Companies in the 21st century must make it a priority to have a workforce that is educated, diverse, motivated by a vision, committed to communities, and puts customers first, CEO Tim Sloan said May 1 at an industry conference.
“If we can make a difference in the communities that we do business in, they’re going to be more successful and therefore we will be more successful,” Sloan said at the Milken Institute’s 2017 Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California. “Our vision is about helping our customers to succeed financially. It’s not [first] about making money. Making money comes after you fulfill the vision.”
“You make sure the team is focused on executing that vision and they are committed team members,” he added. “Then, if you do all that, you’re going to make money and you’re going to have happy shareholders.”
Sloan spoke as part of a panel of business leaders who discussed the topic, “Creating Meaningful Lives for the 21st Century Workforce.” The panel included John Chambers, executive chairman of Cisco; Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company; Mark Weinberger, global chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young; and Devin Wenig, president and CEO of eBay.
Led by the Milken Institute think tank, the Global Conference brings together top senior executive talent from across the country to explore solutions to pressing challenges in financial markets, industry sectors, health, government, and education.
“Everybody should have an opportunity”
The panelists focused much of their discussion on the need to produce a more globally competitive workforce that can meet the demands of an evolving digital economy, but Sloan cautioned that this level of education needs to be available to everyone.
“When I think about our workforce five and 10 years from now, it is going to be even more diverse than it is today because our customers are going to be more diverse and the country is becoming more diverse,” he said. “But when I think about the education system in this country today, who are we letting down the most — it’s our diverse citizens.
“We’ve got to change that,” Sloan said. “Everybody should have an opportunity to get that kind of education.”
Sloan said companies can make a difference by being involved in the schools in the communities in which they serve, noting that Wells Fargo team members volunteered 1.7 million hours of community service last year — much of it helping schools in need.
“It’s not just about teaching financial services skills,” he said. “But it is about making a difference in their communities. That kind of vision especially connects with the millennial workforce because they want to work for a company that really cares about the places where they live. It’s a huge differentiator.”
The economy, jobs, and taxes
In a Bloomberg TV interview before the panel discussion, Sloan discussed a number of topics, including the economy, job creation, and the new tax reform plan proposed by the White House.
“On one hand, when you look at the expectations for the economy, whether from consumer, small business, or middle market [customers], they are very optimistic about the future,” he said, noting that the current economic climate is marked by a mixture of optimism and caution. “You can’t have a successful economy without that optimism. However, in the first quarter, what we saw was very muted economic growth … I think what we’re seeing is a lot of expectation, but cautious optimism in terms of decision making.”
Sloan said he believes the new tax reforms proposed by the administration may have some potential merit in spurring economic growth and offering lower tax rates to individuals across the income spectrum.
“What I like about it is that there’s change,” he said. “We’ve had the same tax policy for 30 years and what has happened is the rest of the world has passed us by.”
He noted the U.S. ranks 31st out of the 35 most developed countries in the world in terms of having a competitive corporate tax rate — a ranking that would change if the new plan is adopted. “What we really need is more economic growth in this country,” Sloan said. “We can’t be as successful as we have been if we stay at 2 percent annual growth. If we get to 3 percent and even 4 percent growth, that’s going to be incredibly helpful in terms of reducing the deficit and creating more jobs.”