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Operations Management

The benefits of an engaged, empowered workforce

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Zeynep Ton, professor of operations management at MIT Sloan and founder of the Good Jobs Institute, says a good job includes a safe workplace, a flexible schedule, and provides an employee with meaning and dignity. Below is adapted from a transcript of last year's "Data Made to Matter" podcast.

Why investing in people and operating decisions is important to your work

“That is a culmination of investment in people and operating decisions that create this environment where workers are very happy, they're fulfilled, they can be paid more. Customers are happier because now not only do the stores look great, not only is the merchandise in stock, but also employees are friendly and helpful, and the investors are very happy because the store is bringing more customers, bringing more sales, and employees are actively reducing costs.”

Data that matters

“Most recently, my students and I worked with a retailer that has over 1,000 stores, and we looked at 52 weeks of data from all of their stores and we looked at individual-level data. So we had data for 59,000 different people.

For every week, we knew how much they made, how many hours they worked, and we also knew their sales productivity. What we found in that study was that associates were given too few hours per week, every week. So a typical associate will work there for only 13 hours a week.

Now imagine, if your job is working 13 hours a week, how dedicated are you to that job? How much money you're making and how important that job is to you? So, what we have found was that if you increase how many hours people work in a week from 11 hours or 13 hours to more, there's a substantial increase in your sales productivity.

So, offering them more hours, more stability, is not just better for the workers, but it also produces higher sales productivity, so it's better for the company as well.”

What should you focus on in the future?

“In the future of work, people talk about how problem solving, creativity, these are the skills that are really needed. At Good Jobs Strategy companies, these skills are already in use right now, and they're developed right now, but to be perfectly honest, I wish that we talked as much about the now of work as we did about the future of work.

The future of work is of course very important for our economy. Where the jobs will be, how many jobs we will have, but right now, we have 11.5 million retail salespeople, cashiers, and food preparation service workers. For these 11.5 million people, work is not working right now. And as much as we would like to think about the future, we also have to fix the problems of now.”

 

What to read after you listen

How Costco’s obsession with culture drove success 

What students are learning in this popular operations strategy class

How to turn a lousy job into a good one

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