Ask Us Anything: Importance of Job Quality in Recovery
Event Q & A
Workforce Development Strategy
Several states are launching efforts to retrain or upskill workers who have been negatively affected by the coronavirus. Besides partnering with online learning platform Coursera or the Indeed job-listing site, and in addition to efforts like Illinois' "Get Hired IL" portal or Connecticut's "Back to Work Initiative," what other efforts are states conducting?
There are various initiatives to address the digital divide, including programs in Tennessee, Boston, and Baltimore. The launch of these programs is an acknowledgment that not everyone has had the digital skills, equipment, or internet access to participate in earlier programs. Some cities such as Milwaukee have had a mindset shift and now consider internet access a necessary utility, in the same way that electricity or water are necessities. This represents a change from considering internet access via a library or a mobile device as adequate for conducting job searches or performing job responsibilities.
Should workforce boards only support businesses that meet criteria for good jobs, particularly when it comes to wage reimbursement programs?
Some workforce boards have implemented salary or wage requirements for companies to qualify for funding for on-the-job training or wage reimbursement. Other workforce boards are considering employers’ turnover rate as an indicator of workforce culture and quality jobs.
How are Good Jobs programs applicable to small companies or young businesses that have a handful of employees or limited resources?
The Good Jobs program is applicable for any company. Small businesses can engage their teams to find ways to save time and make improvements by scrutinizing operations that don’t add value or are pain points for the customer. Cross-training employees in small businesses can create innovation within a company.
Established companies might have more resources to invest into a program, but younger companies and startups have opportunities to incorporate good jobs into their business model. For instance, one start-up delivery company in Washington, D.C., is prioritizing customer service by providing good wages and focusing on reducing turnover. More companies are realizing the benefit of paying their employees higher wages.
Is there a business life cycle stage at which employers are more receptive to Good Jobs coaching? What are some companies that generally provide high wages and stable schedules?
There is never a bad time to provide good jobs! A few companies that we note are Costco, where the starting wage is $15 an hour and average wage is $23 per hour, and QuikTrip, which operates in midwestern and southern states and offers starting pay of about $42,000 annually for a full-time employee in Tulsa, Oklahoma. QuikTrip understands that retail jobs are skilled jobs. Another company is Mud Bay, a pet food and supply company in the Pacific Northwest. It recently increased wages 30 percent over a three-year period. There are many great companies out there, and the Good Jobs Institute is always looking to identify them.
Diversity and Inclusion in Job Quality
How do practitioners ensure good jobs for people with barriers, especially those who are lower-skilled?
Every job needs to be as good as possible. Low-skilled jobs offer some value, and people should not necessarily be moved out of them. Rather, the focus should be on helping workers in low-skilled jobs create financial stability. People who hold these jobs may not only have less training but could also face other barriers that limit employment prospects such as childcare responsibilities.
Employers can help combat these issues by determining the needs of their employees and offering options including paid job training, paid time off, or schedules that accommodate childcare responsibilities.
How does a company’s location (urban versus rural) affect job quality and workforce strategies?
Each community demands different approaches based on its culture, cost of living and various career pathways. For example, a living wage in an urban area will be much different from the living wage in a rural community.
How can workforce boards keep gender equity a priority in creating programs to secure quality jobs?
Companies assessing whether they offer good jobs need to separate data on employees by race and gender to ensure they are treating people equally and engaging the full extent of the available talent pool. In addition, the Good Jobs Institute has found that environments with low job quality lack a sense of morale. A failure to hire people from different communities or not paying all workers equally exacerbates these issues.
Policy and Government
How can workforce boards approach the challenge of opposition to wage increases? What is the role of state governments in getting people back to work?
Business communities and the government can provide pressure to change social norms in a lot of ways. For instance, governments could require companies to disclose the number of employees earning a living wage. Legislation could set policies on scheduling and benefits.
The Good Jobs Institute website has a page filled with testimonials on the importance of providing good jobs. These testimonials help inform other businesses that providing good jobs is not only the right thing to do, but can also provide benefits to the company and economy. Investors can also hold companies accountable for their jobs by working with workforce boards.
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions recommends working with companies that are willing to offer good jobs. Helping companies achieve success in creating quality jobs will help them attract talent, and create competition as positive results materialize. Lawmakers can provide funding to those organizations that have sustainable practices for their employees and create good jobs.
How do you convince the business lobby of the need for good jobs and the benefits to both companies and communities?
It is important to provide a holistic view of the benefits of better jobs. From a government perspective, providing quality jobs that are high-paying and offer long-time potential can offset the need for other social safety net policies such as housing vouchers, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and childcare assistance. Providing incentives to improve job quality can create better circumstances for workers who return post-pandemic.
A cost-benefit analysis and testimony indicate that employers know that engaged workers will take care of their company’s customers, which in turn is good for return business. The Good Job Institute’s Kalloch said one employer put it this way: “My employees are the customers for the business at the end of the street.” The message is that when one business is succeeding, it produces a healthy environment for more businesses to succeed.
How have employers responded to COVID-19?
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is grateful that employers have not lost sight of job quality during this pandemic. During COVID-19, employers saw the benefit of providing good jobs through employee loyalty and in the ability to make changes during the crisis. Additionally, employers are noticing the effect that concerns about racial equity and systemic racism have on their workers. Employers don’t always know what to do to address these issues, but the resources in the overview section provide information. Employers can also contact the Good Jobs Institute or the National Fund for Workforce Solutions.
Employers worry that workers don’t want to come back to work during COVID-19 because they are collecting more money with pandemic unemployment. This is an indication that workers need to be paid more.
How has COVID-19 affected workers in direct-care roles?
In-home nurses, nursing home staff, and other elder-care roles are growing quickly. While these jobs provide critical care, they generally do not pay well. Typically, these positions are held by women, particularly women of color. These jobs are often located in suburban areas, potentially making it hard for workers in urban areas to get to them. Moreover, work schedules for these positions tend to make it hard for workers to plan for their own needs.
