CMTC's Shifting Gears

We succeed because you do.

Season 9 Episode 3 - Providing Higher Quality Jobs to Attract Higher Quality Workers

Posted by Rachel Miller

Episode Show Notes

Episode 3 features NIST Baldrige Performance Excellence Program Manager Dr. Kelly Welsh and CMTC Quality Practice Lead Eliot Dratch. Kelly and Eliot explain what the “Job Quality Toolkit” is, its connection to the Baldrige Excellence Framework, and how it can help manufacturers attract and retain high-performing employees. Kelly and Eliot then detail the eight drivers of job quality that turn a routine occupation into a high-quality job where your employees feel respected, valued, and important.

Dr. Kelly Welsh is a Program Manager at the National Institute of Standard and Technology’s Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. She has spent the last 20 years designing and managing Learning & Development in a wide range of organizational spaces. In Baldrige, she plays a key role in strategic development, working to build and implement training for hundreds of examiners. Kelly is also a system administrator for Baldrige’s new Learning Management System. In addition, she was one of the lead developers of the Baldrige-based Job Quality Toolkit, along with the Director of Baldrige and Deputy Director of Policy at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Kelly now manages the national implementation of the Job Quality Toolkit.  

Eliot Dratch is the Quality Practice Lead at CMTC. Eliot specializes in operational improvements for industrial manufacturers, including implementing Quality, Safety, and Lean programs and teaching methods to anchor positive organizational change. He applies 25 years of medical, aerospace, and automotive manufacturing experience. Over the last decade, Eliot has trained hundreds of employees from scores of manufacturing companies and is a co-author of ASQ's Certified Quality Manager Handbook.


00:00:00 - Introductions

00:02:24 - The U.S. labor shortage and the low quality job problem that prompted the development of the Job Quality Toolkit

00:04:56 - The characteristics that make a job "low quality"

00:06:42 - The eight drivers of job quality

00:08:14 - The Baldridge Excellence Structure as the agreed-upon roadmap for continuous improvement

00:09:38 - The definition of a "high quality job"

00:14:40 - What does the Job Quality Toolkit do?

00:20:10 - The importance of a structured onboarding

00:22:31 - Is the Job Quality Toolkit just for manufacturers?

00:26:46 - Implementing skills-based recruiting

00:23:46 - Driver 1: Recruitment and Hiring

00:29:17 - Driver 2: Benefits

00:31:30 - Driver 3: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)

00:34:19 - Driver 4: Empowerment and Representation

00:38:03 - Driver 5: Job Security and Working Conditions

00:43:06 - Driver 6: Organizational Culture

00:46:44 - Driver 7: Pay

00:47:47 - Driver 8: Skill and Career Advancement


Gregg Profozich [00:00:02] In the world of manufacturing, change is the only constant. How are small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) to keep up with new technologies, regulations, and other important shifts, let alone leverage them to become leaders in their industries. Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC, highlights leaders in the modern world of manufacturing, from SMM to consultants to industry experts. Each quarter we go deep into topics pertinent to both operating a manufacturing firm and the industry as a whole. Join us to hear about manufacturing sector's latest trends, groundbreaking technologies, and expert insights to help SMMs in California set themselves apart in this exciting modern world of innovation and change. I'm Gregg Profozich, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies at CMTC, and I'd like to welcome you. In this episode, I'm joined by NIST Baldrige Performance Excellence Program Manager Dr. Kelly Welsh and CMTC Quality Practice Lead Eliot Dratch. Kelly and Eliot explain what the Job Quality Toolkit is, its connection to the Baldrige Excellence Framework, and how it can help manufacturers to attract and retain high-performing employees. Kelly and Eliot then detail the eight drivers of job quality that turn a routine occupation into a high-quality job where your employees feel respected, valued, and important. Welcome, Kelly. It's great to have you here.

Kelly Welsh [00:01:20] Hi, thanks for having me.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:22] So Kelly, can you take 30 seconds or so and just tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kelly Welsh [00:01:25] I'm a program manager in the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. I am also the lead on the job quality toolkit initiative. And I'm partnering with Department of Commerce, as well as the manufacturing extension partnership in that endeavor.

Gregg Profozich  [00:01:43] Excellent. Excellent. Well, great to have you here. Thank you. Welcome, Eliot. It's wonderful to have you here as well.

