Treat employees holistically and partner with them to give them pathways to success.
We often talk about a quality job in terms of pay and benefits, but culture, employee agency, and an opportunity for skills development are also part of it, said Brooke DeRenzis, chief strategy officer of the National Skills Coalition, during the coalition's 2022 Skills Summit session "Skills Training & Job Quality: Industry Perspectives."
"We know that jobs that require skills training are the backbone of our economy," DeRenzis explained. "Yet, there's significant differences in pay, benefits, working conditions, and training and career advancement opportunities in different industries." Panelists talked about what a high-quality job means.
Panelist Daniel Bustillo is executive director of the Healthcare Career Advancement Program, which "partners to build the workforce for quality care, develop quality healthcare training, [and] move frontline workers through career pathways to higher-wage occupations." He said a quality job includes safe working conditions, protective equipment, and freedom from burnout due to substantial burdens. It includes taking care of people and working to ensure equity.
Beverly A. Scott, founder of Introducing Youth to American Infrastructure, added that a career is what makes a quality job. It requires thinking about where the real opportunities are, where they are going in the future, and how to make sure that people are prepared for them. To do that, she advised thinking holistically and partnering with employees, customers, and society about expectations. Companies need to have a culture of constant upskilling and reskilling. "K to 12 is important, but K to gray" is as important, Scott said.
Understanding what makes a quality job involves listening to one's workforce, noted Alejandro Mendoza, HR director at Optimax, a precision optics manufacturer. He believes it's critical for employers to find out not only what is going wrong for employees—their pain points and tensions—but to reinforce what is going right. Mendoza recommended empowering workers. For example, Optimax has 25 work groups across shifts, each of which holds itself accountable and chooses how it will act and celebrate as a team. "Support the workforce and get out of their way," Mendoza added.
And Luis Sandoval, executive director of the Building Skills Partnership, which provides workforce development training programs for janitors and transportation workers, spoke to how programs can upskill workers, creating a career pathway for them. He noted that that is an important element of a high-quality career.