While there are opportunities to teach workers in these positions additional skills, higher wages are needed for these jobs. A recent study by Kristin Ruffini, a visiting scholar at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, indicated that increasing pay of nursing home workers by 10 percent could save 15,000 lives annually.
Certain groups of COVID-19-unemployed persons may never see their jobs return. What are resources and paths for them?
The Atlanta Fed’s Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity’s Opportunity Occupations Monitor tracks demand for jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree. This tool can be used by workforce boards to identify fast-growing career paths at the local level. Keep an eye out for a new Workforce Currents article on this topic.
Sarah Miller: We have just a few more people filtering in; we'll get rolling here in just a moment. But good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us. My name is Sarah Miller; I'm a senior adviser with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity. We're very happy to have you all with us here this afternoon to dig into a very important topic, the importance of job quality in recovery, specifically.
We're joined by two fantastic experts from the field today, and we're excited to get the conversation rolling. I think our virtual room is still filling out, but we'll go ahead and get started here this morning, or this afternoon rather, my apology.
Just a little bit is background on the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity. We are a nationally focused center based within the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Our objective is really to be that connector between the Federal Reserve System's research arm and connect that with practical application on the ground and in the field.
We do have a focus specifically on employment and the labor market, and we're specific to that—the needs in the economic mobility resilience of low and moderate-income populations. Ultimately, our goal is to elevate innovative practices and create opportunity through both education and employment and influence the policymakers, the practitioners, the researchers in that academic sphere around economic mobility and resilience needs for this population.
We have a number of different resources that are available. We have a couple of different data tools. Everything is linked in this deck that you will get after the fact to take you directly to those tools. We've just released what we're calling the Unemployment Claims Monitor, where we're updating weekly, and monthly, all of the claimant and demographic data. We also have an Opportunity Occupations Monitor, which is really looking at what are those jobs that pay above the median wage but require less than a bachelor's degree.
We encourage you use these tools, both to look at where the unemployment claims are in your area, and where there's opportunity occupations as we're thinking about reemployment strategies. We also have a new landing page, we're happy to say, for all of the Ask Us Anything webinars. This is a series, as many of you know, and all of our prior recordings, Question and Answer digest, and transcripts of these prior conversations now have a landing page on the center's website.
More Resurgence series, this is a series of publications and op-eds by external authors all focused on workforce efforts as it relates to the recovery from the COVID-19 epidemic. Our most recent one is published today. It's on public libraries in the workforce; we encourage you to take a look. That was authored by Stephanie Holcomb with the Heldrich Center at Rutgers, and our prior piece was on lessons that we've learned from the Great Recession and how we can apply those policies for COVID-19 recovery.
Our flagship publication and what launched the center back in 2017, Investing in America's Workforce, where there is a number of different resources for systems, employers, practitioners around various workforce principles and lessons learned from prior programs and different policies. Again, when we send this out, the images are all linked to the source, and we encourage you to take a look at all of those.
Just a quick reminder on our conversational series. We do want this to be consistent. We have these set to run about every three weeks to four weeks. These encourage your conversations. We want this to be a two-way street. Please send us comments, insights; we want this discussion to really elevate some good work that's going on in the field, some key barriers that you're facing so that we can have this function as a stand-in community of practice for the field while we're all gathering around virtual tables.
We may not have all of the answers to your questions, but rest assured, we are capturing all of those; we will try to do as many as we can today. But if not, we will have the full recording, and the full Q&A digest of this will be shared with everybody after the fact.
Just a quick promotion of our next session, so please save the date on August 5, which is also a Wednesday, at 2 p.m. Eastern. We'll be talking about racial equity and the future of workforce development. We're very excited about this discussion. We will have Claire Minson, who's the assistant vice president of talent and Development at the New Orleans Business Alliance, and Bill Rogers, who is a professor and chief economist at the Heldrich Center. They recently published some very powerful op-eds on racial inequalities and black unemployment. We're excited to have this conversation with them.
You can register for that now at this link and a formal invitation is coming out shortly. But on to why we're here today, the importance of job quality. This topic has been in the sphere since well before COVID, but I think it's taken on quite a bit of a different tone and importance and urgency now that we're responding to this pandemic and what that means for people that are on unemployment, how do we help them look for new jobs, how do we help employers to think a little bit differently about the jobs they're currently offering.
I want to, as quickly as we can, switch this over to our experts. But quickly, we did want to do just a quick poll to get a sense of where your priorities are when you think about job quality. I'm pushing this out to the screen right now. If you could just give us your top three priorities amongst this longer list of sub-areas as it relates to job quality that you think about in your work. If you could take a moment and just give us a sense of where your brain goes and where your instincts take you when you hear this topic of job quality batted about.
I'm going to give one more moment for folks to answer the poll, thank you. I'm going to end the poll here, and let's take a look and see what we have. Pay and benefits, definitely that's something that's going to come to mind, flexibility in scheduling, access to training and development and racial equity and inclusion coming in right there at 50 percent. Quality job design, somewhat making the business case. Thank you so much for providing that insight. I think that gives a lot of good context for the discussion that we'll have today, and hopefully be able to illuminate some other ways of thinking about a number of these areas.
Without further ado, let me introduce our esteemed colleagues here today. Please welcome with me to the conversation, Sarah Kalloch with the Good Jobs Institute. She's the executive director and former Aspen Institute job quality fellow. She's going to be talking from her perspective on the framework for Good Jobs, and the Good Job's strategy in the work that her institution does with employers to really shift the way that they're offering work.
Then we'll shift over to Janice Urbanik. She is the senior director for innovation and strategy with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, formerly the executive director of Partners for a Competitive Workforce, which is the workforce board in Cincinnati, Ohio. Between the two of them, we have quite the powerhouse and folks that have been really focused on job quality and what does that mean from a business perspective, but also from a regional, workforce ecosystem perspective. Sarah, I'm going to go ahead and hand it over to you.
Sarah Kalloch: Sounds great. Thanks so much, Sarah. I am really happy to be here today. Thank you all for joining in discussing this important topic with us. Again, I'm Sarah, executive director of the Good Jobs Institute. We are a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and our mission is to help companies thrive by creating good jobs.