Eliot Dratch [00:01:48] Thank you very much, Gregg. It's good to be here.

Gregg Profozich [00:01:50] Eliot, want to take 30 seconds or so and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Eliot Dratch [00:01:53] Sure. I'm a consultant with CMTC. I work in the areas of quality and lean, and people development. And I got the opportunity to participate in the job quality initiative, working with the folks from Baldrige Performance Excellence, and it's been a great opportunity, big learning experience for me.

Gregg Profozich [00:02:17] Well, thank you, Eliot. I'm really excited about our conversation today. I'm looking forward to hearing both of your perspectives and your insights. So let's get started. In recent years, there's been much in the press about the labor shortage and manufacturing. According to a McKinsey study from 2022, 2.4 million industrial jobs went unfilled in the United States in the ten years since 2012. In a separate 2021 report by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, an estimated 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030. Small manufacturers, those with less than 500 employees, make up the vast majority, around 98 to 99% of the manufacturers both across the US and here in California it stands to reason that these unfilled jobs will impact this group and understanding how to attract and keep talent is a critical capability that as all SMMs need to have. We're here to talk about the job quality initiative and to see how it can be of use to SMMs. So for context, Kelly, I guess we can start with you. Let's talk about the history. Why was there a need for the job quality toolkit? Was it in response to a particular problem?

Kelly Welsh [00:03:18] Yes, you've actually already addressed one of the major thrusts of it. And it's the labor shortage that pretty much all, not just manufacturers, but employers in the United States are having. So in 2022, there were 11 million unfilled jobs. So it's not just manufacturers, as I said, it's a larger US problem. One of the other points to make on that isn't just that it's a tight labor market; it's that the United States, writ large, has a low job quality problem. Our labor market over 44% of the jobs in our entire labor market are considered low-quality jobs. So that really starts to speak to a bigger constellation of issues that manufacturers are finding themselves in specifically. And so when I say low-quality jobs, it might be like, Well, what do you mean? Well, there was a big shift in the labor market in the last 40 years; where we used to have a middle class, and those middle-class jobs were often in manufacturing. So the types of jobs that were available allowed for middle class; many of those jobs have gone away, and our labor market has shifted to more service industry type of employment, which oftentimes are low-quality jobs. And that's a cultural thing in a lot of ways. And so, we realize that, through the research and the literature, that we have a low job quality problem that is driving, in many ways, that tight labor market, the issues that are being had of how to attract and retain labor.

Gregg Profozich [00:04:54] So when you say low-quality job, what are some of the characteristics that make a job low quality?

Kelly Welsh [00:04:59] Low pay is the obvious one. But the equally important and not always discussed are things like getting enough hours, having an erratic schedule, so you have low control over your day, day to day living. And if you've got a family that really has a huge stress, and often people are stressed when they have low control and low mastery, which brings me to the other aspect that was kind of surprising to me about low-quality jobs is the lack of training. It's very common to not get trained on your job. And those are things that employers can do something about.

Gregg Profozich [00:05:35] Okay, Eliot, anything to add here?

Eliot Dratch [00:05:37] Well, companies that provide higher quality jobs will obviously get higher quality workers. And that will give them a competitive advantage. And so we have to consider the array of attributes that make up a job; we have to consider the pay and the benefits, and the culture and the job schedule, and job security. So all of those things are important. So a job is much more than just getting a paycheck. There's also dignity and respect that comes with it. So true quality jobs are the ones that give workers dignity. And they, they don't just pay well. So they give us fulfillment. They allow us to bring security to the lives of our families, and they're open to improvement. So the best quality jobs will definitely attract the best quality workers, and it becomes a cycle that builds on itself. 

Gregg Profozich [00:06:38] Got it. Okay, so before we talk about each of these, in course, let's just kind of summarize what the drivers of job quality are. So number one, recruiting and hiring, number two, benefits. Number three, DEIA. Number four, empowerment and representation. Number five, job security and working conditions. Number six, organizational culture. Number seven, pay number eight skills and career advancement. So let's change gears a little bit and ask this question. Why has the federal government funded the creation of the job quality toolkit? And who was involved in this development? Why didn't private industry tick this off? Why is the government the right people to do that?

