We are starting to see our customers promote the same environment. There are many service-based organizations looking to take on less real estate as a result of the flexibility that technology provides the work environment.”

Rudman also favors more use of flexible time programs.

“More organizations need to offer some form of a flextime program in order to attract and retain employees,” she says. “This topic is getting national attention, especially within SHRM, which has partnered with the national initiative When Work Works to promote workplace flexibility.

“Generation Y seeks workplace flexibility because those workers want a true balance of work and play. Older workers may have children and elderly parents to tend to, so again, flexibility is needed to manage their lifestyles.”

Slight temp worker increase

An increase in temporary workers was seen in 2014, according to the survey. The average percentage of the workforce that was temporary of the companies polled was 4.5 percent (3.6 last year), the highest since 2006. The percentage of contingent workers in 2014 was 7.7 (8.6) percent.

“There is still economic uncertainty, but there is a need to grow, and that bodes well to the need for temporary labor,” Grossman says.

The survey reported that workplaces are safe environments in that 95.3 percent did not have any incidences of violence last year and 82.4 percent had no incidences of bullying.

Despite what may result from the ACA, there is no doubt that companies in Northeast Ohio are once again flourishing and saying goodbye to the recession.

The report summarized the results of ERC’s survey of Northeast Ohio organizations conducted during April and May 2014 on a variety of workplace practices. This survey reported trends in

benefits, compensation, recruiting and hiring, workforce, communication, training and development and safety.

Smart Business thanks ERC and those companies that participated in this year’s Workplace Practices Survey.


What is the biggest HR issue your company is facing? How are you facing it or how will you face it?


cle_erc_SuzyBeatriceSuzanne M. Beatrice
Director, Human Resources
EYE Lighting International of North America

Recruiting and retaining people is the single biggest issue we face at EYE Lighting. Typical channels of recruiting are not enough to attract the talent we need. We have been proactively and consistently forging relationships with local universities, networking through social media, and doing it the “old fashioned” way, face-to-face.

People need to get to know our company and culture; it’s the key attribute that contributes to making that magical match for success.

It’s not enough to recruit only when you have an opening; it’s a continuous process. So, when you find someone who might be a fit, be ready to hire them, and then make a place for them to ensure the company’s long-term success.

cle_erc_AngieKishAngie Kish
HR clerk
ID Images

Our biggest HR issue that we face at ID Images is the rising cost of health care insurance.

We run into this problem every year, and it never seems to be an easier topic of discussion when open enrollment rolls around.

One of the steps we have taken to try to control costs was to switch from a fully-funded employer to a self-insured employer. This has helped maintain our costs for the most part, but we still have to consume a large portion of the increase every year, so the employees increase is as minimal as possible.

cle_erc_LisaLoganLisa Logan
Executive vice president
Logan Clutch Corp.

The skills gap in manufacturing is one of our biggest HR problems. Logan Clutch Corp. is a family-owned and managed company that designs, engineers and manufactures a proprietary industrial clutch product line. We export to 25 countries and have been in business for more than 30 years.

Skilled machinists are an important group of workers who contribute to the U.S. economic growth. Nearly 2 million manufacturing workers will retire in the next 10 years and the demand for skilled labor will continue to increase. Today, manufacturing is flourishing but there are hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled.

Logan Clutch is doing our part to educate our existing workers and new hires by providing education and training opportunities on the job. We pay for weekly on-line training from SME Tooling University www.toolingu.com and pay the employee during work hours to have private access to a computer and quiet place to learn.

This is quite a financial investment but we feel it’s worth it in the long run for the good of our company, the individual employee and the manufacturing community.

Component Repair Technologies
is making big strides in its efforts
to transition veterans into workforce

Component Repair Technologies looks at the ranks of military veterans to fill a number of job vacancies — and is most pleased with the discipline and leadership qualities it has found among its veterans in its workforce.

cle_erc_ComponentRepair“It would be a huge oversight for a company to overlook veterans in their hiring practices,” says John Gallagher, human resource manager at the Mentor company. “Veterans train to perfection in their military roles and they take this same approach when entering the civilian workforce.”

CRT repairs aircraft engine parts and employs about 400 people. About 15 percent of the workforce is veterans and that number is growing, he says.

“Whether it be their job-specific training, soft skills or leadership traits, veterans are generally more prepared to step in to an open position and be successful t than the general population,” Gallagher says. “With recent reductions of forces across all branches of the military, there is an abundance of highly trained, highly talented individuals available.”

The company was one of some 150 exhibitors at the Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair in Cleveland in June. More than 400 job seekers attended, and more than 50 walked away with provisional or firm job offers, according to Wendy Matthews, principal at Your HR Business Partners and career and academic adviser at Lorain County Community College.

Gallagher is impressed with the qualifications veterans bring.

“We have found that veterans tend to be focused, disciplined and exceptional at critical thinking and decision making,” he says. “Our veteran workforce has a work ethic and dedication that is second to none.

“We have also seen extraordinary leadership come from our veterans whether that be in the form of leading a team, taking charge of a tricky situation or remaining calm under intense pressures.”

Veterans who work for CRT speak highly of the opportunity to work for the company:

  • “CRT is an excellent company to work for. The pleasant work environment is based on trust and fairness. I came to CRT immediately after retiring from the Marine Corps and was able to transition my military experience in Marine Corps Aviation and apply it to many processes that are performed here at CRT. I enjoy working here and plan to make this a long-term career.”

Chad W. Stewart, gunnery sergeant, USMC, retired
Component Repair Technologies
technical program manager

  • “The team oriented/family environment of CRT has made transitioning from Marine Corps life to the civilian job market easier for me. The company has a much stronger sense of camaraderie and team work than I would have expected from a civilian company.”

Chad Wogoman
quality engineer


  • “I could not have asked for a better company to work for after 25-plus years in the U.S. Navy. Component Repair Technologies is an extremely military-friendly, multi-million dollar company with veteran employees from every branch of service.
    I find that there’s a camaraderie among co-workers whether they served or not, and I truly enjoy coming to work every day. CRT’s benefits far outweighed those of any other company I considered employment with and I am truly proud to be a member of the CRT family.”

Jay McDonald
master chief petty officer
USN, retired