Our work is based on the work of Professor Zeynep Ton at MIT Sloan School of Management. She wrote a book in 2014, called the Good Job Strategy, which if you are looking for a beach read, I highly recommend it. It's a fantastic book about how leading companies in the United States are able to provide great jobs for their employees, fantastic, outsized customer service, and provide great profits and revenue for investors.
Based on that work, we get a lot of calls from CEOs who said, "I want to be able to offer great jobs and have great performance, how can I do that?" That's where the Good Jobs Institute came in. What I'd love to talk to you all about briefly today is how we define a good job and what metrics we use, and then also how we can get to good jobs.
The number one thing in your poll that everyone was thinking about is pay and benefits, right? This is incredibly important for employees, but a lot of companies are not sure how to get there, so I really want to talk about how we help companies find ways to smooth operations so they can really invest in people and elevate their entire business.
First of all, what does it mean to offer a good job? When we talk about this, we use this employee pyramid. If you've all taken psychology, you might have seen Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's based on that. Work needs to provide for the basic needs of people, so that they can really support their families, and work also can meet higher needs so people can feel all sorts of real meaning in work. All of these need to come together no matter what job you have.
Starting with basic needs, whenever we work with a company, we help them assess where they are in terms of meeting their employee's basic needs; pay and benefits incredibly important. Are people paid enough? Are they making a living wage? Can they support their families? We work with companies to do a living-wage analysis for them to understand how many of your workers make less than $10,000? $10,000 to $20,000? $20,0000 to $30,000? More than $30,000? What are people bringing home? How many people are full-time, how many people are part-time? How many temporary or contract workers do you use? Do people get equal pay?
All of these metrics disaggregate by race and gender to really understand what's happening. Pay and benefits, hugely important. If you're an employer on this call, if you haven't done a living-wage analysis, do it. Do it today. It'll take a little bit longer than today, but it's incredibly important to know where your employees are. Schedules—that was another hot topic on the poll. Stable, predictable, adequate, controllable schedules are incredibly important, and they go to pay and benefits as well. If you're paying $20 an hour, but people are only getting 20 hours a week, it can be hard to make a living.
How far in advance do you give schedules? How often do they change? How many people work less than 10 hours? Ten to 20, 20 to 30? What do part-time and full-time hours look like? There's all sorts of things to dig into on schedules. Career paths—that was another thing on the poll that was important to everybody. Basically, you were hitting all of the high marks of this pyramid. Is there clear and fair advancement to higher pay? Can you grow as a person, and can you also grow your salary?
We look at what percentage of people are promoted from within, incredibly important. If you're hiring the right people, you're training them while you're supporting them to develop, you should want all of your frontline managers, your field teams to have grown up with you. Costco doesn't want somebody running a club who has not been in the bakery at Christmas. You really have to feel and know the work. That's one of the most important metrics we look at.
Finally, for basic needs, is security and safety. Are you going to keep your job if you perform it well, and are you safe at work? There's plenty of metrics to look at there. All of these again, disaggregate by race and gender. We tend to focus on retail, hospitality, and the differences in how basic needs are being met by race are huge.
Black retail workers make about 75 cents on the dollar to white retail workers. They're less likely to be promoted to supervisor; they're more likely to be part-time. Really important to make sure you look at race there. Then jobs need to meet higher needs. Do you feel belonging at work? Part of a team? Do you feel respected? Are you proud to work for your company? Do you feel achievement? Do you have autonomy, the tools, the time, the resources to do a great job? Are you recognized at work? Are you operating in an environment of high expectations; do you get feedback from other people? Do you really feel like you're recognized when you're doing a good job?
Then finally, top of the pyramid, do you feel like your work is meaningful? Are you making a difference to your customers, to the people you work with? Then finally, your personal growth—are you able to grow? All of these are incredibly important. We do have a scorecard online that's free, you can download it; you can check out some of the things that we measure here. In order to define a good job, I will say we don't just look at employee metrics. Obviously, that's hugely important. It's important for the employee and it's important for companies.
If your employees can't make a living wage, if their schedules are all over the place, they're more likely to be absent. It may be hard for them to concentrate at work. Not meeting these needs is not good for people, and it's not good for companies. We also look at two other things; we look at customer satisfaction. A good job means that you are shining in front of customers and your customers are happy. We also look at operational performance.
To have sustainable good jobs, you've got to have great productivity, you've got to have low costs. If you're in retail, you're going to look at shrink, you're going to look at all sorts of other metrics that get to performance. All of that is in our scorecard; that is how we define a good job. There are many different definitions out there, but I think baseline, you got to pay people enough, give them stable schedules, a career path, and a way to really contribute to your company.
Next slide. I think especially when companies hear living wage and raising wages, it can be really scary, especially at a time like this when revenue and just how you run your business is really unpredictable and challenging. The truth is that raising wages and investing in people—it's not a zero-sum game. You don't put that in and you don't get anything out in the end. Companies that invest in people, if they then make great operational choices, and really, really think carefully about how to make their employees their most important resource, you can raise revenue, you can reduce costs—and there's a real business case for making that investment in people.
Some of you may have seen this a few years ago; Aetna, its [former] CEO, Mark Bertolini, realized in talking to some of his frontline call center workers that they couldn't afford Aetna's insurance. They were on food stamps. He said, "What's going on? What do our staff in these jobs make?" They did a wage analysis, and what would it take to get them to a place where they were stable? They found it would take wage investments of $27 million. Sounds like an awful lot. His team then said, "Well, what do stable jobs and engaged employees who are here and motivated and feeling stable, how can that elevate our revenue? How can that lower our cost?"
They really figured that just those contributions alone could pay for that wage increase. Really, that's what we think about here at the Good Jobs Institute is how can you improve your operations so you can raise people's wages. We do that by using the Good Job Strategy. We look at four specific operational choices that the best companies out there make to make sure their customers are satisfied and loyal, their employees are motivated and capable, and they're getting high productivity, lower costs, higher sales and really strong execution.
