March 2018 Prosperity at Work E-Tip

Economics & Job Creation:


Life Sciences:
“Engineered cartilage template to heal broken bones”

“Companies Adjust to Candidate-Driven Job Market”

“Recovery from spinal cord injuries can be predicted”

The Industrials:
“Here’s How Businesses Are Fighting to Hold onto Their Best Talent”

Human Capital Solutions, Inc. (HCS) is a Retained Executive Search and Professional Recruiting firm focused in Healthcare, Life Sciences, the Industrials, and Technology. Visit our LinkedIn Company Page to learn more about HCS and receive weekly updates.

HCS has created the Prosperity at Work proposition which focuses on creating prosperous relationships between companies and their employees (associates). HCS assists companies in improving bottom line profitability by efficiently planning, organizing and implementing optimized, practical and value-added business solutions.


Economics & Job Creation:


Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 313,000 in February, and the unemployment
rate was unchanged at 4.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment rose in construction, retail trade, professional and business services,
manufacturing, financial activities, and mining.

Household Survey Data

In February, the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent for the fifth consecutive month,
and the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 6.7 million.
(See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Blacks declined to 6.9
percent in February, while the jobless rates for adult men (3.7 percent), adult
women (3.8 percent), teenagers (14.4 percent), Whites (3.7 percent), Asians (2.9
percent), and Hispanics (4.9 percent) showed little change. (See tables A-1, A-2,
and A-3.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially
unchanged at 1.4 million in February and accounted for 20.7 percent of the unemployed.
Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 369,000. (See table A-12.)

The civilian labor force rose by 806,000 in February. The labor force participation
rate increased by 0.3 percentage point over the month to 63.0 percent but changed
little over the year. (See table A-1.)

In February, total employment, as measured by the household survey, rose by 785,000.
The employment-population ratio increased by 0.3 percentage point to 60.4 percent
in February, following 4 months of little change. (See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred
to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 5.2 million in February.
These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part
time because their hours had been cut or because they were unable to find full-time
jobs. (See table A-8.)

In February, 1.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little
different from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals
were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for
a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because
they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 373,000 discouraged workers in February,
down by 149,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged
workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are
available for them. The remaining 1.2 million persons marginally attached to the labor
force in February had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or
family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 313,000 in February. Job gains occurred in
construction, retail trade, professional and business services, manufacturing,
financial activities, and mining. (See table B-1.)

In February, construction employment increased by 61,000, with gains in specialty
trade contractors (+38,000) and construction of buildings (+16,000). Construction
has added 185,000 jobs over the past 4 months.

Retail trade employment increased by 50,000 over the month. Within the industry,
employment rose in general merchandise stores (+18,000) and in clothing and clothing
accessories stores (+15,000). However, over the past 4 months, which traditionally
see the bulk of the holiday hiring and layoff, employment in these industries has
changed little on net. Elsewhere in retail trade, building material and garden supply
stores added jobs over the month (+10,000).

Employment in professional and business services increased by 50,000 in February and
has risen by 495,000 over the year. Employment in temporary help services edged up
over the month (+27,000).

Manufacturing added 31,000 jobs in February. Within the industry, employment rose
in transportation equipment (+8,000), fabricated metal products (+6,000), machinery
(+6,000), and primary metals (+4,000). Over the past year, manufacturing has added
224,000 jobs.

Financial activities added 28,000 jobs over the month, with gains in credit
intermediation and related activities (+8,000); insurance carriers and related
activities (+8,000); and securities, commodity contracts, and investments (+5,000).
Over the year, financial activities has added 143,000 jobs.

Employment in mining rose by 9,000 in February, with most of the increase in support
activities for mining (+7,000). Since a recent low in October 2016, mining has added
69,000 jobs.

Employment in health care continued to trend up in February (+19,000), with a gain
of 9,000 in hospitals. Health care has added 290,000 jobs over the past year.

Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and
warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little
change over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour
to 34.5 hours in February. In manufacturing, the workweek increased by 0.2 hour to
41.0 hours, while overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.6 hours. The average workweek
for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased
by 0.2 hour to 33.8 hours. (See tables B-2 and B-7.)