Kelly Welsh [00:07:14] Well, that sort of kind of follows on what I was saying in terms of the US labor market, having this low-quality job issue. So a large portion of when you're looking at 44% of Americans, being in what would be considered a low-quality job, we realize that we have an economy that's being pushed by low-quality labor. And so when we started having factors involved that sort of making that an acute and even bigger problem, that's where the government comes in. And I think the Department of Commerce is very focused and supportive of having a competitive and resilient US economy. And so really, it's time just came to the COVID really just revealed a lot of the vulnerabilities that had been baking in for years, decades.

Eliot Dratch [00:08:06] You know, when the conversation started focusing on good job quality, we look to the tools that already existed. We found the Baldrige Excellence Structure. The Baldrige Excellence Structure is an agreed-upon roadmap for continuous improvement. And we've used it for decades. It's typically started out being used in manufacturing, service industry. It's widely used in health care and aerospace and medical. And absolutely, even in education, especially in education. And so this structure existed. And so when they put together the working group, we built on that structure. And we started to look at other themes that could be improved. And the main themes that came out were things like job security and giving workers a voice and improving the company culture, and increasing training opportunities, like Kelly was saying, so the Baldrige structure gives this systems approach. And it helps us align our strategies and processes so that we can deliver more value. And so I think it was really the perfect tool to use.

Gregg Profozich [00:09:31] Good. Keep saying low quality, high quality, high-quality jobs are obviously what this is all about. So let's give a definition of what they are. What exactly is the definition of a high-quality job.

Kelly Welsh  [00:09:40] So we have a definition, but I would preface it with the eight drivers of job quality really are kind of the core key nuggets of what makes for a high-quality job through the perception of an employee. One of the things to think about oftentimes is we talk about the organization or the corporation, we think of the organization's perspective on things. And the unique part of what happened with the job quality toolkit was that we went and did research and went to the literature and to businesses focus groups, and really came to understand that, oh, there's some pretty well-established understandings around what drives a quality job for employee. And Eliot, you know, said it very well that we brought the system's approach of Baldrige to those eight key drivers. In general, a high-quality job is one where the workforce feels respected, valued as an important part of an organization's success, that the organization's policies, practices and environment ensure high levels of worker wellbeing, compensation, empowerment and growth. And leaders create systems that foster diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. So a high-quality job is actually a high-quality system. And that's both a good thing because you can sort of strategically address levers in different parts of that system. But unfortunately, it's not a one-stop shop; it's not one silver bullet thing that gets done. So, for instance, just increasing pay doesn't mean you've increased necessarily the quality of a job. A key part of a high-quality job is a dialogue between the employer and the workforce and having an understanding that is unique to that organization. So that's why that definition is kind of general. But we know that those drivers are really where the meaning comes in. In terms of quality in a job. 

Eliot Dratch [00:11:39] Well said. There's just not one single factor that makes up a quality job. It's this series of factors. And companies that work on improving several of these factors are the ones that really get the most out of this program. So no one company is perfect. Nobody scores very highly in all eight areas. But when you start looking at finding those gaps and working to fill those gaps, well, then you're fulfilling your mission of being a continuously improving organization. And those are the best kinds of companies to work for.

Gregg Profozich [00:12:14] Okay. So I hear you saying that there are eight drivers, and we'll talk about those. I think we want to go talk about each of them in turn, as we go forward here. But the picture you're painting for me is there's kind of a scale, right? It's either doesn't exist or fully exists for each of these things. And me as an employee, I would look at these eight drivers and say how important it is to me and how close of a match is it to this company, right? And if it doesn't exist, it's low pay, it's not great working conditions, no upward mobility, any of those things that might be in it, then it's a low-quality job, right? But the more of these things that you have explicit within your organizational structure in your organizational culture, and the more they match my needs or my wants, then the better I'm gonna perceive that job, right? Because I mean, job quality is somewhat of a subjective thing, or is it totally objective? What do we say?