I'm not going to go through each one of these. Again, I recommend you read the book, we'll also be sharing some other resources with you. But it is possible to simplify your operations, remove wasted time, really get into the core of what you want to do. It's possible to standardize and empower, to cross-train, to operate with Slack, to create an operating system that can make your employees far more productive, contribute more and really be able to contribute to your business.
Last slide. I'm going quickly because I know that there's going to be a lot of questions, and I want to get there. We really talked a lot about the business case for good jobs, and it's very strong, and it's very strong, even now. Again, right now, when a lot of the companies that we work with in retail, restaurants, they're either very overwhelmed with the new demands of the COVID economy, or they're closed. This is an incredibly hard time for a lot of employers. But right now, if you offered good jobs before the pandemic, you had super-engaged employees who are ready to get out there and make the changes that needed to happen to face this huge global pandemic.
There's a huge, huge, huge business case for offering great jobs and having people who are ready adaptable and committed to you. The financial case, you can reduce all sorts of costs, you can raise revenue, have more loyal customers who buy more and order more. They're really engaged with you, and you can lower costs significantly with good jobs. There's a big competitive case. Again, the adaptability in this economy, even pre-COVID, if you're ready to get on new trends, and your employees are the ones who are helping you identify them. They're out in the world, they're interacting with your customers, they're bringing back ideas—you're going to be more competitive.
Finally, there's a huge obvious moral case for offering good jobs. We work with a lot of company leaders. Nobody wants to offer bad jobs. Nobody wants to offer wages that are too low for people to make a living. It can just be hard to try to figure out how to get from our predominant wage model now in the U.S. to one that allows people to make a living wage, but there is a way to get there.
I think that in recovery, it's going to be incredibly important that companies really look at their operations, look at everything that they've learned in the past four months, and create different systems. And those different systems can both benefit the companies, their customers and their employees.
Miller: Thank you so much. That was fast but very furious with its information and guidance. I appreciate all of that, and second your comments to seek out the book, take a look at the resources that are on the Good Jobs Institute website, of which we'll share within this deck as well. But I think that provided a really good framework for how you would look at this as an employee and as an employer, especially with all of these various components of making that business case, looking critically at yourself around the jobs that you offer, understanding that livable wage—all good guidance.
Before we switch it over to Janice to talk more about the regional application of what this means for quality jobs and how the workforce system and its allies can support this trend as well, there were a couple of questions, Sarah, that came up that I wanted to address just right now. If you could quickly just discuss, in a nutshell what the application of this Good Jobs Strategy would look like for a small business with just a handful of [inaudible] and how to convince them of ultimately the usefulness of this process, this inquiry and ultimately, that behavior change?
Kalloch: Absolutely. Great question. This is applicable for anybody who has employees who are interacting with customers. Anywhere from retail restaurants, manufacturing, call centers, and it's absolutely applicable to small businesses as well. Really engaging your employees differently to think about all of the ways that you can be improving your business every single day.
Looking at the different operational choices; having your team say, hey, where are we wasting our time? Where are we doing things that don't add value to the customer? Where's the customer getting frustrated? How can we solve that together? That's going to help you to potentially save time—which, time is money—and potentially provide better service.
Cross-training people in a small environment, super important. How can you make sure that all the time your team is really productive, and perhaps if there aren't customers or there isn't current work, how are they helping you think big about where your company can go? How are they reaching out on social media? How are they thinking about how you can make your customers safer, smarter, and more engaged? There's lots of applicability to small businesses as well as large businesses.
Miller: Great, thank you. I know all of the data that you're collecting and advising that employers collect for themselves is able to be disaggregated by gender and race. There was a question that came up as to where gender equity fits within that model, and why is that not considered one of the top priorities? I know that that's very important to your process overall.
Kalloch: Yeah, so great question. Again, if you're a company and you're assessing where you are in terms of offering good jobs, absolutely disaggregating by race and gender is incredibly important. You want to make sure that you are treating people equally, and that you're equally engaging the talent that you have out there. That's incredibly important.
Another point here is we have found that in environments that have low job quality, there could be a lot of tension between workers, and this can exacerbate some of the tensions we already see in our country. If people are working together and have that sense of belonging, have a sense of team, I think that there's a lot that's very helpful for our country there, but you've got to pay people equally and you've got to pay people well enough to make a living wage.
Miller: Absolutely. Awesome. Thank you so much. Plenty of other questions coming in, but I want to shift over to Janice, Janice Urbanik with the National Fund. She's going to bring a really interesting process to this in looking at how does this play out within a region. I know that a number of the National Fund's sites have cited job quality is a core topic that they want to be able to dig into and a key component of the strategy as it relates to recovery. So, Janice, over to you for this wider ecosystem view, as it were.
Janice Urbanik: Great. Thank you so much, and thank you for having me on with you today. Just wanted to spend just a little bit of time talking about the National Fund. We are a network of over 30 communities across the country that are collaborating with workers, employers and communities to really focus in on creating an equitable future where all are thriving and prosperous.
As you can see in the diagram on the screen, we center all of our work around thriving workers, employers, and communities. We do that by having five different solutions that our communities that we work with focus in on. First of all, they focus on activating employers to invest in their workforce through participation in industry partnerships and employer networks. We equip workers for success by ensuring that they're getting the right training and skill development that they need, but also recognizing in many cases, workers are experiencing trauma or have experienced trauma and providing additional support to those workers. Job quality, making jobs better—that's what we've been talking about, or will be talking about for the rest of today. Changing systems. We really are focusing in on how do we identify and how do we use systems thinking to identify underlying causes for big issues, and not just focusing in on the symptoms.
As we think about things like structural racism, particularly structural racism in the workforce system, we're really looking at systems change. Then lastly, co-investing for impact is how each of our sites, each of our collaboratives align public and private funding to do the work and drive a shared vision for the work that's going on in their community.