In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls
rose by 4 cents to $26.75, following a 7-cent gain in January. Over the year,
average hourly earnings have increased by 68 cents, or 2.6 percent. Average hourly
earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 6
cents to $22.40 in February. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for December was revised up from
+160,000 to +175,000, and the change for January was revised up from +200,000 to
+239,000. With these revisions, employment gains in December and January combined
were 54,000 more than previously reported. (Monthly revisions result from additional
reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published
estimates and from the recalculation of seasonal factors.) After revisions, job
gains have averaged 242,000 over the last 3 months.


Life Sciences:

“Engineered cartilage template to heal broken bones”

A team of UConn Health researchers has designed a novel, hybrid hydrogel system to help address some of the challenges in repairing bone in the event of injury. The UConn Health team, led by associate professor of orthopedic surgery Syam Nukavarapu, described their findings in a recent issue of Journal of Biomedical Materials Research-Part B, where the work is featured on the journal cover.

There are over 200 bones in an adult human skeleton, ranging in size from a couple of millimeters in length to well over a foot. How these bones form and how they are repaired if injured varies, and has posed a challenge for many researchers in the field of regenerative medicine.

Two processes involved with human skeletal development help all the bones in our body form and grow. These processes are called intramembranous and endochondral ossification, IO and EO respectively. While they are both critical, IO is the process responsible for the formation of flat bones, and EO is the process that forms long bones like femurs and humeri.

For both processes, generic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are needed to trigger the growth of new bone. Despite this similarity, IO is significantly easier to recreate in the lab since MSCs can directly differentiate, or become specialized, into bone-forming cells without taking any additional steps.

However, this relative simplicity comes with limitations. To circumvent the issues associated with IO, the UConn Health team set out to develop an engineered extracellular matrix that uses hydrogels to guide and support the formation of bone through EO.

“Thus far, very few studies have been focused on matrix designs for endochondral ossification to regenerate and repair long bone,” says Nukavarapu, who holds joint appointments in the departments of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering. “By developing a hybrid hydrogel combination, we were able to form an engineered extracellular matrix that could support cartilage-template formation.”

Nukavarapu notes that vascularization is the key in segmental bone defect repair and regeneration. The main problem with IO-formed bone is caused by a lack of blood vessels, also called vascularization. This means that IO isn’t capable of regenerating enough bone tissue to be applied to large bone defects that result from trauma or degenerative diseases like osteoporosis. Although many researchers have tried various strategies, successfully vascularizing bone regenerated with IO remains a significant challenge.

On the other hand, vascularization is a natural outcome of EO due to the development of a cartilage template, chondrocyte hypertrophy, and eventual bone tissue formation.

While IO’s simplicity caused limitations, EO’s benefits result in an intricate balancing act. EO requires precise spatial and temporal coordination of different elements, like cells, growth factors, and an extracellular matrix, or scaffold, onto which the MSCs attach, proliferate, and differentiate.

To achieve this delicate balance in the lab, Nukavarapu and his colleagues combined two materials known to encourage tissue regeneration — fibrin and hyaluronan — to create an effective extracellular matrix for long bone formation. Fibrin gel mimics human bone mesenchymal stem cells and facilitates their condensation, which is required for MSC differentiation into chondrogenic cells. Hyaluronan, a naturally occurring biopolymer, mimics the later stages of the process by which differentiated chondrogenic cells grow and proliferate, also known as hypertrophic-chondrogenic differentiation.

The researchers anticipate that cartilage templates with hypertrophic chondrocytes will release bone and vessel forming factors and will also initiate vascularized bone formation. Nukavarapu says that the “use of cartilage-template matrices would lead to the development of novel bone repair strategies that do not involve harmful growth factors.”

While still in the early research phase, these developments hold promise for future innovations.

“Dr. Nukavarapu’s work speaks not only to the preeminence of UConn’s faculty, but also to the potential real-world applications of their research,” says Radenka Maric, vice president for research at UConn and UConn Health. “UConn labs are buzzing with these types of innovations that contribute to scientific breakthroughs in healthcare, engineering, materials science, and many other fields.”

The researchers next plan to integrate the hybrid extracellular matrix with a load-bearing scaffold to develop cartilage templates suitable for long-bone defect repair. According to Nukavarapu, the UConn research team is hopeful that this is the first step towards forming a hypertrophic cartilage template with all the right ingredients to initiate bone tissue formation, vascularization, remodeling, and ultimately the establishment of functional bone marrow to repair long bone defects through EO.

The work was supported by grants from the AO Foundation (S-13-122N), NSF Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) (1332329), and NSF Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA) (1640008).

