Do You Want To Create A Good Job? Here’s How To Do It.

good jobs leadership

Let's assume that most CEOs want their employees to have good jobs. Let's also assume that these CEOs genuinely believe that the jobs they have created at their companies are good jobs. They probably have done market research and believe that compensation fairly reflects the market rate. The jobs might come with benefits and good working conditions.

It seems that the CEOs have followed a correct strategy, and the employees should be happy and satisfied with their jobs. But, most of them are not. Where is the disconnect? What is the reason for the high turnover in many industries? Why are so many employees disengaged, disillusioned, and dissatisfied? More importantly, how do you close the gap between the CEOs' perception and reality?

Zeynep Ton, an adjunct associate professor in Operations Management at MIT Sloan School of Management, set out to answer these questions in her book The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits. She later co-founded the Good Jobs Institute (GJI), where she helps companies create good jobs that improve the lives of their employees and the performance and competitiveness of the companies.

Most of Dr. Ton's research is focused on the service industry with jobs at retail stores, restaurants, hotels, call centers, and daycares. Those jobs specifically tend to have low pay, few benefits, and no career paths. Many believe that it is unavoidable. Restaurants, retail stores, and call centers operate on low margins, and they cannot afford to pay higher wages or provide better benefits, or can they?

It is vitally important to discuss jobs in the low-cost service industries for multiple reasons. First, these jobs were impacted the most by COVID-19. Second, even before the pandemic, 53 million Americans had jobs that paid a median wage of $17,950. Finally, while it is popular to talk about upskilling tech workers, just for comparison purposes, there are 4.7 million tech jobs and 42 million service jobs in the U.S. The service industry needs to create more good jobs.

Dr. Ton's research found that better jobs positively impact the entire society by increasing the earnings and spending power of the service workers and reducing the amount of public assistance they need to receive. However, to transform the nature of routine jobs, a radically different operating system is required. The Good Jobs Strategy guides organizations to provide employees with higher-quality work where they are knowledgeable, empowered, and respected, and where they have sufficient resources. This, in turn, leads to customers who are more likely to receive better service and come away more satisfied, resulting in higher sales.

GJI developed a framework for good jobs consisting of nine factors that are important to frontline employees. The first four factors cover the basic needs, and the other five factors describe the higher needs. One point to note is that even if a company offers jobs that satisfy the higher needs, without meeting the basic needs, the employees will feel stressed and will leave the company. The following nine factors will be reminiscent of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and that is because Maslow's theories influenced the design of the Good Jobs framework.

  1. Pay and benefits: fair compensation compared to others
  2. Schedules: stable and predictable work schedules
  3. Career path: clear advancement to higher pay
  4. Security and safety: feeling safe physically and psychologically
  5. Belonging: a sense of teamwork
  6. Achievement: well-communicated expectations and empowerment to use personal judgment
  7. Recognition: regular feedback and acknowledgment of good work
  8. Meaningfulness: seeing the work as worthwhile, performing a variety of tasks, and connecting to the organization's mission and purpose
  9. Personal growth: opportunity to achieve short- and long-term personal goals

GJI designed the Good Jobs Scorecard, which in addition to examining the nine factors related to meeting employees’ needs also evaluates customers’ needs and the company’s operational performance. In this video, Dr. Ton shows how to use the entire Good Jobs Scorecard.

Although my research focuses on just one component of a good job, as defined by GJI, taking all of the employees' needs into consideration is imperative to creating jobs that generate more value for the customers and investors while providing meaningful work for millions of people.

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