How to Redesign Jobs and Workplaces

At the National Fund, the way we see it, every workplace and every job is designed. The question is, who was it designed by, and what was it designed for?

There is a ton of evidence that companies that aim to provide a great place to work, for every employee, end up outperforming their competition. That’s a design choice. It’s not a simple one, but neither is developing a best-in-class product. It requires a commitment to continuous improvement. In the case of your workforce, this means also making a practice of both listening to employees and acting on their feedback.

Our organization, and our network, commit to co-investing with employers who make these positive design choices. And we often find the end results of these efforts to be rewarding for all involved. Our recently completed Redesigned Jobs, Resilient Workers project has produced several new case studies and videos about workforce collaboratives, working with local employers, who changed both workplaces and business outcomes for the better. Here are some examples:

  • Cleveland’s Fund for Our Economic Future, in partnership with ConexusNEO, supported Summit DD in implementing success coaching for their frontline care workers. Summit DD is an agency that coordinates services for disabled people across several home care providers in their community. The success coaching practice pairs experienced aides with new hires to help them navigate barriers to work early in their careers; the coaches themselves are given additional compensation for their time and training needs.
    • The local evaluation, by researchers at Kent State University, showed a statistically significant reduction in turnover following implementation of the practice. Employees also voiced strong approval of the success coaching approach.
    • Here’s our employer profile of Summit DD, with their advice about how they did it.
  • Des Moines’ Central Iowa Works (CIW) expanded their business advising support for small-medium local companies. This service was originally launched with another National Fund grant in 2018, and CIW has invested deeply over the years in building relationships with local employers around improving workplace design. Over the course of the program, they partnered with over 15 local companies that employ more than 1,000 workers in retail, hospitality, warehousing, transportation, and logistics industries. They worked with these companies to create new apprenticeship programs, develop supervisory skills, and implement employee listening approaches.
  • KentuckianaWorks, through its sector strategies program, developed a job quality partnership that included manufacturers, healthcare providers, financial services, and transportation companies. They ended up working closely with two companies on practice change initiatives: Masonic Homes of Kentucky and Paradise Tomato Kitchen.
    • Masonic Homes, a senior living center in Louisville, invested in community partnerships to provide its direct care workers with bus passes and discounted cell phone plans. These supports have received a very positive response at the organization, and have led to improved retention among frontline staff. Learn more about Masonic Homes in this video.
    • Paradise Tomato Kitchen (PTK), instituted a policy of “checkpoint interviews” where rotating organizational leaders would conduct standardized check-ins with all new hires over their first ten weeks. PTK found that this process increased trust up and down throughout the company, as new hires discovered how many people they could go to for support. It also led to substantially improved retention rates for new hires.
  • Pittsburgh’s Partner4Work decided to take a deep dive into the food service industry. They began that work by surveying restaurant workers at a local industry night event, then shared that data with employers to gauge their interest in developing new strategies. They ultimately developed two new close employer partnerships with Square Café and Burgatory.
    • With Square Café, Partner4Work helped them launch a new employee handbook, job descriptions, a retirement plan, and its first survey for measuring employee engagement.
    • Partner4Work also helped Burgatory with several initiatives, including adding family leave policies, expanding recovery-friendly workplace practices, and implementing open-book management. They’ve seen increased internal promotion as a result and also improved staff retention. A case study and video are still to come.

In each case, the collaboratives worked closely with their selected employer partners to identify problems, ideate solutions, and test out pilot programs. In several cases, these initiatives were informed by worker voice and the National Fund’s Job Quality Outcome Maps. All in all, 81 employers engaged with the initiative at some point, and 15 committed to substantial practice changes. Each site also contracted with a third-party evaluator who helped establish a measurement approach and tracked progress for each employer.

These evaluation partnerships provided the initiative with rich data. We estimate that at least 1,328 workers benefited from these workplace redesign initiatives. That includes over 1,100 who saw improved job retention; over 500 who saw increased compensation; over 200 who saw new or improved benefits; another 268 who received access to mentoring or coaching supports; and 130 who received new skills training and credentials. Together, they show the scalable impact of job redesign, while also illuminating the path for other employers and their workforce collaborative partners.

Tom Strong

-- Director of Employer Activation, National Fund for Workforce Solutions