Research in Syam Nukavarapu’s lab focuses on biomaterials and tissue engineering, with emphasis on bone, cartilage, and bone-cartilage interface tissue engineering. Other UConn authors include graduate students Paiyz E. Mikael and Hyun S. Kim.



“Companies Adjust to Candidate-Driven Job Market”


Businesses are bolstering efforts to improve the workplace experience, fueled in part by record-low unemployment and a spike in business confidence, according to a recently released report by Randstad Sourceright.

Based on a global survey of more than 800 C-suite and human capital leaders, the “2018 Talent Trends Report” found that 51 percent of employers planned to increase their investments in on-site benefits and innovative technologies this year to improve productivity and retain top talent. This comes as 70 percent of companies reported an optimistic business outlook for 2018, while concerns for talent scarcity continued to remain top of mind.

“Beating the competition for talent in 2018 begins in the workplace,” said Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Sourceright. “Record-low unemployment levels and a growing skills gap are driving employers to focus on improving their overall workplace experience so they can retain top employees and attract potential talent.”

Looking Ahead

Over the next 12 months, three quarters of the respondents said they also planned to enhance their company comprehensive hiring processes by investing in innovative HR technologies and data analytics platforms, said Randstad. More than 76 percent, in fact, said they expected talent analytics platforms to play a critical role in sourcing, attracting, engaging and retaining talent this year. Still, employers stressed that technology must be coupled with expert insights to deploy a hiring strategy that is personalized and engaging for each potential candidate.

“This year will witness an acceleration in the adoption of talent analytics as organizations become more data-driven,” said Roop Kaistha, regional director, APAC, Talent Innovation Center at Randstad Sourceright. “The results of their investments will have a positive impact on the business for years to come.”

Surprisingly, a limited number of companies are investing in on-site training programs to prepare their current workforce for in-demand jobs of the future, according to Randstad Sourceright. Only 11 percent of the human capital leaders surveyed said they planned to provide training or reskilling to existing employees within the next 12 months. With talent acquisition challenges becoming increasingly complex, the report emphasized that reskilling current workers can be part of a comprehensive strategy for companies to acquire critical resources while boosting employee retention.

Additionally, one out of four companies planned to shift more permanent positions to temporary or freelance talent to address the rising talent shortage, with 76 percent reporting that the right person for any role may be an employee, contractor or contingent worker and could come from anywhere in the world.

“At the end of the day, companies faced with a tight labor market must pursue a multi-pronged hiring strategy that incentivizes top performing employees, while attracting hard-to-find talent,” said Ms. Henderson. “By implementing an integrated talent approach, companies can improve their workforce agility, retain top employees and increase their employer value proposition to better manage talent and drive overall business growth.”

Top Four 2018 Key Talent Trends

1. HR Technology: Sixty-eight percent of C-suite and human capital leaders said they believe technology has made recruiting simpler and more effective, while 70 percent said it has helped to make smarter hiring decisions. Top technology investments included talent analytics (59 percent), training and development (54 percent), candidate assessment (49 percent), and workforce collaboration (47 percent). “As technology proliferates, the world of work will also benefit,” said Michel Stokvis, managing director of the Talent Innovation Center at Randstad Sourceright. “You can expect a better user experience and useful information to help you get work done.”

2. Business Optimism / HR Leading Growth: Seventy percent of employers anticipated that their business will grow during the year ahead, up from 64 percent in 2017. Eighty-four percent of talent leaders said that the work they do prepares their organization for the future, the highest mark since Randstad Sourceright began conducting this study in 2015. Another 77 percent reported that HR leaders deserve a voice in the organization regarding strategic new decisions, also a new high. “Good news for talent leaders: The C-suite is coming to you more,” said Cindy Keaveney, chief people officer of Randstad Sourceright. “The bad news? They’re counting on you more and will hold you accountable. To succeed, break out of the siloed thinking and start creating business value through talent strategy.”

3. Candidate Experience: Ninety-two percent of employers said that a positive job candidate experience is critical to attracting and engaging talent. Three-quarters (75 percent) said they planned to improve their candidate experience in the next year. The report said that as companies grapple for today’s competition for talent, companies can potentially lose out on the people they need because of poorly designed recruitment and engagement efforts. Now more than ever, companies must examine their strategies.

“The best way to keep candidates and employees excited about your organization is to deliver a positive experience,” said Jennifer Klimas, director of employer brand for the Talent Innovation Center at Randstad Sourceright. “Everything from how candidates are treated during the apply and interview process to offering flexible schedules for employees impacts how your organization is perceived. Treat talent well and your organization will thrive.”

