Americans know what they want from companies. Time to listen

“Voice of the American people” is a phrase often associated with politics and certainly a growing partisan divide.

When applied to what the public wants corporate America to focus on, however, the message is one of clear unification. Across every demographic – whether it’s political party, race, gender or income level – Americans want companies to invest in their workforce and pay a fair living wage. .

The reason is clear: rising inflation, the specter of a recession, and concerns about job loss and financial insecurity are affecting tens of millions of employed Americans. In particular, people with low incomes have to bear felon impact of inflation. As more and more companies look to cut costs, low-wage workers have the highest risk lose their job or have their hours cut.

There is also something more profound at play. It is the very concept of work – providing work for one’s family, contributing to society and shaping one’s identity – that binds us all on a fundamental level. That’s how we spend most of our time. It provides the means by which we strive to meet Maslow’s hierarchical needs and where we hope for respect and dignity. It’s a place where we can be creative, solve problems, and contribute to our communities. If we’re lucky, work helps shape our deeper life purpose.

Since 2015, JUST Capital surveyed more than 160,000 Americans, a representative of the US adult population, asked them what matters most when it comes to business behavior. Their answers measure the pulse of the country and paint a picture of hope, opportunity, and purpose. Every year, employee issues take the highest priority, and this year was no different. The latest JUST poll shows that four of the public’s top six priorities are wages, health, training and benefits.

For companies, the first step in this journey is to listen to what workers really want, starting with paying a fair living wage, an issue that comes up repeatedly in our survey. JUST.

We know it can’t stop there. A study by CEOs for Corporate Purposes supported by the Ford Foundation found that in addition to salary, what is important for attracting and retaining talent is salary stability, paid time off, pay, safety, full schedule, flexibility and sense of purpose and dignity in the workplace (even if it means paying less).

These needs predate the pandemic. Indeed a Research in 2019 revealed that only 40% of employed Americans feel they are in good jobs, while 44% say they are doing mediocre jobs and 16% say their jobs are bad. Less than a third of workers with bad jobs say they have a high quality of life.

What the pandemic has catalyzed is a fundamental shift in expectations for workers, with many re-evaluating what matters most to them. Some, especially those in low-wage jobs, have changed jobs or are moving towards unions or other forms of collective bargaining and self-organization. With the salary increase over the past year not keeping up record high inflationmany workers also feel more unsatisfied. Whatever you call it – “quiet leave”, “quit culture”, or something else – there is a price to be paid for leaving employees like this. In a tight labor market, attracting workers Leading growth support (via increase productivity, customer service and innovation) and decrease sales cost.

Importantly, it also helps build long-term business success and outstanding financial returns. Indices in the JUST Capital broad-based JUST Index (JULCD) and the JUST 100 Index (JUONETR) have outperformed the benchmark Russell 1000 index by 7.5% and 8% respectively since inception. create. The top 10% of companies in JUST’s Rankings have outperformed the bottom 10% by nearly 5,000 bps (50%) since January 2018. In each case, the criteria related to the workforce is by far the most weighted factor and the main driver of performance.

How US companies can track data

Follow Worker Voice Design Lab, leading, year-long partnership with IDEO and the Ford Foundation to help an airline, health system and port government use design solutions to understand what they can learn and earn with how to listen to their frontline employees, to both promote employee welfare and advance business goals. The approaches developed through this project are applicable to almost any field. Companies can implement these mechanisms to ensure that they are tapping into work experience expertise.

Resources and tools being created by organizations like JUST Capital, Good Work Initiative, and the Financial Wellness Network to help companies evaluate and improve the quality of work and address workforce issues in a way rooted in everyday American values. Company leaders may be faced with many complex challenges, but they have clear directives and relatively simple first steps.

Like Hubert Joly, former CEO of Best buy (and JUST Advisor) recent note about turning around that company, “I would ask the associates in the store, what is working, what is not working, what do you need. Of course they had all the answers, my job was easy: listen, take notes and follow my advice. They have all the answers because they know from the front lines. It’s not for me to tell them what to do, but for me to listen. “

Now is the time for employers to listen to their workforces and work together to ensure our economy delivers on the promise of the American Dream for all. Whichever way you look at it, for business leaders looking to navigate increasingly complex economic, social and political operating conditions, investing in employees is a Star. The Big Dipper is powerful and a way to visually uphold the foundational principles of our democracy.

Ritse Erumi is a program officer on the Future of Work(ers) team at the Ford Foundation. Martin Whittaker is the CEO of JUST Capital

Opinions expressed in commentary are solely those of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Luck.

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