The Good Jobs Strategy

The Good Jobs Strategy

For more than four decades, Women Employed (WE) has been committed to opening doors, breaking down barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women. On Wednesday, at their annual major fundraiser – The Working Lunch – they cast the spotlight on how WE’s vision of opportunity and advancement for all women, irrespective of where they started on the economic ladder, is critical for the makeup of a great city. Whether we’re talking about equal pay, minimum wage, or sick leave, these are issues that Chicago is not alone in dealing with, as we strive to create a city where women want to work, and are treated fairly for their work.

On Wednesday Illinois legislature gave approval to a bill that requires pregnant workers to be treated fairly, that requires reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. For example being able to keep a bottle of water at your cashier station, or being given a stool so that you can sit down for ten minutes every hour. Without these reasonable accommodations, many pregnant women are forced out of the workplace in order to protect their health. The Senate had already provided a unanimous ‘yes’ vote on Tuesday. From here it goes to the Governor for signature and will become law.

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Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers is just one aspect of what makes for a good jobs strategy. Not just for one city, or one state, or one corporation, but across the board. In the spirit of this topic, the guest speaker at The Working Lunch was Zeynep Ton, author of The Good Jobs Strategy. In this new book of hers, she makes the case that even in low-cost settings, leaving employees behind – with bad jobs – is a choice, not a necessity. Building on the data collected from research spanning more than ten years, Zeynep Ton shows how smart business leaders can create great shareholder value while also creating good jobs.

Zeynep Ton
Zeynep Ton

Her point of view is that offering good jobs and making good money are not at all at odds with one another. It is possible to offer good jobs to employees, low prices to customers, and high value and returns to shareholders. Doing that requires treating employees not just as a cost to be minimized but rather as a strategic asset. When you don’t invest in your people you end up with operational issues. Operational issues lead to lower sales and profits, which leads to lower budgets, which results in not having the funds to invest in your people…and so the vicious cycle continues. In an organizational culture where a good jobs strategy isn’t valued, jobs are designed in way that makes the workers feel worthless.

She outlines an organization that subscribes to a good jobs strategy as displaying the following characteristics:

  1. They invest in their labor.
  2. They make choices that improve the productivity of their employees and they put their employees at the center of their success. Specifically she has found that:
    • These companies find ways to offer less to their customers in a way that doesn’t detract from the overall value proposition but allows employees to be more productive and more familiar with the products offered. For example by cutting down on the number of products carried in their inventory. This also lowers costs throughout the supply chain.
    • These companies find a way to offer a combination of standardization and empowerment, so that employees can drive revenues up and costs down.
    • They cross-train their employees so they can do lots of different tasks.
    • Finally, and probably most counter-intuitively, they operate with slack. They err on the side of having too many people so everyone can get their jobs done and drive towards continuous improvement.

Do you work for an organization that embraces a good jobs strategy? If you do, what do they do for their employees that aligns with the characteristics Zeynep Ton has identified? If you don’t, what can you do to build awareness within your organization about the value and imperative of a good jobs strategy? How do you believe a good jobs strategy impacts an organization’s ability to attract, recruit, retain and advance women through the leadership ranks?

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