Next slide, please. As we think about what Sarah just talked through around the tools and processes that the Good Jobs Institute can work with employers on, really want to focus in on community level impact. The way that the National Fund thinks about it is that economic prosperity really focuses and is centered on good jobs. When you have an economy-boosting job, when your community is built around good jobs at the center, it has a ripple effect through the community.
Let me define economy-boosting jobs for a minute. Those are jobs that pay enough for people to basically pay their bills, to invest in their communities, to fix their cars, to put a little bit of money away for savings for emergencies or for whatever, future expenses or vacations. When you have an economy that is rooted in economy-boosting jobs, you look at the workforce, they become... You could have an engaged workforce where the workers are financially stable, they're engaged in their communities, they're engaged with their families, in their schools, and it benefits all.
On the right-hand side, Sarah covered very well the competitive advantage that there is for employers. That when you have an engaged workforce, and you have good jobs, economy-boosting jobs, those workers are engaged, they're productive, and most importantly, they are partners with the business owners in building that business and providing value and quality in their products and services.
Then the further ripple effect of that, of having engaged workers that are financially stable and good growing businesses, is the community thrives. You have strong neighborhoods, good schools, access to healthy food, and quality health care. It really is that ripple effect that all starts with having good jobs. An economy can only really be strong when it is rooted in the well-being of all. I think the pandemic—one of the lessons of the pandemic is that we have learned that the economy we had just in January was really built on a shaky foundation of far too many low wage, low quality jobs.
In fact, when you look at the data across many communities in our country, when two-thirds to three-quarters of the jobs that are available pay less than what a family needs to afford just the basics, something is wrong there, and that's the faulty, shaky foundation that our economy was built on. What we really need to be thinking about as we come through this pandemic is clearly responding to the needs and the issues that we have right now, and recovering and getting businesses back open in a safe way, but really focusing in on how do we redesign that economy with a very intentional focus on racial equity and on job quality.
Let me go to the next slide. I'm going to issue a challenge, a call to action to you today. Think about how can you use the levers of capitalism to drive change. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is every business, no matter what industry you're in—and the National Fund crosses many, many different industries—they all need access to customers or contracts or clients. They need someone to buy their product or service. Every business also needs capital to grow their business or to operate their business. Then lastly, every business or organization needs talent to run their business.
What if we had a triple play? Because baseball's starting, finally, right? Triple play, let's think about this triple play. That is, what if, as a community, you organized anchor institutions, the eds and meds, the funders, the investors, the economic developers and the workforce organizations; what if you all collaborated together and organized around this concept of economy-boosting jobs, and prioritized investments that each of those groupings have in economy-boosting jobs? Meaning, what if the anchor institutions who have tremendous supply chains, what if they prioritized their contracting services and their supplier contracts to businesses that meet a certain set of minimum standards of job quality?
What if investors and economic developers and financial institutions prioritized and reserved their capital that they invest for businesses that meet that set of minimum standards? What if the organizations who are reaching out and helping to train and get all the unemployed folks that are really struggling right now, getting them trained and replaced into jobs; what if they prioritized connecting those trained individuals with businesses that meet these minimum standards?
When you think about minimum standards—Sarah talked a lot about that, between wages and benefits and scheduling practices and all of that—but I'd like to call out a couple of other ones, and they actually did not show up in the poll, so I want to talk about those a little bit. One is supervisor training. We are seeing across the country huge interest in training frontline supervisors. Because many are strong individual contributors who get promoted to a frontline manager without getting skills and training on how do you get results through others, but especially with a focus on racial equity. How do they manage a team who may look different than them?
Related to that is looking at your data around your EEO reports that you submit on a regular basis. Don't just support it, look at the data and do that pay equity audit that Sarah talked about. Really look at that, not only for your direct hires, but also your temps. Who are you hiring? Who are you keeping? Who are you advancing? And what might you learn by looking at that? Lastly, another minimum standard you might consider would be a financial wellness program. One of our collaboratives in Wichita has been working with some midsize manufacturers on financial wellness. I just got a data point last week from them that over, in just a short period of time, I think it was about a two- to three- year timeframe and this midsize manufacturer had about 150, 200 employees. Their employees, by participating in a financial wellness program saved or increased their economic stability by $900,000 by a combination of increasing their savings and debt reduction.
Think about if a midsize manufacturer can have a $900,000 swing in the financial wellness of their employees, think about that ripple effect. Those employees now are much more engaged at work because they're not worried about how are they going to pay the rent, or fix their car. Think about how they're going to spend that in their communities, how they're going to be productive at work, and that ripple effect to the overall community.
With that, we have some tools that we'll cover later that go through some of the tools that the National Fund has available. But I will move on and turn it back to Sarah. Thank you.
Miller: Thank you so much, Janice. I love your constant reinforcement of that ripple effect. If we can change our minds around a certain need and a certain objective, look at it's the rising tide lifts all ships approach, especially as it relates to all of the players within a given ecosystem or a community. It's not just about employers looking inwardly; it's about bringing all of those aspects, and all of that investment and capital power to bear as it relates to really investing in these economy-boosting jobs and quality jobs. So, thanks.
I hope that everyone on the call got a really good perspective on how we look at this inside of an employer environment, and how we can think about this inside of a regional environment, especially for those workforce intermediaries that are on the call with us here today. We have a number of different questions that I want us to be able to get to. Please, if there's others that come to mind for folks, please send those, and I'm going to try to attack these in a logical way here.
Let me just start off just quickly at a general question. In your work, when you're working either with employers or within regions, do you see any divide along the urban and rural lines as it relates to the good jobs model or good jobs thinking within a community? If you can talk a little bit about that. Maybe we'll start with Janice and then go to Sarah for any other comments.
Urbanik: Sure. Yeah, there is... I wouldn't necessarily call it a divide, that there are differences based upon local communities and what is available. Obviously, what is a living wage in a rural community will be very different than what it is in a major metro area. There's clearly those kinds of differences. There's also the cultural aspects that may be different between rural communities and how scheduling practices might be reflected, might need to consider certain cultural practices.
The other one that I'm thinking about is again around the financial wellness aspect of it, around not only the cost of living but also related to the call around debt reduction and savings and how that might vary between local and urban communities.
