Can't See the Forest for the Trees?

Focusing on the miniscule can keep you from seeing the readily apparent.

March 5, 2012

A wintry Saturday found me strolling through a warm greenhouse in search of spring. There it was, in the guise of a large, lush fern. How could I resist such an acquisition on a bleak and dreary day?

I got it home to find the lovely monstrosity obliterated the dining room window. After several relocation attempts I decided the best place for it was a large vacant corner behind the sofa.

Why didn’t I appreciate the fern’s magnitude in the greenhouse? Why, in my enthusiasm for the greenery, did I not envision the difficulty I might face in adapting to realities of the obvious?

Have you ever focused on miniscule factoids in business practices, employee interactions, member encounters, or the balance sheet that kept you from seeing the readily apparent?

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Kloth is CUNA's research librarian.

Let’s examine our research with not only an eye for detail, but a mindfulness that we need to keep the big picture in mind with goal setting and achievement.

Seeds are sown this week with regard to various employment issues. “The Value of an Employment Based Green Card”observes that temporary immigrant workers using a visa obtain a lower wage due to their restricted mobility. The study shows that, conversely, for “…employer-sponsored immigrants, the acquisition of a green card leads to an annual wage gain of about $11,860.”

From the employer’s perspective here, see the Federal Reserve Board study, “Does Employing Undocumented Workers Give Firms a Competitive Advantage?”

Noted, “Employing undocumented workers reduces a firm’s hazard of exit by 19 percent… In addition, a firm is at a distinct disadvantage if it does not employ undocumented workers but its rivals do…”

What might these small realities mean in the big picture for small member business owners? Or for individuals working in these parameters?

Education and economics

Another employee segment is examined in “Bachelor’s Degree Attainment Tops 30 Percent for the First Time, Census Bureau Reports.”

This report reveals the benefits of an education: “In 2009, the average monthly earnings for adults with a professional degree who worked full time were $11,927; the corresponding figure for bachelor’s degree recipients was $5,455.”

Those with lower levels of education can out-earn their more educated counterparts, however, especially with associate degrees in technical fields.

On a related matter, see “Student Loan Interest Rates: History, Subsidies, and Cost” by New America Foundation.

Consumers attempting to achieve greater incomes with an education have to pay the price in advance. This brief analyzes the impact of government policy and legislation on student loan rates. “It also examines the popular argument that current rates are unfavorable for borrowers and disputes the claim that student loans earn revenue for the government.”

Are these considerations affecting the forest that is your student loan portfolio, and how do they affect your credit union and its members? Is the initial investment in an education cost-prohibitive for some?

The Federal Reserve branches out with more commentary on the government’s impact on consumer finances in “Quantifying the Role of Federal and State Taxes in Mitigating Wage Inequality.” 

Here, “The tax policies of the federal and state governments are a potential compensating factor in the rise in wage inequality, particularly as they relate to progressivity or the rate at which taxes rise with income.”

Examine this interesting report to determine how tax policies and structures affect income inequalities, and consider they may affect members' spending and saving power.

What different investment needs can you meet for consumers with varying incomes?

Business and job growth

Budding news on emerging business growth and job creation trends presents itself in two new studies.

Sustainability 2.0: Using Sustainability to Drive Business Innovation and Growth” by Deloitte says “green” issues such as energy conservation are becoming important considerations in business strategy.

“Organizations with a broader, more strategic plan for sustainability will not only drive innovation across their enterprise—including transforming key processes—but may also influence what their customers want and how their suppliers operate.”

And, “The Economic Benefits of New Spectrum for Wireless Broadband,” released by the White House, indicates “Wireless broadband is likely to have a substantial impact on jobs, growth, and investment.”

One last component in employment’s big picture this week is found in “The Impact of Temporary Assistance Programs on Disability Rolls and Re-employment” by the Urban Institute.

 “When controlling for selection bias, we find evidence that increased access to unemployment benefits reduces applications for disability insurance, while increased access to food benefits increases applications for Supplemental Security Income…

“These results suggest that applications…are sensitive to participation in temporary assistance programs, and that increased access to unemployment is less costly than it may appear.”

I like The Fern in the corner. I found its purpose, and tend to its ongoing needs for water, light, and fertilizer.

Keep purpose constant in your big picture strategies, and tend appropriately to small details as warranted. Then you will see the forest and the trees!

LORA KLOTH is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.