Employment and Jobs

Section 3: Engaging Businesses on Job Quality

May 11, 2020  • Economic Opportunities Program

Job Quality Tools Library > Section 3: Engaging Businesses on Job Quality

Originally posted: May 11, 2020
Last updated: May 13, 2022

Section 3 is designed to support intermediary organizations that work with employers and want to build staff capacity to have conversations with business representatives that promote job quality. The resources below offer practical tools to strengthen employer engagement and make the business case for improving job quality.

Many workforce and economic development organizations are new to having conversations with employers about improving jobs. Building this practice requires preparing staff to ask new kinds of questions about business operations and workforce practices and to demonstrate the value that strengthening job quality can bring to employers.

↓ Tools and Resources Below the Box ↓


Business Value Assessments to Make the Case for Job Quality

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program – Cost of Turnover Tool

Who’s It For: Employers, Economic Development, Investing and Lending, Policy, Worker Advocacy, Workforce Development

What’s It For: To make the business case for improving retention, employers can use this simple calculator to get a ballpark estimate of hard costs of turnover. Partners can complete this exercise with businesses to show the value of their services or talent management practices that reduce turnover. Unlike many other turnover calculators, this tool includes both direct costs, such as the cost of hiring or orientation, and indirect costs, such as lower employee morale or poorer customer service.


The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program – Business Value Assessment Toolkit

Who’s It For: Employers, Workforce Development

What’s It For: This handbook offers guidance and instructions for using a set of tools to measure the value that a workforce development organization delivers to its business clients, such as through improved productivity and skills. This business value assessment begins with planning for the assessment and then using the included Excel tool and questionnaires to complete the assessment. It also includes information about why these assessments are valuable, potential limitations, and who should be included in the process, along with case studies that describe how workforce service providers partnered with businesses to measure results.


Capacity Building Tools to Strengthen Employer Engagement

Photo of two small business owners exchanging a high five

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program – Lessons and Takeaways from Supporting Small Businesses to Improve Job Quality: Seven Tips for Workforce Organizations

Who’s It For: Employers, Workforce Development, Worker Advocacy

What’s It For: This guide contains tips and practices for creating trusted relationships with small business employers focused on improving job quality, and compiles seven lessons for small business prospecting, recruitment, and ongoing engagement. Lessons outlined in this publication were developed as part of the Economic Opportunities Program’s Reimagine Retail job quality research, and in response to a growing demand for employer engagement practices that enable collaboration and innovative solutions in connecting people to good jobs. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing relationships with employers, this tool may be of interest to employers (and their partners) who would like to engage in job quality discussions and tailor engagement to their local contexts.


The Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative – Question Bank for Workforce Service Providers: A Tool for Working with Retailers

Who’s It For: Workforce Development

What’s It For: This question bank includes targeted questions that workforce development professionals can ask retail business representatives to have learning-focused conversations and deepen relationships. The tool includes questions to help understand a business and its workforce, employee engagement, development and advancement in a firm, and wages and scheduling practices.


Screenshot of report cover: "Employer Engagement Question Bank"

Generation Work / Cuyahoga County – Employer Engagement Question Bank

Who’s It For: Worker Advocacy, Workforce Development

What’s It For: The Employer Engagement Question Bank is designed to help workforce professionals engage in conversations with businesses to support the jobseekers they work with. This tool can be used for learning about a business with an eye toward providing workforce services, developing expertise about industry norms and practices, and building relationships that build credibility in discussions about strategies for promoting worker retention and advancement. The tool includes questions to build understanding of the business, its workforce needs, and a range of job quality factors including compensation, opportunities for advancement, and equity and inclusion. Workforce development and other professionals that support workers can adapt the tool to meet their employer engagement goals.


Screenshot for webpage: "Toolkit for Developing High-Performing Industry Partnerships"

National Fund for Workforce Solutions – Toolkit for Developing High-Performing Industry Partnerships

Who’s It For: Employers, Economic Development, Workforce Development

What’s It For: This tool is designed to guide workforce practitioners through the development and growth of industry partnerships that bring together employers, service providers, and workers. While industry partnerships may form to address talent needs, as the National Fund notes, these partnerships can become an important avenue for addressing job quality and workplace inequities over time. The toolkit includes an assessment to help strengthen partnerships as well as guidance and resources related to five areas: employer and industry engagement; stakeholder engagement; data-informed strategy and continuous learning; operational capacity; and racial equity and inclusion. Workforce and economic development may find the toolkit useful to embed job quality in industry partnership approaches.