Miller: Great, thanks. Sarah, anything else to add on that topic?
Kalloch: Nope, great answer.
Miller: Great. Quickly, are there financial wellness program resources that's available online that maybe we can put in the chat and send out to folks, or any that you can just offer up to the group today?
Urbanik: Yeah. When you get to the slide that has our resources, there is a link to a financial wellness guide for employers. It's on the National Fund website, and it is a six-step process that employers can use to understand the financial lives of their workers and to do it in a very private way, confidential way without risking it being personal information because I know [that's] a big concern of employers. But starting with understanding the financial life of your workers, doing the wage audit that Sarah talked about, and then how do they find local resources and [inaudible]. That guide is a resource.
Miller: Great. The Fed also will include this in the digest information when we send this around, but we have quite a bit of resources through our Econ Ed [economic education] division at the Fed, that does a lot of work, certainly in the K-12 system around financial planning, but there's a lot of financial wellness style guidance that's in there that would be helpful for businesses.
Let's shift more squarely to the business realm, Sarah. There's a question that we received for you, and just sharing some ideas on the Good Job Strategy at an early stage with businesses that may not yet be profitable, and if there's a business cycle to this work and how you can factor this good jobs advising into their financial planning as a business?
Kalloch: The good news is there is never a bad time for good jobs. If you're an established business, you can implement different operations and provide better jobs. If you're an early stage company, I was actually just speaking with a startup delivery service that has one DC and then will have some drivers. They are building their model with good jobs, and it's incredibly important to them because they know that customer service is going to be a differentiator for them, and because they know that they want low churn and people who stay with them. They have made no money so far, but they know that paying people better than average wages—which, I would love to talk about benchmarking to the median. Paying people more and really engaging them differently is going to be a real value add for their business.
Miller: Great. Speaking around that median wage and how we want to correct toward that, thinking about the retailer space, are there any cream of the crop retailers or retail-style approaches with good wages and flexible scheduling that come to your mind that you consider to be a best practice that we can share with the group?
Kalloch: Yes. A couple of companies that we always elevate. One is Costco; they start people at $15 an hour, their average wage is $23. If you go to Costco, and you talk to the folks who work there, they're incredibly engaged and everyday they're wanting to make Costco better because Costco really invests in them. They really offer fantastic jobs. For anybody in the South and Midwest, QuikTrip with a Q, they are a fantastic employer. They again, I think the starting wage for a full-timer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is around $42,000, and there was a bit of a debate last year because teachers in Tulsa were making less than that. I think that is both not great for education, but also retail jobs are skilled jobs. We see this now, they're essential jobs. Both QuikTrip and Costco are fantastic.
Mud Bay is a pet food chain in the Pacific Northwest. They've gone through a good jobs transformation, and they increased wages 30 percent over three years and really improved their operations. There's lots of examples out there, and we're always looking for more. If anybody out there feels like you offer great jobs, give me a call and we'd love to learn more.
Miller: Absolutely, and I love those examples too, both with the regional diversity, but also the type of retailer that they are. The good jobs approach and the livable wages, the flexible scheduling, and really just putting that human-centered approach to their own workforce and their own human capital is mission critical and has paid off in spades in terms of that business case. If we can shift a little bit over to Janice and your experience in the workforce space, there's a couple of different questions here as to how do we address the good jobs model as it relates to serving populations with higher barriers to success. Those with lower skills, those with disabilities. If you could talk a little bit about your experience and how that's played out. Sarah, I'm sure you have some additional thoughts on that as well.
Urbanik: Yeah, a lot of times people have asked the question around, well, aren't there just some natural, low wage jobs that are just going to be low wage jobs always? Shouldn't we be helping people move out of those jobs? The answer is, no, every job needs to be made as good as it possibly can, especially when you think about those entry level positions that tend to have more people who have lower skills, or may have some other barriers that they're dealing with, or just complicated lives because they have children and childcare responsibilities that limit the number of hours that they can work.
Those jobs need to be made as good as possible to help those individuals get financially stable, and then once they achieve stability, then to help them—when their skill levels come up, when other barriers get resolved—that then they can then move and think about economic mobility. The focus has been on how do we make all jobs as good as possible. The key part there is understanding from your workers what a quality job means to them. A quality job for one person may be very different than another. The key piece of advice for employers is, understand what the needs are of your employees and try to tailor the... and not just bring in a good idea that you heard from another business, and tailor it to what the needs of those workers are. If it is a different schedule for those who have childcare responsibilities or other barriers, or if they need additional skill, provide the paid training for that or paid time off for them to get that training. That's what's critical; get them stable, and then help them move.
Miller: Great. No, I definitely agree. There's a way of looking at this through stepping stone and the transferability of skills. Because back to your point earlier, if they are retail jobs or skilled jobs—those are good jobs, and they're likely considered that first step into the labor market and that first job, but those are gateways to other skill-building jobs and things like that.
I would encourage as well, folks, to look at that Opportunity Occupations labor data to inform some of this. As you're helping your participants and workers get into jobs and build their skills, let's look at what that next shortest step is between here and there for a higher wage that opens up a larger career pathway and wage potential over a career lifetime. Sarah, any other comments to add on that? Great.
I want to pivot a little bit to this upskilling question, since we've gotten into this topic. Several states have been launching these efforts to retrain, get folks back into training programs so that they can quickly redeploy them to the workforce. I know that there's a number of different programs out there, Get Hired Illinois, there's a back-to-work initiative in Connecticut. There's also the Tennessee Talent Exchange that's managed through the Tennessee Department of Labor where they were working a consortium of the retail and hospitality and grocer and logistics companies. Those that were immediately downsized and affected by the closure of COVID-19 responses and getting those into jobs that were then in much higher need—so warehousing, delivery of grocery, things like that.
But are there other exchanges like that that you all have been made aware of, specifically that are looking at this through the lens of offering not just immediate employment, but quality employment, and one that does lead to a larger skill development and therefore better career pathway potential?
