What Constitutes A Good Job?

M

y cofounder, Kelly and I said from day one that we wanted to build a company that is a place we would want to work. Having suffered through bad managers, toxic cultures and bureaucratic organizations that were stuck in the past, we were ready to do things differently.

It started organically but intentionally. We were committed to meeting both the fundamental needs of our employees through fair pay, benefits and paid leave. Never more than this year has the importance of these factors been highlighted.

At the beginning of Covid-19 I dove into researching the patchwork of policies that exist around paid leave and the number of exemptions for different sizes and types of businesses. This topic is worthy of a much lengthier discussion, for now I think we can all agree that when people are sick, they should be able to not go to work.  

I applaud current proposals to raise the Federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. That will bring some people to a living wage, but many will still not meet that bar. A living wage is based on household size and takes into consideration the rising costs of childcare and healthcare. I endorse the MIT living wage calculator if you are setting a salary. It is easy and should be the floor, but the ceiling is up to you.  

We can (and should) debate whether benefits should be connected to your employment but for the moment they currently are. Not only is it important to provide benefits widely across your organization but to remember not all benefits are created equal. Part of your responsibility as an employer is to educate and support your workforce to be able to maximize the value of these benefits.

If your health insurance premiums or co-pays are too high, offering insurance is not going to result in an employee getting needed preventative services. Also having a 401k or other retirement savings vehicles are important wealth building strategies, however if employees aren’t making a living wage you are unlikely to be able to contribute.  

Safety is a factor in a good job that many of us take for granted but we shouldn’t. The number of essential workers whose health has been compromised this year is astounding. Grocery store workers being berated and spit on in a pandemic is a safety issue just as much as someone who is injured on the job.  

The other layer of safety often underdeveloped is being free from harassment, assault and unhealthy environments. This can be more subtle and harder to track at times but no less critical. Be it gender in the Me Too Movement to racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter Movement, we can no longer ignore the toxicity of bias in the workplace.

I consider all the aforementioned factors to be the basic building blocks of a good job. There are two other groups of factors that together will constitute a quality job.  

The next grouping of criteria has to do with growth both professionally and personally. Creating career pathways and ways to progress up a ladder in organizations keeps people striving. As employers, we want to ensure that our workers are continually setting and achieving goals for improvement. As their skill sets grow and flourish, so, too should their responsibilities.

Tailoring those opportunities to individuals is critical. I often have a few pathways in my head for an employee and working with them to identify where they want to grow and what skills they want to build builds their buy in. There are plenty of tasks we all do in our jobs that we don’t love, but I try to make sure that the tasks we enjoy outweigh the less fun ones.  

There are also the softer skills, character and personal development that occur in a workplace. We often have to interact with people who have a different approach or perspective. Learning to navigate, negotiate and prioritize are skills that can be applied to the rest of life. Providing opportunities for mentorship, feedback and personal development are worth the investment.

The final factors that contribute to a good job are higher order factors like feeling valued, included and that you contribute to something meaningful. Meaning is becoming even more important to workers. According to a Harvard Business Review article in 2018, 9 out of 10 employees are willing to earn less money to do meaningful work.

A colleague said to me today “I’m just so excited because I now actually believe in what we are selling. I know the clients we bring in will be taken care of, that has been missing in every other job I have had.” In my mind, that means Kelly and I are doing our job.  

Do you either create good jobs or have a good one? Let us know. We work with companies and funds to measure the kinds of jobs they provide and then work with them to improve in areas they are falling short.  


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