The Good Jobs Strategy

The Good Jobs Strategy

We are big fans of Zeynep Ton, an adjunct professor and research at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and her Good Jobs Strategy.

In this brief 2013 TEDx Cambridge presentation, Ton describes the tensions she’s seen between a retailer’s ability to offer customers low prices while providing good jobs for employees. She also outlines the components of a counterintuitive strategy that drives sales, profit, and growth, including offering fewer products, standardizing while empowering employees, cross-training, and operating with slack.

Ton argues companies need to cultivate capable people, recognizing they are not just a cost but an investment. Higher wages, better training, more flexible schedules, and more thoughtfully designed jobs all contribute to greater employee engagement and performance.

In describing strategies to transform an investment in people into better performance, Ton references two case studies where both Walmart in the U.S. and Marcadona in Spain attempted to lower costs by reducing the number of products they sold during the recent economic downturn.

In Wal-Mart’s case, when customers couldn’t find what they wanted, they simply left the store without buying anything because they couldn’t find anyone to help them. At Marcadona, the company had trained employees so that when a customer couldn’t find what they wanted, someone on the floor could suggest alternatives and re-direct them. Ton describes how Wal-Mart suffered huge loses while Marcadona reported strong profits and growth.

It’s important to consider Ton’s work and what it means for industry sectors where we expect to see significant growth in coming years: retail, food service, hospitality, and home health care. If more companies don’t implement “good jobs strategies,” we will end up with even more “bad jobs,” which Ton explains increase poverty, exacerbate income inequality, cost taxpayers, generate disengaged employees, hurt communities, and, in the end, create bad economies.

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