Designing a Good Job

What does a quality job look like? The Job Design Framework allows you to choose the combination of items that best fit the needs of your business and your employees. Think of it as a menu rather than a mandate. Employers should discuss job design with frontline workers to identify the most impactful changes. A good job for one worker may not be a good job for another. But the better the job, the more likely an employer will attract and retain the best workers in a tight labor market.

It is vital for employers to understand what comprises each element of this chart. This page will provide definitions and resources for each element of the chart below. We have divided the elements that go into designing a good job into three categories, Foundational, Support, and Opportunity. Each of these categories, and the elements within, are important to understand when designing good jobs. With this information at hand, employers can choose which elements best fit their needs and the needs of their workforce. Click here to download a PDF of this graphic.

This framework was developed by National Fund Senior Advisor Steven Dawson and originally published in Now or Never: Heeding the Call of Labor Market Demand” by the Pinkerton Foundation


This category includes many of the basic elements of a job that any of us would expect walking into our workplace. Together, these define our core, everyday relationship with our employer.


Job Design Element
Wages Competitive wages above the industry standard.   Wages are sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living or “living wage”.

Resource: MIT Living Wage Calculator

Benefits A form of compensation paid by employers to employees over and above regular salary or wages. There is a distinction between core benefits such as health insurance, retirement, and insurance for injured workers and optional benefits, such as vision, dental or life insurance, or PTO, education and training, and income smoothing tools or wage insurance.

Resource: Portable benefits resource guide from ASPEN

Financial Incentives Process of sharing company profits with employees, whether it’s through stock options, bonuses tied to acquisition of skills, equity sharing, or employee-owned companies.  It serves as a way to engage and encourage employees to hold a vested interest in the wellbeing of the company.  There are many ways to allocate profits but the downside to these efforts occur when a company is not doing well or access/percentage of allowable investments are only tied to salary.

Resource: Article “How Employee Stock Options Work in Startup Companies”

Employee Loans Employer-based small dollar, low interest, non-predatory loans extended to employees with steady income.  Loans allow employees to access financial resources to respond to an emergency or purchase cars, build credit, etc.  Loans may be offered directly by the company, or through an institutional lender, such as a credit union. In the latter case, the company may guarantee the loans, or the lender may bear the sole risk.


Access to Cash Within Pay Period One form of payroll innovation whereby workers, in between paychecks, have immediate access to funds they have already earned within that pay period; rescheduling paydays to better align with expenses like rent, and customizing paychecks so that bills, debt payments, and other expenses are deducted automatically.

Resource: EPIC Payroll


Job Design Element
Safety Per the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) assures the safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach and assistance.
Fairness Fairness refers to both federal laws that protect workers against discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, (including pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation) national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.  It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.  The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, scheduling and work assignments, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.
Respect A workplace culture that provides emotional and physical safety, inclusive of employees at all levels.  Also incorporates a feeling of being valued, as both an individual, and for the work completed.  For example, millennials gain and experience respect differently than baby boomers or other generations.
Job Security The assurance that an individual’s job/department/position will be available for the medium to long-term.  An effort on behalf of the employer to ensure that job losses are mitigated either by retraining or upskilling to a different position within the same company, or a similar position with a different company.
Grievance Procedure The process and ability of a workplace to handle grievances fairly, without repercussion to a worker who filed a grievance.  A functional grievance process should identify a key point(s) of contact, identify specific steps an employee should take prior to filing the grievance, determine how to handle the filing and documentation of the grievance and determine the follow-through process. Formal representation through union affiliation typically provides third-party processes for grievance procedures.


Job Design Element
Open Communication How management communicates to frontline workers and among peers–and in turn, how employees communicate with management and co-workers. How information is conveyed by corporate and the most effective ways to reach employees about advanced skill development.  Can also refer to clear communication about company values and mission.
Scheduling Scheduling practices that take into account employee input, give ample notice–typically at least two weeks–to employees to plan accordingly and can accommodate workers who need flexible hours as well as those who require a more consistent work schedule. Also includes scheduling that is in line with worker needs in terms of providing the minimum hours required for benefits, full-time status and other incentives.

Resource: FSG’s Investing in Entry-Level Talent: Retention Strategies that Work

Stable Hours Working hours that are conducive to a work-life balance, take into account family schedules and that affords an individual the number of hours needed to earn a livable wage. (e.g., not splitting hours among many part-time employees when there are workers who would like full-time work for the purposes of cutting down on benefits such as healthcare costs.)  No mandatory overtime.


This category includes assistance to help us perform our job well, and to help us achieve stability outside the workplace.


Job Design Element
Entry-Level Adequate training in order to perform a job at time of entry into position in a satisfactory manner.  Also speaks to engagement since entry-level employees quoted by FSG study indicated that they felt most supported in their work when adequate training was provided in tandem with other workplace supports such as clarity of roles and acknowledgment and celebration of their accomplishments.  Best practices include formal training and coaching and proper supervision.
Specialized Gaining additional training and/or cross training to do more specialized tasks leading to wage gain and greater responsibility.  E.g., Walmart Academies that focus on hourly retail managers and supervisors.

Internal Assistance

Job Design Element
Supervisory Training Frontline managers and supervisors are provided training to learn how to coach and support their frontline workers leading to greater job satisfaction, better performance and overall organizational effectiveness. Includes supervisors acquiring skills of listening, communicating, emotional self-management and problem-solving–and then in turn building those same skills in their frontline supervisees.