4. Automation Adoption: Eighty-one percent of respondents said they felt positive about automation, machine learning and robotics in the workplace over the next three to five years. Nearly as many (70 percent) said technology was already helping them make better hiring decisions. When it came to technology deployed in HR, there was a widespread consensus (65 percent) that employers’ technology strategies have either transformed or had a positive impact on business. “The power of art official intelligence can’t be overstated,” said Jason Roberts, global head of technology and analytics at the Talent Innovation Center at Randstad Sourceright. “The has clearly become one of the resources organizations should consider when developing a highly agile workforce.”

“At the end of the day, companies faced with a tight labor market must pursue a multi-pronged hiring strategy that incentivizes top performing employees, while attracting hard-to-find talent,” said Ms. Henderson. “By implementing an integrated talent approach, companies can improve their workforce agility, retain top employees and increase their employer value proposition to better manage talent and drive overall business growth.”



“Recovery from spinal cord injuries can be predicted”

A trauma to the spinal cord, quickly leads to a progressive loss of nerve tissue. This not only affects the injured area, but over time affects also other parts of the spinal cord and even the brain. These neurodegenerative changes can be explored in detail using magnetic resonance imaging. An international team of researchers headed up by Patrick Freund from the Spinal Cord Injury Center of the University of Zurich and the Balgrist University Hospital has now for the first time investigated the extent and progression of microstructural changes over the first two years after a spinal cord injury.

The smaller the initial nerve loss, the better the long-term recovery

In their study, the scientists examined 15 patients who had suffered acute traumatic injuries to the spinal cord as well as 18 healthy study participants after 2, 6, 12, and 24 months. In the brain as well as spinal cord, they determined the anatomical extent of neurodegeneration, the loss of myelin (the insulating layer surrounding nerve cells), as well as the accumulation of iron in the nerve tissue as a result of degeneration and inflammation. It then emerged that there was a direct link between the recovery levels of patients after two years and the extent of neurodegenerative change within the first six months after injury. “The smaller the overall loss of nerve tissue across the neuroaxis at the beginning, the better the patients’ long-term clinical recovery,” summarizes Patrick Freund.

Predicting long-term recovery by measuring early changes

What the researchers found surprising was the fact that the recovery was steepest within the first six months but neurodegenerative changes greatest within the same time period with no signs of deceleration over two years in the spinal cord and brain. This indicates a fierce competition between compensatory and neurodegenerative changes early after injury. The battle seems to be lost in favor of neurodegeneration over time. Nevertheless, the magnitude of early microstructural changes is predictive of the long term recovery of patients suffering from a spinal cord injury. Crucially, non-invasive, high-resolution neuroimaging provides a mean to predict recovery trajectories and distinguish between neurodegeneration caused by the spinal cord injury itself and beneficial changes resulting from therapy. “We have now a tool to reliably predict recovery and determine the effects of treatments and rehabilitation measures as opposed to spontaneous neurodegeneration in humans” adds neuroimaging specialist Freund. “Clinical studies can thus be carried out more efficiently and cost-effectively in the future.”

Clinical studies into the influence of arm and leg exercises planned

The patients who took part in the study will be examined again after five years using the same method. The scientists want to determine whether the neurodegenerative changes will have ceased by then or whether they will still be ongoing. Patrick Freund and his team are also planning training studies that aim to show whether the high-intensity exercising of arm and leg functions helps to slow down or stop the loss of nerve tissue.


The Industrials:

“Here’s How Businesses Are Fighting to Hold onto Their Best Talent”

Soft skills are the top priority for talent development leaders, according to a new study by LinkedIn Learning, the “2018 Workplace Learning Report,” which offers a holistic overview of learning in today’s workplace.

“In the age of automation, adaptability rules,” said the report. “While maintaining technical fluency will be important, demand for soft skills will continue to accelerate. Industry experts and organizational partners agree that this should be the top focus for talent development in 2018.”

“Maintaining technical fluency across roles will be critical, but the pace of change is fueling demand for adaptable, critical thinkers, communicators, and leaders,” said the report. “As technology accelerates, soft skills are in high demand to fuel people and business growth.”

