Annual Business Leaders Poll Finds Concerns about Workforce Skyrocketing

Topeka – The Kansas Chamber recently announced the 17th edition of its Annual Business Leaders Poll found after nearly two years of COVID-19, the state’s business community is largely back to normal but is struggling with the quality of the Kansas workforce.

“Each year the Kansas Chamber asks business leaders from across the state to name the most important issues they face. This year’s poll found concerns about the Kansas workforce are skyrocketing,” said Chamber President and CEO Alan Cobb. “Kansas job creators are looking for leadership and solutions to our state’s workforce challenges. While more than a third plan to increase their staffs during the next year, business leaders believe the quality of the state’s workforce is the top issue they face. 44% are unsatisfied with the available workforce which lead to a 10% decrease in those who are satisfied with public education.”

Cobb said an overwhelming majority believe workforce development projects are important, especially those which offer work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships. Sixty percent say they are concerned about finding employees with soft skills. Twenty-eight percent worry about identifying employees with technical skills or higher education degrees their companies need.

The Chamber commissions Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates (CHS) annually to conduct a scientific poll of 300 Kansas business leaders to gauge their thoughts and concerns regarding the Kansas business and political climates.

Among the traditional business profitability concerns, taxes remain the top issue.

“We found tax sensitivity is really trending up,” said CHS President Pat McFerron. “Unemployment compensation concerns climbed into double-digits for the first time as an issue for business profitability because it is seen as a hindrance to people entering the workforce. Limiting the growth of government also is higher than ever and energy costs are the highest since 2013. Ultimately, however, these are all dwarfed by concerns about taxation.”

McFerron said the desire for limited government is on the rise, especially related to the COVID-19 virus. The impact of COVID-19 was the most intense business issue in last year’s poll.

“The debate about how state government should act to get the economy growing has shifted dramatically. In 2020, it was all about either instituting or not instituting restrictions. This year the message is clear. Businesses do not want government in the middle of their relationships with their employees as they continue to work to navigate the virus’ ongoing impact,” said McFerron. “Today we have many more interested in getting government out of the process. These are generally very anti-government sentiments. Less than 1% asked for more stimulus spending.”

Other poll highlights from Kansas business leaders:

  • 81% believe Kansas should cut state spending rather than raise taxes, (4% increase)
  • 73% believe it would help the Kansas economy to lower taxes (10% increase)
  • 57% believe it is more important to improve student performance than to increase funding for schools (3% decrease)
  • 57% don’t believe Kansas has the best business climate when compared to other states (3% increase)
  • 62% believe their businesses pay too much in taxes (13% increase) while 5% want to pay more (flat)

“Hearing directly from Kansas business leaders is vital to the economic growth of our state. It provides the Kansas Chamber a clear understanding of the challenges their companies face on a year-by-year basis,” said Cobb. “We use their input to help determine the issues and policies important to the state’s business community and then share those priorities through our legislative agenda. It is our hope the governor and state lawmakers keep these poll findings in mind as they consider the many important decisions they will make during the 2022 legislative session.”

CHS has conducted the Chamber’s Annual Business Leaders poll since 2004. The participating businesses reflect company sizes and industry sectors that make up the Kansas business community according to Dun and Bradstreet and are not necessarily members of the Kansas Chamber.

Click here to read the Chamber’s most recent annual Business Leader Poll.


For more information:

Sherriene Jones-Sontag


Posted: January 4, 2022

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