Urbanik: I'm not really familiar with a lot of the state-level initiatives. But what I am seeing pop up across the country are a lot of initiatives to address the digital divide... forced everybody, including children in offline programs, as much as possible, and our general recognition that not everybody has the digital skills, digital equipment, or internet access.
I know Baltimore and Boston and a few other cities are really focusing in on the digital divide. In Milwaukee, one of the things that they've been trying to work on is a mindset shift in that internet access should be considered a utility—just like water and sewer and electric—that is really hard to get shut off because it is a lifeblood of a community now.
They need people to think that, well, if someone has a smartphone they have internet access, that is not adequate. How can they, either at a community and or a state level, be thinking differently about the digital divide and internet access and access to devices?
Miller: I completely agree. We recently took a look at a lot of that data. Even in areas where there is significant broadband access, it's amazing to see how many households are only using cell device as a way to access the internet. As we saw, certainly, at the onset of this pandemic, with the increased unemployment insurance plans, many systems were not even set up to be accessible through a mobile phone. Imagine trying to just go through a simple application process to get a well-deserved unemployment insurance check that you've paid into, let alone do a job or a sophisticated job search just from your phone.
But Sarah, I wonder if you have any employers that you've been working with that have fallen victim to some of the economic shocks of the COVID-19, and how they're thinking about re-engaging that workforce or what they're doing in this reopening phase? I know that folks are dipping their toe and not going back full steam, but any insights on a particular moment as it relates to employers and jobs that they're providing?
Kalloch: Sure, I really want to talk about direct care workers, senior care workers, home care workers. It's one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States. It is often disproportionately female, women of color, often immigrants, and these jobs do not pay well. If you're talking about upskilling, you can get your CNA certification fairly quickly, and there's lots of places to do that online. People go into this wanting to provide care, incredibly important care for our loved ones, and they are not paid enough and their schedules are all over the place.
Lots of nursing homes or senior living facilities are in suburbs and that their workforce is urban, and it's hard to get there. I would say, again, this pandemic has exposed just heartbreaking weaknesses in our labor market and in the way we treat people. Both our elders and people who are ill, and the people who take care of them.
This is just my, getting on a soapbox and saying, you can upskill, you can become a CNA, you can become an LVN, there's lots of ways for you to care for people, we've got to find ways to pay these people more. There was just a recent study that found if nursing homes increased pay by 10 percent—which is very small—15,000 lives could be saved every year. I think we have to start asking ourselves exactly what we're doing.
Miller: Great. What's the real cost of what we're not doing, ultimately?
Kalloch: I think that we are not doing the full cost analysis.
Miller: Great. No, I agree. We're closing in on time. I'm going to get to a couple of other questions. We have so many more in the queue. Rest assured, I will work with both Janice and Sarah after the fact to get all of the responses and share as many resources through our digest to all of you. If I don't get to your question here live today, we will respond to that in due time.
A quick question came up, and I think that this is really important. Coming from my prior life, where I was doing a lot of consulting and working in rooms where there's a number of different opinions and policies and perspectives that they're taking on what it means to offer a good job, and whose role is it to pay for what, and to invest in certain things and whose role it isn't, for that matter, but how do we help to convince those where there is blanket opposition to wage increase, increasing benefits, things like that?
I know, we've been talking quite a bit about doing a very honest cost analysis, but how do we convince those that don't necessarily think that it's their responsibility to offer that certain wage or to critically think about the investments that they are, or are not making? If you could offer just a little bit of that mind-switching phase that folks on the call can offer in their communities. I think that'd be very helpful.
Kalloch: Yeah, I would say there's carrots and sticks, and there's a couple of different levers here. Someone mentioned, how are we going to get to good jobs if we don't have a higher federal minimum wage at $15? There are government pressures that can be put on companies and that can include wage and scheduling legislation. That could include asking companies to disclose how many people make a living wage. There's lots of ways for the government to really encourage a changing of norms and a changing of narratives. I think there's a lot of ways for business leaders to encourage each other to get there, and I think we're starting to see that and we need more of that.
Someone asked, have you had any luck getting employers to give testimonies? We have and you can go check out our website; we have business leaders talking about what it means to offer good jobs and how it drives business. We need more case studies; we need more companies stepping up; we need more leaders saying this is what we do. We need more business schools teaching that offering good jobs is both the right thing to do and can be a profitable avenue. We need more investors to be asking about all sorts of HR and good jobs and quality jobs metrics.
We're starting to work more with private equity impact funds, who really do believe that good jobs are a value creation mechanism. We need those folks to be shouting from the rooftops about what good jobs can do. We know that good jobs can drive great performance, and we need to, as a lot of different communities, come together and change that narrative.
Urbanik: Yeah. Absolutely, I think there's a couple of ways to think about this. The first one is [inaudible] from the principle of going with the coalition of the willing and get started with the ones that have the right mindset and are willing to learn how to do this. Pretty soon, everybody else will start to see, well wait a minute, they're doing some good stuff. They don't have any talent issues. Let me figure out what they're doing. Create some competition that way.
The other one is the triple play that I talked about, and Sarah just mentioned it. It's like, use those levers of capitalism to preferentially give resources to companies that have good jobs. Once you start doing that, I think you'll get people's attention.
Miller: I totally agree. I think another way to think about this too, is to start with the what will we get from this? It goes beyond just that you're going to have a higher quality of worker that's going to be more loyal and more brand loyal, a customer base that's more brand loyal. But back to your chart with the ripple effect, Janice, what is the effect that this is going to have on your community as a whole? If we can collectively agree that this is something that's important to us, that it's something that we believe is going to positively impact our economic growth, our tax base, all of the other things that come along with having quality industry sectors and employment and higher wage and then therefore higher tax base, that is quite a return on that investment to a community as a whole.
Urbanik: What I've heard, I've heard employers say, when I have a good job, I know that my workers are the customer at the business down the street. If I pay my people well, it helps that business down the street, which then [inaudible]. Having that mindset, really is [inaudible].
