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About 70 percent of workers are disengaged in their jobs and their employers need to address the problem, a former plant manager for Caterpillar in North Little Rock said Monday.

Jon Harrison worked for Caterpillar for 25 years, the last two as general manager for the firm's North Little Rock plant. He spoke at the International Economic Development Council's 2017 Economic Future Forum at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Little Rock.

Harrison left Caterpillar in 2011 and started his own consulting firm, VIP2 , which stands for values-driven, informed, passionate people.

"A lot of people thought I was insane to leave, including my father-in-law, who also worked for Caterpillar," Harrison, who was only 46 at the time, said of his career change. " I wanted to focus on overlooked and underappreciated people."

Most workers are overlooked and underappreciated, Harrison said.

Only 29 percent of employees are engaged, meaning they work with passion and are connected to their company, Harrison said, citing a Gallup survey. About 55 percent are disengaged or "checked out," Harrison said. And about 15 percent are actively disengaged and actively display their unhappiness, Harrison said.

"Do you know who feels that?" Harrison asked. "The [engaged employees] feel it. So do their families when they go home at night. And your customers feel it."

Leadership is critical in the success of organizations. A Deloitte Global survey in 2014 found that 86 percent of top executives believe that leadership is critical for success, but only 8 percent believe they have excellent leadership training programs.

"But are they doing anything about it?" Harrison asked. "No. They're just wishing and hoping they have good leaders."

To help improve the situation, the workforce must be enhanced, Harrison said. That includes teaching work ethics, what it takes to succeed on the job and providing robust leadership training, he said.

Some companies spend more time picking out their laptop computers than they do in selecting the right employees, Harrison said.

Businesses considering moving their company out of the country because of lower wages in foreign countries may want to reconsider, Harrison said.

"True excellence will trump wage differences every time," Harrison said. "There are always going to be countries that pay lower wages than the U.S."

He has about 100 clients, including Falcon Jet, Pine Bluff Sand & Gravel and First Security Bank, Harrison said.

Joe Quinn, senior director of public affairs and governmental relations for Wal-Mart, also touched on the need for education for the workforce.

Not all students will attend college when they graduate from high school, said Quinn, who also serves on the School Board in Bentonville.

The school has begun to put time and money into a program to help students be prepared for a career, such as culinary arts or healthcare or welding, Quinn said.

"[The program] is a high-tech vo-tech school," Quinn said.

Wal-Mart is working to bring companies back into the United States from overseas, Quinn said.

"The stereotype is that manufacturing is scary, dirty and doesn't pay that well," Quinn said. "The reality is that manufacturing is high-tech, is clean and it pays very well."

Wal-Mart has 52,000 employees in Arkansas and spends $6.7 billion a year buying products, goods and services from suppliers in Arkansas, Quinn said.

"The myth is there are no jobs out there but in reality jobs are out there but it is all about the quality of the workforce," Quinn said.

He encounters manufacturers around the country who tell him of having 15 technician openings or openings for six industrial welders for months but they can't be filled, Quinn said.

"The jobs are there but we have to prepare the workforce for those jobs," Quinn said.

There were about 250 people registered to attend the three-day conference in Little Rock.

Business on 06/06/2017

Print Headline: Most disengaged on job, council told

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