Session

Creating Good Jobs: The Path to Progress

Good jobs can be loosely defined as providing adequate income, supporting employee well-being, and allowing for mobility. In global supply chains and operations, the social benefit infrastructure provided by national governments is often limited, creating risks for businesses that do not promote their employees’ health and financial well-being. In more mature markets, hourly employees also often lack social protection benefits critical to supporting their well-being. In both contexts, low-skill jobs provide limited opportunities for professional advancement and social mobility, which are critical to combating poverty and inequality. How can companies design interventions to promote quality jobs, especially for high-risk employees in their operations and supply chains? Join us for an important one-hour discussion to explore potential solutions.

Speakers

  • Jose Corona, CEO, Inner City Advisors
  • Kindley Walsh Lawlor, Vice President, Social and Environmental Responsibility, The Gap Inc.
  • Maureen Conway, Vice President and Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program, The Aspen Institute
  • Michael Myers, Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation
  • Racheal Meiers, Director, HERproject, BSR (Moderator)

Highlights

  • Good jobs are a major contributing factor to the creation of more equitable, inclusive economies, and collaboration is a key success factor to enabling change and increasing job quality at a higher pace.

  • The creation of good jobs is not only a responsibility for companies but also an opportunity. Good jobs involve investing in employees, which in turn can lead to benefits, such as reduced turnover and absenteeism, greater tenure and retention, and greater productivity.

  • Solutions, such as better screening processes and financial incentives for hiring excluded populations like youth, can create a more inclusive economy and also lead to better jobs. Solutions, such as employee assistance programs, can also improve stability for low-income workers.

Memorable Quotes

“We want to create an economy that works for everyone, and we believe that starts with good jobs.” —Jose Corona, Inner City Advisors

“We see change happen more quickly and become more sustained through collaboration.” —Kindley Walsh Lawlor, The Gap Inc.

“We should reorganize work so people can be more productive and they can be rewarded better.” —Maureen Conway, The Aspen Institute

“The key to an inclusive economy is a good job.” —Michael Myers, The Rockefeller Foundation

Overview

Moderator Racheal Meiers from BSR opened the panel discussion by framing good jobs as an essential component of a healthy economy and the greatest value that business can bring to society. She asked Michael Myers about The Rockefeller Foundation’s perspective on the creation of good jobs. Myers responded that one of Rockefeller’s goals is to build resilience through systems that will enable people and communities and countries to bounce back from shocks. He noted another goal of creating inclusive economies and ensuring access to opportunities as economic growth occurs.

Meiers asked Kindley Lawlor from Gap to discuss the company’s role in creating good jobs. Kindley explained that Gap looks at its sphere of influence, which encompasses both its direct and indirect employees across its value chain. She highlighted Gap’s increase in employees’ minimum wage to US$9, which in turn has led to greater tenure and an increase in job applications. She also noted their focus on women, who make up about 70 percent of their workforce, and issues of pay equality. She also emphasized Gap’s focus on working conditions and fairness for workers through basic audits, capacity building, and other practices, which they conduct in partnership with NGOs and other stakeholders.

Meiers then asked Jose Corona to discuss initiatives that small businesses are conducting to create jobs. Corona said that more than half of all private sector jobs are created by small businesses and that his organization was founded to fulfill the mission of creating good jobs. He said that Inner City Advisors believes in creating a more equitable economy and highlighted the multiplier effect of good jobs. He explained good jobs can in turn improve lives, reduce costs for business, and have multiple positive effects for people, business, communities, and the economy. He emphasized their commitment to helping businesses invest in their employees through benefits, higher wages, and encouraging them to advance within companies or portfolio companies.

Next, Meiers asked Maureen Conway about the challenges and opportunities of good jobs and the Aspen Institute’s work within this space. Conway highlighted the challenges of declining mobility and the widening inequality gap. She explained that the institute’s goal is to create systems to ensure that everyone is able to earn a living. She noted that her organization’s program collaborates with local communities and others to examine access to good jobs and to increase inclusive hiring practices in order to curb the isolation that can result not only from geographic location but also from lack of social networks and high-quality education. She discussed the need for increasing access to resources and highlighted the example of an organization located in the Bronx that focuses on skill-building and connecting people to jobs within IT companies.

Myers then described some of the solutions that The Rockefeller Foundation has explored in order to create better jobs. Myers described what hasn’t worked and how the algorithms involved in screening out resumes using word selection have excluded qualified applicants: He gave the example of a company that used inside jargon in their job description that excluded all of the resumes they received. Myers explained how his foundation is working with major companies to examine hiring practices and ensure that screening is open to young people and the long-term unemployed population. He said that Social Capital Partners in Canada is examining the use of financial incentives for hiring youth, such as low-interest loans to small businesses that hire youth. Myers noted that there is a need for next-generation staffing agencies to translate skill sets into job descriptions and provided an example of an initiative in Africa to match people with jobs within the IT sector.

One challenge Meiers identified is that there is often not enough coordination for sharing best practices between the diversity officers that manage direct employees and the supply chain, which is responsible for indirect employees. Lawlor explained that Gap addresses this issue by partnering with the White House on job creation in the United States and focusing on women in the developing world and youth in the developed world.

Meiers then turned to Corona for examples of practices aimed at job creation within the small business world. Corona said that their client Blue Bottle Coffee focused on creating policies to allow employees to switch shifts and to donate sick time and vacation hours to each other.

During the Q&A session, an audience member asked Lawlor to provide some insight into living wages and what they should cover. Lawlor said that there are different ways of measuring wages, such as floor wage, fair wage, and poverty levels of countries, but that companies should assess and set the right parameters for determining wage levels.

Meiers then asked Conway to provide some examples of creating better jobs other than through better wages. Conway explained that companies should examine ways of creating stability for low-wage workers, as they can have a harder time succeeding at work due to life’s instabilities: Low-income workers often have transportation and childcare issues that may cause them to miss work and can lead to job loss, which in turns leads to higher costs for companies. She highlighted the example of The Source, which works with companies to create stable, regular hours. She also noted that employee assistance programs can help solve these challenges.

Date

November 5, 2014