Miller: There's a couple of questions here, and I think it speaks to some of these capital levers and the investment levers that you were talking about. We have the power, as folks that both have a business representation on boards, are therefore working with the workforce system in particular around incumbent worker training, on the job training and other subsidized support through Department of Labor dollars that they can benefit from. From that perspective, have you seen, either Janice or Sarah, where a board or a region has applied this kind of good jobs, a provider index, or criteria for who they're including on their board, and therefore, who has access to those training supports and those additional discretionary dollars?
Urbanik: Some of the workforce boards that I've worked with have set salary minimum thresholds, that if a business doesn't pay at least X dollars, they won't be eligible for OJT money or they won't... If a person gets their ITA and gets trained, they will not connect them to that business if they don't meet that wage threshold. There is growing interest around looking at aspects of that, around looking at a business's turnover.
Even if they might pay, they might have a great wage but their culture is so toxic that they have a high turnover, I've seen some boards look at that, because they don't want to be contributing to that churn in the market.
Miller: Great. I think another thing to think about as well, I would love, just parting thoughts both from Janice and Sarah. As we are moving into some semblance of reopening at whatever phase that that is, and whatever fits and starts that that's going to look like over the near term, how we can force folks to think more differently about offering quality jobs now that they weren't necessarily before and why that's important. I just want to lay a little bit of a Fed perspective on that, in how we look at this through the balance sheets of the government, essentially, and looking at that social safety net.
If we're offering folks higher wages and more consistent jobs with pathways and support, then that's an offset to the strain to the other social benefits: childcare, assisted housing stipends, SNAP and all of those things like that. I would look at this as a win-win. We can incentivize offering better jobs than we were before, we're creating better circumstances for our workers that we're bringing back but also for our communities, and for our coffers, essentially, as it relates to all of these other social programs that have gone very significantly underfunded.
To think about changing the hearts and minds of folks in your community to look at it through a complete sum, and not just what's happening inside of a discrete employer, or what's happening inside of our labor shed, but what can happen on a whole as a country, and how we look at how we're supporting these populations. But with that, let me turn it... Janice and, Sarah, any final parting comments for folks as they're contemplating what this world is going to look like, how they're serving their workers, how they're working with their employers, as we move into a different reality now than we were in before?
Urbanik: Sarah, I'll let you go first.
Kalloch: Sure. I know we've all heard about some of the challenges that employers have felt because unemployment was so much higher during this period. People aren't willing to come back because they're making more than they were before. I think, that's a real argument for we've got to pay people more every single day, and you've got to have people who are engaged enough, passionate enough about supporting your business, that they want to come back and they want to help you.
We know that we do not know what is coming, and you need a flexible, engaged workforce that is telling you what your customers want, telling you what makes your customers feel safe and ready to come back, that are making the adjustments on the fly because we're learning new things every single day. You need an entirely different workforce. Much of the technology that we thought might take five years—that everyone's just going to do curbside pickup or grocery delivery; that may be the reality. Things are changing even faster than we thought. Having employees who are super engaged with you is incredibly important.
It's important for you, it's important for the community, it's important for the society. We all saw those miles-long lines of people waiting to go to food banks; this is not why people start businesses. You start them to contribute to community, to have fun, to make money and to support people, and these good jobs can do all of those things for you.
Urbanik: We've been pleasantly surprised that employers have not lost focus on job quality. That was one of our big fears is that they would retrench and go back. What we have learned is they have seen such a benefit of that productive, engaged workforce to help them pivot through the pandemic that they want more. Then when you look at it through a racial equity lens, that you can't hide from the disproportionate impact that COVID has had on people of color, and then when you look at systemic racism and how it is showing up in police brutality, et cetera.
Employers are seeing that, too. They just don't always know what to do, so they're looking for help. That's where I think everybody who's on this call, and then resources through the Good Jobs Institute and the National Fund; we're resources that can help employers move in the direction that they want to move.
Miller: Thank you so much, and speaking of resources, here is a laundry list of resources, but all good information in here. I want to share just a little bit from the Federal Reserve System. The Boston Fed has a Job Quality Research Consortium. There's a lot of data that you can call, looking at all of the components as it relates to job quality and some of the metrics that Sarah and Janice were talking about earlier today.
There's a Reinventing Work Initiative that speaks exactly to all of these components. How do we begin to think about how we change the quality of job that we're offering? Our job design, our operations design, all of these components? There's a handful of briefs there that you can take a look at. The Philadelphia Fed as well has an economic growth and mobility project where there's a number of different components embedded in that, chief of which is job quality and job equity.
They recently held a Twitter chat. If you click on this link, it's going to take you to all of the highlights from all these questions and answers. Sarah and Janice were both active on that conversation, as well as many other chief leaders in the field on workforce and job quality. Then the Cleveland Fed as well has done a lot of research on these opportunity occupations that have done a little bit of teeing up for you to take a look at those resources, both the data tool and some of these research papers.
There's a number of different resources here for the Good Jobs Institute, many of which Sarah talked about at the onset of the call so that you can dig in to a lot of these; you can see the case studies, you can hear the testimonials. A number of the questions that you were going to ask can be answered within both their resources and through the National Fund. We do have this financial wellness guide for employers that was specifically asked for, this job design framework.
I can't underscore enough how much great resources are out there both through the Good Jobs Institute, the National Fund, and then of course, the Aspen Institute in their Economic Opportunities Program has been doing a lot of work around job quality. They offer fellowship, they conduct research, they have practical guidance and other ways to apply this kind of quality framework in any way that you're engaging in workforce or talent development in your communities.
Please join me in thanking so much, Janice and Sarah for being with us today. We thank you for all of your questions. I'm sorry we couldn't get to all of them, but we will address those and get those sent out to you in short order. If there's any other questions that you have, please send Stuart or myself an email and register for our next session for August 5 on racial equity and the future of workforce.
But again, Janice, Sarah, I thank you very much for your partnership and for the good work that you do every day, and for everybody else out there for joining us. Thanks so much.
Urbanik: Very welcome. Thank you.
Kalloch: Thank you.