An Extensive Survey

LinkedIn Learning’s email survey involved nearly 4,000 professionals from around the world, including 1,200 learning and development or HR professionals who either influence or are decision makers for their companies’ leadership & development budgets, 400 people managers, 200 executives and 2,200 learners from North America, Europe and Asia. The respondents were LinkedIn members who were selected based on information in their LinkedIn profile.

Leadership was among the most important skill for employees to learn from L&D programs, said 74 percent of the talent developers surveyed, 66 percent of the people managers and 65 percent of executives. Communication skills were cited by 66 percent of the talent developers and people managers, and 64 percent of executives. Collaboration, meanwhile, rated highly with 50 percent of the talent developers and people managers and 55 percent of the executives.

In addition to soft skills, LinkedIn Learning said that it is critical for businesses to balance today’s challenges with future opportunities. “As the shelf life of skills shrinks, business leaders worry that talent developers are focused on training for today’s skill demands, at the expense of preventing tomorrow’s skill gaps,” said the study.

Top Areas of Focus

“Our research shows that in 2018, talent developers are prioritizing the employee development needs of today. Yet, executives and people managers say that talent development leaders should prioritize identifying the skills that will be most important to build for the future. Savvy talent development leaders will find balance in their efforts to support the employees of today and tomorrow.”

Among the top areas of focus for L&D, according to the talent developers and people managers surveyed are: how to train for soft skills, identifying trends to prevent future skills gaps, understanding the impact of technology, consistent global training, deliver insights on internal skills gaps, how to track skill development and how to access skill competencies.

Another trend to watch, according to LinkedIn Learning, is digital’s role in the transformation of talent development. “Talent developers are depending more on online learning solutions to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse, multi-generational workforce—and there’s no turning back,” said the report.

Learning Preferences

Fifty-eight percent of the employees surveyed said they prefer opportunities to learn at their own pace, while 49 percent said they prefer to learn at the point of need, said the report.

“Talent developers know that they need to rely on digital learning solutions to cater to varied learning needs,” said the study. “A recent ATD report found that almost 90 percent of companies offer digital learning today. Our survey shows that talent developers depend more on online learning solutions than ever before—not only to deliver content, but to measure learning success.”

Across the board, every group involved in the survey pointed to “getting employees to make time for learning” as the No.1 challenge for talent development. Ninety-four percent of employees, however, said that would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

Reducing the Friction

“If employees can’t find the time to learn, reduce the friction,” said the report. “Meet them on platforms they are already using with messages that align to their on-the-job needs and professional aspirations.”

“The modern organization needs to meet learners where they already are – aligning development opportunities with employee aspirations, and engaging them through the platforms where they are already spending their time.”

Manager involvement, meanwhile, is a critical component to increasing employee engagement with learning, said the report. Fifty-six percent of employees surveyed said that they would devote more time to learning if their manager directed them to complete a specific course in order to gain or improve their skills.

Involve Managers

Talent developers, in fact, said “increased manager involvement” was their second biggest challenge. “Getting managers more involved in employee learning is not the only way to see increased learner engagement, but data shows it will likely make an impact,” said the report.

Although organizations feel developing soft skills is vital, talent developers must also not ignore the need for hard skills as companies develop their talent and technical capabilities, said LinkedIn Learning.

Using data from more than 500 million LinkedIn members, the report identified the skills that companies were working hardest to fill and their related roles. The top five were: cloud and distributed computing (platform engineer, cloud architect), statistical analysis and data mining (business analyst, data analyst, statistician), middleware and integration software (IT manager, systems integration engineer), web architecture and development framework (web developer, full stack web developer), and user interface design (UX designer, web developer, UI designer).

It is also essential, said the report, for talent developers to look beyond near-term needs and balance them with strategic workforce planning. “There is only so much we can do in one year,” said LinkedIn Learning. “And while training for soft skills is and should be a top priority for talent development this year, talent development professionals should also take the initiative to prepare employees for the fast-approaching future.”

Strategic Planning

“Industry experts and organizational partners call on talent developers to focus on strategic workforce planning—to turn outward to skills trends to inform their decisions on internal strategy,” said LinkedIn Learning. “Talent developers should look to external partners and technology solutions to help them identify these trends and implement programs to proactively address skill gaps.”

LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform designed to meet the needs of modern learners and the demands of modern business. It combines’s library of real world expert-led courses with the data and insights fueled by the LinkedIn network of 530 million professional to help employees engage, learn and succeed within their organizations.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Will Schatz, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media


Recent Posts