Executive Director, Partners for a Competitive Workforce
Mardia Shands is currently the Chief Diversity Officer, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Language Services for TriHealth, Inc. This profile is based on her work in the position in which she worked during the majority of her Fellowship.
Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW) has a dual focus: working to ensure businesses have the talent essential to be competitive and that workers have the skills and opportunities to get good jobs and advance in their careers. PCW serves the Cincinnati metro area, which spans parts of three states, partnering with businesses, educational institutions, nonprofit service organizations, workforce development boards, and economic development agencies. As executive director, Mardia Shands oversees PCW’s strategic direction. A key focus of her work is demonstrating the benefits of improving job quality effectively to businesses.
“Businesses respond to our illustration of return on investment on job quality,” explains Shands. “From company data, we know that high-quality jobs lead to improved productivity and customer service quality, often along with decreased expenses from turnover and bottlenecks. PCW helps businesses compare current costs with potential business gains and costs savings from improved job quality.
“Investing in job quality tends to be a lower expense than continually shouldering the higher costs of employee turnover and lost productivity,” says Shands. “And in a tighter labor market, businesses with higher job quality tend to attract a steady supply of labor. Lower hiring and recruitment costs and better productivity are winners for employers.”
Adjusting the language of job quality to different audiences
Shands and PCW know how to talk with and use the language of the employer world. Terminology is important to engage different audiences in job quality issues. In Shands’ experience, “job quality” may not resonate with all audiences, especially some employers. Shands often talks with business leaders about improving their competitive advantage through investments in their workforce. At PCW, Shands shares industry knowledge about competitive wages, benefits, and workplace practices and works with business partners to understand the return from investing in these improvements. “With this information, businesses make economically viable choice, which also happens to be the most socially viable choice,” says Shands.
Recently, PCW partnered with the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to launch the Employer Toolkit, a resource for businesses to implement practices that can help stabilize and retain lower-wage employees. The toolkit identifies, for example, approaches to cut high turnover and offers actionable changes employers may adopt. These range from providing a short grace period for workers late due to public transportation issues to minimizing wait periods for workers to be eligible for health insurance or sick leave.
Businesses like Miami Valley Gaming in southwest Ohio see the business value from their work with PCW. The mid-sized company employs workers in food services, security, and housekeeping. They recently invested in job quality improvements, including a financial wellness and savings program and also to addresses transportation challenges by offering up to $2,500 in matching funds for employees’ car purchases. After implementing these improvements, staff turnover plummeted by 26 percent for Miami Valley Gaming and employee engagement surveys ticked up sharply.
“As employers invest, it strengthens employee loyalty and engagement,” says Shands. “There is both a business value proposition and moral obligation to ensure that we offer more high-quality jobs in our society.”
Tweet “As employers invest, it strengthens employee loyalty and engagement. There is both a business value proposition and moral obligation to ensure that we offer more high-quality jobs in our society.” #JobQuality Fellow Mardia Shands
Tweet “In a tighter labor market, businesses with higher job quality tend to attract a steady supply of labor. Lower hiring and recruitment costs and better productivity are winners for employers.” #JobQuality Fellow Mardia Shands
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