Resource: FSG’s Investing in Entry-Level Talent: Retention Strategies that Work

Job Coaching Research has shown that 80% of learning happens on the job with a direct supervisor or peer providing guidance in “real-life” situations.  Companies that provide training to their supervisors to be able to provide this level of support show greater retention and productivity than those who do not.  Job coaching can also prove particularly useful when working with individuals who have learning and other developmental disabilities.
Peer Mentors Peer mentors are co-workers made available to new employees to provide support, encouragement, and information.   Often they receive training to serve in their capacity as peer mentors and in some cases, receive additional compensation. Peer mentors can also be utilized to educate and train employees within the company and develop leadership and management skills.  Peer mentors have been found to reduce turnover and save time typically spent on formal training.  This is an effective tool for all populations but in particular, for women and people of color to help navigate workplace culture and increase resilience.
Team Development Formal development of teams to improve productivity, communication, and overall impact in the workplace.  Recognition that all workers contribute to the success of a team.
Financial Counseling/Wellness Financial wellness refers to an individual’s overall financial condition.  The CFPB has identified the following 4 markers as indicative of financial health; 1)Having control over day to day and month to month finances; 2) having the capability to absorb a financial shock, 3) are on track to meet financial goals, and 4) having the financial freedom that allows one to enjoy life.  Employers offer financial wellness programs and benefits such as financial counseling/coaching, debt management services, savings products, short-term loans, financial education, etc.

External Linkages

Job Design Element
Tax Credits Access to and education about tax credits that benefit families such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit.
Childcare Assistance in procuring, paying for, and/or providing childcare to working families.
Transportation Assistance in offsetting costs and providing access to reliable transportation.  For example, some companies with hours beyond public transportation have contracted with companies such as Uber, or rental car companies to provide workers with transportation to and from work.
HR Services Employers offer HR services to their employees at all levels, including documented policies and procedures.  While many small companies/businesses do not have HR on staff, they can be part of a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) or small business alliance in order to offer these services.  Additionally, employers can offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that are typically third-party resource and referral services to address issues such as domestic violence, drug, and alcohol abuse, etc.  There is a growing trend of employers contracting with non-profit organizations like WorkLife Partnership or The SOURCE to provide targetted case management services to employees and connect them with available public benefits.


This category includes an array of ways in which an employer can help us advance in our career and develop as an individual.

Career Development

Job Design Element
Cross Training Training provided for workers across varying roles and responsibilities to allow for greater depth in knowledge of a particular company or industry.  Typically this type of training allows for greater opportunity for advancement including lateral moves into different job families, while at the same time, providing the company greater and more flexible productive capacity.
Advancement Employers offer opportunities for, and a clear path to, advancement within the company or industry.  Advancement is aligned to wage gain, increased competency, and responsibilities.  Career pathways are defined and workers are supported in their desire to pursue advancement through additional education, training, experience, etc.
Educational Benefits Employers pay the cost of advanced education and training to support employee career development.  Employers pay costs directly or offer tuition reimbursement programs.  Some programs tie assistance to occupations/career tracks in high demand by employer.

Resource: Lumina ROI Study – Cigna


Job Design Element
Internal Recognition Providing some form of recognition, celebration and/or incentive program for employees for their accomplishments within the company.

Resource: FSG’s Investing in Entry-Level Talent: Retention Strategies that Work

External Recognition Providing recognition, celebration and/or incentive program for employees for their accomplishments with an outside audience, or for achievements gained outside of the workplace such as the attainment of a degree or for voluntary service.  Can also be achieved indirectly, by involving employees in external business events, sales visits, industry conferences, etc.
Leveling of Perks Making benefits and advancement opportunities available to all staff, and in particular, removing “executive perks,” such as reserved parking for managers, that reinforce “superior/inferior” class distinctions among employees.


Job Design Element
Participation Recognition that workers offer expertise, ideas, and input that can contribute positively to company or business decisions.  Providing opportunity for workers to participate in innovation, solving problems, designing processes and developing products and services.

Resource: Universal Wood Case Study

Self-Managed Teams Interdependent, highly trained team members who are mutually responsible and accountable for managing the quality of work that needs to be done to exceed customer’s expectations and contribute to the success of the business resulting in a flat and lean organizational structure.

Resource: Universal Wood Case Study

Representation Unions, resource groups or employee councils serve to represent employees at all levels to management.  Can serve as a governance body used to support employees, negotiate benefits, establish standards of service, etc..(e.g. frontline workers get together to make a calculated ask, such as childcare request at Home Depot.)
Mattering Individuals “attach” to organizations when they feel needed by another person or persons within that group. When the individual knows that what he or she does “matters” to someone else, they are more likely to act as a supportive group member. For example, if you know your co-workers are relying on you to play a certain role on their team–that what you do really “matters” to them–you are much more likely to show up for work tomorrow morning. For the helping professions (e.g., direct-care workers, childcare workers), those frontline staff know they “matter” deeply to their clients—that they are a true lifeline for their clients’ and students’ safety and development.

Resource: FSG’s Investing in Entry-Level Talent: Retention Strategies that Work

Resource: Marginality and Mattering: Key Issues in Building Community (Excerpted from New Directions for Student Services, No. 48, by Nancy K. Schlossberg, 1989)

Pride Pride in the quality of one’s own work, and as a competency or behavior serving as an indicator of ownership and engagement in the company.
Ownership Varying degrees of ownership by employees.  Companies can be worker cooperatives, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP’s), employee trusts, stock bonus plans and profit sharing, broad-based individual equity plans, and stock purchase plans. Generally, these types of companies have lower turnover, higher employee engagement, greater productivity, and greater ability to withstand economic downturns.