By: Alicia Dunn | Communications Manager at Shared Value Initiative | October 15th, 2018

By Alicia Dunn & Laura Roberts

These days it’s hard to miss articles about the future of work – whether it’s the gig economy or the debate about robots replacing humans, there’s no doubt that the nature of work is changing. We don’t know yet the full impact these changes will have on the workforce, but what we do know is that right now companies need to look at ways to redefine the workplace experience for their employees. And we don’t mean with perks like game rooms and unlimited snacks and on-site massages.

With over 6 million entry-level jobs going unfilled, companies around the United States are beginning to explore creating shared value by rewiring their approaches to talent acquisition, retention and advancement, particularly for those populations who have historically faced barriers to employment. Voluntary, entry-level turnover alone costs industries from retail to food service to banking billions of dollars each year. Some companies accept high turnover as a cost of doing business, but through our Talent Rewire work, we’ve partnered closely with companies that are bucking the trend by innovating best practices in hiring, retention, and advancement in order to build a skilled workforce, reduce costs, and remain competitive as the battle for talent intensifies. Changing decades-old systems is hard work and takes time and dedication from leaders across the company. To date, we’ve been encouraged by the work of two cohorts of leading companies that have started to “crack the nut” on what it looks like for companies to truly create shared value through workforce practices.

Here are a few of examples from our recent cohort:  

McDonalds is serving up more than burgers and fries – the fast food giant wants to be “America’s Best First Employer”.  Just last month, they announced new plans to reduce barriers to employment for two million young people by 2025 through employment opportunities and workplace development programs. The company is kick starting this work with a $2M investment to workforce organizations in Chicago, with whom they’ll partner to recruit and retain talent for their restaurants. This investment and commitment builds on many years of work dedicating significant resources to identify many of the work-life barriers their worker demographic faces, and training managers accordingly to help support, retain, and advance those workers.  In doing so, McDonalds hopes to build a reliable pipeline of talent that can create positive impact in the communities they serve, and also help them turn a profit in key markets.

Tyson Foods employs more than 122,000 workers with many standing on the front lines and processing the protein destined for America’s dinner tables.  Tyson consistently faces challenges with high turnover among those workers, many of whom are the most vulnerable of Americans who possess little education, few technical skills, and even struggle with basic literacy and numeracy – a reality familiar to many food processing plants. Tyson decided to tackle this problem from a new angle; rather than build high turnover into their quarterly and annual budgets, they instead introduced a variety of on-site workplace programs to their frontline workers, including financial literacy training and support, GED courses, and even English as a second language offerings. Preliminary results of their pilot work have shown a 123 percent return on investment for the business, and countless reports from workers that they had increased confidence at work, higher job satisfaction, and increased connection and inclusion in the workplace. Tyson plans to continue to scale this program to 40 locations by the end of 2018, and has already delivered more than 100,000 hours of instruction.

In addition to dressing millions of Americans, Gap, Inc. has courageously led the way in adopting effective corporate labor practices and their recent pioneering work on more stable scheduling for retail workers is just another way they’re improving the employee experience. Beginning in late 2017, Gap worked with Harvard Business Review to conduct a set of experiments in 28 stores that included guaranteeing workers’ schedules two weeks in advance and eliminating “on call” shifts, or shifts that can be canceled up to two hours before an employee is scheduled to show up in the store. From the employer perspective these practices have long been considered industry standard, and a key way to save companies money by adapting their staffing to customer traffic in real time. From the employee perspective these practices present innumerable challenges to workers, including difficulty scheduling child care and variable, unpredictable paychecks. What Gap has shown is that more stable scheduling actually increased both sales and labor productively by 7 percent and 5 percent respectively, which amounts to $2.9 million in additional revenue over a 35 week period, in addition to creating better working conditions for retail staff.

These solutions are notable, powerful and represent a trend toward business strategies that positively impact both business and society. For workers to be impacted on a scale that is commensurate with the huge need we have in this country for quality work opportunities, we need more examples and champions like these to help lead the way for others in their sectors.

Talent Rewire’s next cohort of Innovation Lab companies is kicking off this fall. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit: www.talentrewire.org.