Reimagine Retail Chicagoland – Reimagining Employer Engagement: A Toolkit for Providers

Who’s It For: Workforce Development

What’s It For: Workforce development practitioners can use this how-to guide to build capacity to strengthen relationships with employers. It includes instructions on researching employers and labor markets, preparing for meetings with employers, talking about job quality, pitching services, and deepening employer relationships.


Supplemental Resources: Business Value Assessments to Make the Case for Job Quality
  1. The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program – The Value of Job Quality Partnerships for Small Businesses. This interview (with video and full transcript) focuses on the value for small businesses to engage with workforce and good jobs advising partners to improve job quality. In this discussion, CarpetOne Floor and Home, and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Northwest Workforce Area share their experiences as part of EOP’s Reimagine Retail job quality pilots. In this line of research, they participated in a pilot aimed at advancing job quality through relationships between small businesses, good jobs advisors, and workforce organizations in the pursuit of improving jobs and boosting businesses’ bottom lines. Although this interview showcases the small business perspective, employers of all sizes across the country may find these insights useful in informing their own practices to improve job quality in ways that benefit both workers and businesses. Workforce development and worker advocacy groups may also find it helpful to share this interview with their employer partners.


Supplemental Resources: Capacity Building Tools to Strengthen Employer Engagement
  1. The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program – Genesis at Work: Evaluating the Effects of Manufacturing Extension on Business Success and Job Quality. This report details an initiative led by the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC), a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), to support manufacturers in improving job quality in tandem with providing more traditional business consulting services. IMEC’s strategic planning approach integrated people strategies to improve workforce engagement, productivity, and stability with process and product strategies to help firms keep up with market demand. The insights, observations, and outcomes outlined in the report of this four-year evaluation contain considerations for MEPs, funders, policymakers, and others who may be interested in learning more about people-centered business engagement approaches that benefit workers while helping businesses save money and grow.
  2. The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program – Unpacking the Work of Work-Based Learning. This report describes how four practitioner organizations engage with young adults and employers to design and manage work-based learning opportunities. Work-based learning can provide young adults of color an entry point into jobs in industries where they have been historically underrepresented and can provide opportunities for young adults to demonstrate their value and abilities to employers. These kinds of programs can be particularly important for young adults of color to gain the experience, education, and relationships necessary to succeed in the workforce, now and in the future. This resource may be particularly helpful to those creating or strengthening work-based learning programs and includes considerations for practitioners and public and philanthropic investors.
  3. Business Roundtable – Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans’. This statement from the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from America’s largest corporations, outlines why the private sector should commit to strengthening jobs. It can be useful for practitioners across fields to understand language and messaging that may resonate with many businesses.
  4. FSG and PolicyLink – The Competitive Advantage of Racial Equity. This report highlights examples from businesses that are driving innovation and growth by advancing racial equity. These examples are particularly helpful to articulate the business value that advancing job quality and racial equity can provide to corporations.
  5. IZA World of Labor – Does employee ownership improve performance? In this article, author Douglas Kruse presents a synthesis of research findings on employee ownership. Topics include findings related to a variety of areas, including company performance, economic stability, and inequality. The article summarizes ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of employee ownership models as well as suggestions for policymakers. This article has application for business leaders exploring different job quality approaches and models as well as a range of practitioners positioned to promote the use of employee ownership models.
  6. JFF – Become an Impact Employer – Prepare Your Company for the Future of Work by Putting Talent First. This publication provides the business case for adopting practices that make a positive impact on workers, such as employee development, and provides examples of businesses implementing these practices. Workforce development professionals and other practitioners can use this resource to develop job quality language and framing that may resonate in many corporate environments.
  7. W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Altarum – The Business Case for Racial Equity: A Strategy for Growth. This report makes an economic case for advancing racial equity, arguing that advancing equity can translate into meaningful increases in consumer spending and federal, state, and local tax revenues, as well as decreases in social services spending and health-related costs. This report can be helpful for a variety of practitioners speaking to business or policy audiences about the value of targeted racial equity and job quality efforts.
  8. National Fund for Workforce Solutions – Job Quality Learning Reports. This series, informed by local job quality initiatives, can support workforce development professionals interested in beginning or strengthening engagement with employers to improve job quality. The reports are organized around three areas: 1) Strategies for Resourcing Job Quality Initiatives, with a focus on co-investment strategies with employers; 2) Practitioner competencies that can support staff engaged in job quality efforts with employers; and 3) Employer readiness characteristics to consider when determining employer partners. This last report also includes a link to a resource to help practitioners navigate employer resistance to change efforts. This series may also be useful for others interested in partnering on local job quality efforts, including economic development professionals and employers.