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Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder: Creating Value by Investing in Your Workforce

Book Description

Most managers assume that surviving, especially in recessions, requires slashing wages, benefits, and other workforce expenses. And lowest-skilled workers are often viewed as the most expendable.

In Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder, Jody Heymann overturns these assumptions. Drawing from thousands of interviews with employees from front line to C-suite at companies around the world, Heymann shows how enterprises have profited more by improving working conditions.

She also demonstrates that lower-skilled employees - in call centers, repair services, product assembly - aren't expendable. They can determine 90 percent of companies' profitability. High performers positively shape customers' perceptions of businesses, driving satisfaction and loyalty.

To attract, train, and retain top-caliber people in these roles, you must enhance working conditions, creating a system in which your company and its employees profit together. Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder shows what works - from stock options for bakers to flexibility for factory workers to career tracks in call centers.

Featuring cases from companies around the globe - including a leading concrete manufacturer in India, a top European pharmaceutical firm operating in China, and successful U.S. manufacturers - this book shows how real organizations are excelling financially by strengthening frontline employees' working conditions.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Dedication
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. Introduction - Raising Productivity and Profitability by Creating Better Working Conditions for the Worst Off
  7. 1 - Providing All Employees with More Than a Living Wage
    1. American Apparel: Paying American Wages in Manufacturing
    2. Jenkins Brick: Managing Through Incentives
    3. Costco: Providing Higher Wages as Part of a Corporate Strategy
    4. Making Wages and Rewards Earn Dividends
  8. 2 - Finding Ways to Make Scheduling Flexibility Feasible and Profitable
    1. Autoliv Australia: Designing Flexibility on the Factory Floor
    2. Isola: Meeting and Exceeding National Requirements
    3. Extending Flexibility and Leave to the Least-Advantaged Workers
  9. 3 - Increasing Productivity and Reliability by Investing in Health Care
    1. SA Metal: Health Care Amid the AIDS Pandemic
    2. Improving Access to Existing Health Care Resources
    3. Impact of Other Working Conditions on Health
    4. Companies Profit from Investing in Health
  10. 4 - Building Assets to Ensure That the Lowest-Level Employees Are Not Left Behind
    1. Jenkins Brick: Traditional and Uncommon Approaches to Asset Building
    2. Dancing Deer: Profit Sharing as a Way for Small Firms to Increase Compensation and Productivity
    3. Challenges of an Asset-Building Approach
  11. 5 - Offering Training Where It Is Valued Most
    1. Isola: Training Employees to Keep Up with Change
    2. Training in a Wide Range of Companies: From Local Firms to Multinationals
    3. Avoiding the Traps That Prevent Effective Training
  12. 6 - Establishing Career Tracks for the Least-Advantaged Workers
    1. Xerox Europe: Making Advancement Accessible to All
    2. Costco: Career Trajectories Without Strict Ceilings
    3. Different Approaches to Creating Career Tracks
  13. 7 - Engaging Employees in the Company’s Profits and Their Own
    1. Great Little Box Company: Achieving Employee Engagement
    2. Isola: Moving to a Teamwork Method of Production
    3. Dancing Deer: An Informal Approach to Structuring Engagement
    4. Employee Engagement in Diverse Contexts
  14. 8 - Reaping Returns from Community Investments
    1. ACC India: Building a Country and a Company Hand in Hand
    2. Costco Wholesale: Investing in Jobs in Advanced Economies
    3. What Kinds of Community Investments Pay Off?
  15. 9 - Creating Good Working Conditions Throughout the Supply Chain
    1. Novo Nordisk: Manufacturing in China
    2. Multinationals and Labor Standards
    3. Steps That Companies Can Take to Improve Their Working Conditions and Those of Their Suppliers
    4. Benefiting From Better Global Standards
  16. 10 - Developing a Blueprint for Changing Companies and Lives
    1. A Pressing Need for Action
    2. A Blueprint for Change
    3. Balancing the Roles of Companies and Governments
    4. Creating an Environment That Will Support Business Growth That Benefits All
  17. Notes
  18. Index
  19. About the Authors