Lean Blog — 477: Interview with Prof. Zeynep Ton on ”The Case for Good Jobs”

Episode page with video, transcript, and more

Joining us for Episode #478 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Zeynep Ton. She is a professor of the practice at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Previously, she was on the faculty of the Har­vard Business School. Ton received numerous awards for teaching excellence at both schools.

She was previously a guest in Episode 228 in 2015, discussing her first book The Good Jobs Strategy. Her new book, released in June, is The Case for Good Jobs: How Great Companies Bring Dignity, Pay, and Meaning to Everyone’s Work.

In today’s episode, we discuss what’s meant by “good jobs” — and how it’s not just about compensation. What are good jobs and what’s the case for them, in both human and financial terms? Among other topics, we discuss how it’s a system, the “good jobs system,” and there is risk in trying to just copy a piece or two that sounds good (which reminds us both of issues around adoption of the Toyota Production System).

Questions, Notes, and Highlights:

  • What are “good jobs”? 
  • Has this definition evolved at all?
  • “Operate with slack”
  • Nursing shortages — the effect of not operating with slack
  • Improving call center jobs — reducing the need for calls to begin with 
  • HBR piece — mental models of customer-centric vs. financial-centric
  • The new book — “the case” for good jobs?
  • Benefits of lower turnover
  • Simple thinking vs. systems thinking — 2% margin business “can’t afford” higher wages… or can’t afford NOT to?
  • 5 Corporate Disabilities when you have high turnover
  • Tight labor markets — a greater need for companies to adopt “the good jobs strategy” or at least some practices? 
  • Sam’s Club — competitive pressure to catch up or emulate Costco?
  • The good jobs SYSTEM — risk of copying just one piece, such as higher pay?
  • Cost of Poor Quality vs. Cost of Bad Jobs — not on the financial statements
  • Operational Indifference… vs operational excellence
  • “There’s a grave disconnect between what’s happening on the front lines and what executives think is happening.”
  • Finding balance? “standardizing processes when that makes sense and empowering employees to help customers”
  • Obstacles to creating good jobs? The logical evidence-based case to be made vs. habits and beliefs of executives (mental models)?
  • “Many leaders don’t even consider frontline work critical to company performance.”
  • Cost-benefit analysis — easy to calculate the cost of higher pay… predicting the benefits is seen as a leap of faith? 

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in its 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network