Archive for February, 2018

In startup-land, there’s lots of support for how to create a great investor pitch (Guy Kawasaki, anyone?), and support for financial modeling, website building, hiring/hr, legal.  But there’s very little discussion about intentional job creation.  It seems like you have to get to be a pretty good sized company before job design and employee retention becomes a “thing” and by that time a culture is already established. More support is really needed because startup companies don’t have time to do research- they need thing they can grab and run with.   So what’s out there to support a small company who wants to be intentional but doesn’t know what to intend?

Amazingly, Hitachi Corporation started a private foundation years ago as part of building relations in the US.  It closed just a couple years ago, but while operating it evolved a mission of “Discover, demonstrate and expand business practices that both measurably improve economic opportunities for low-wealth individuals and enhance long-term business value”. Bang! My holy grail for sure. They did some amazing work and a gift they’ve left behind for us is a series of two-page Business Action Guides on 24 job quality topics, including Incentivizing Continuous Improvement, Non-financial Compensation, Effective Onboarding and Mentorship, Hiring for Culture Fit and more!   Browse and download this treasure trove here.

On their way to close, Hitachi granted out the last of their endowment to three organizations: The Aspen Institute, MIT/Sloan School of Management, and Investors’ Circle.

I know the Aspen Institute FIELD program from my days on the board of a microfinance/training organization (Ventures), they’ve done lots of research on business.  They are a little more research-y, and have great materials that will be helpful to grantmakers, long-term investors and policymakers, less so the CEO on-the-go.   If you’re in a larger company doing longer-term planning it will be helpful.  They also have a program for social “intrapreneurs”.  As part of their larger Economic Opportunites Program, they’re doing a series of blog posts that have small case studies and issue studies that provide a stream of inspiration.

MIT/Sloan has the Institute for Work and Employment Research. It’s also the home of Zenyep Ton’s Good Jobs Institute.   Zenyep Ton came to my attention when I decided to chat up a Mud Bay store manager. I had heard they used Open Book Management and I wanted to know more. He told me the whole company was reading/discussing her book: The Good Jobs Strategy.  I read it and found it very interesting – she highlights Costco as one of four retailers who get it right and emphasize that high quality jobs go hand in hand with operational excellence. Dr Ton describes a virtuous cycle of investing in employees who can perform, which generates results, and that generates rewards for all. Unfortunately too often retailers focus on labor purely as a cost and instead drive a vicious cycle.  I highly recommend this book, and not just for retailers.  For handy back-reference after reading, I did find a summary/analysis here.

Finally, there’s Investors’ Circle.  IC is an impact investing angel group where I now have the privilege of serving on the board, and thus learned about the great work of The Hitachi Foundation.  With the support of their Hitachi money, IC recently merged with its original incubating organization- the Social Venture Network.  Truly, SVN at 30 years old has held the heart for doing good through business.  The two organizations are working to make the most of their synergies, the fall conference is the best way to dip into this energizing pool of “we can do it!”.  Learn more here.

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