Kelly Welsh [00:12:59] Job quality works through perceived job satisfaction. So what you said that's the most vital part of this is that there's a dialogue between those who structure the environment, the employer, and those who are working in that environment, the employee, they often will have, you know, they're the ones that are working in the space. So having a voice is important. And they'll actually improve the product because they know they're dealing with it in whatever way, shape or form their position is around it. And I think that the employer is the one that can say, these are what my constraints are. And this is how we can actually come together. And as Eliot mentioned, that cycle of improvement is about learning. And it's about learning together, and you have to communicate. So this thing of, it's not that there's a tallying score, in the eight drivers of the job quality toolkit, it really is about what's most important. So you could have benefits, and you could offer a lot of benefits and give them to your employees. If they're not the right benefits that are needed, then you might technically be doing a lot with benefits, but you don't have high benefit uptake. That's a wasted expense for you. And it's a disconnect with the employees. So that's why it really is that dance that needs to happen between the manager or the leadership and the workforce.

Gregg Profozich [00:14:13] Right. Just because it's being provided isn't it doesn't mean it's the need, and that can change over time, right? My needs change as I'm promoted when I start my career, to when I start a family, to when my family is empty nesting, etc. And so there's got to be that dialogue. So I hear you saying to make sure that the quality that you know the job still meeting my needs as much as I'm meeting the company's needs by providing, you know, productive work and adding value. And that's kind of what I hear you guys say in this room if I really kind of step back to it.

Eliot Dratch [00:14:40] Absolutely. And the toolkit is really a set of checkpoints for the organization to review and challenge themselves and to look at themselves critically in these eight areas of focus. And the best companies are the ones that will take this seriously and will. To build on what Kelly was saying, if you do offer benefits, the fact that you offer a lot of benefits, that's a great statement. But are they the right benefits? Do they speak to the needs of the individual? Maybe it would be better to take the money that we allocate to spend on benefits and reallocate that to provide a menu of benefits, to still spend the same amount of money, spend the same total dollars as a company, but give employees the opportunity to select those benefits that have real value to them. Some young families might need childcare, people with elderly parents might need adult care. So if I have the ability to be flexible and spend this pile of money, this pot of money in a way that makes sense for me, that has value to me, that's the kind of program that I would really appreciate as an individual. And so as we go through the toolkit, we start to realize that all organizations can look at themselves critically. And we should start with a baseline we should figure out where we are in each of these eight areas, develop a baseline, do a gap analysis, assess ourselves, select the drivers that matter most to our particular workforce. And it varies with different parts of the country with different groups of people it depends on the subgroup of people that you're looking at and talking to in determining what has value to that group. So you have to fit it to your organization. And we can't expect to be everything to everybody. We don't have unlimited resources. So really, we should apportion those resources in a way that has the most impact.

Gregg Profozich [00:16:40] Fair enough. So we keep mentioning this word job quality toolkit, you know, I don't know what I have in mind for that. So is it just the drivers? Is it something more? Is there something I download? What does the toolkit actually look like?

Kelly Welsh [00:16:53] So the toolkit itself is, we call it, you know, it's an actionable tool for leaders and organizations to improve quality of the jobs. It essentially identifies, within each of those drivers, those eight that we mentioned, strategies and actions that organizations can take, it is not a checklist of all the things that an organization needs to do. It literally is options. It's a menu of options that can be used by employers and their workforce to craft higher-quality jobs or at least improve the quality of the jobs that are offered. And yes, it's downloadable from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. And it's essentially it's a Word document. But there's also an assessment that was created in partnership with the manufacturing extension partnerships. And they basically, we converted the toolkit into an assessment of those eight drivers. So some key behaviors or actions that organizations may or may not take. And so they go through the assessment and score themselves. And we can list that website for individuals to go look at, and there's also a dashboard so they can go and look at how other manufacturers have scored themselves.

Eliot Dratch [00:18:09]  Yeah, the actual website is And it's accessible from the Baldrige website, it's accessible from the NIST website. It's also accessible from the Department of Commerce website. And it's really a terrific tool, and we urge all organizations to take a look at it and do a gap assessment and begin the process of challenging their own organizations about what kind of company do we want to be? Are we a continuously improving organization? Are we attracting the best talent? What could we be doing differently to retain more of our better workers and build the kind of company that's attractive for other people to want to join? And if the goal, I heard one company, they summed it up really well, they said, our goal is to be the employer of choice in our city. And to me, that said at all, you know, if you're working to be the company where people are knocking on your door to come and work for you, then you're doing something right. And so it starts at a strategic level by aligning the benefits, pay, culture, and all of the other attributes in a way to help us get there.

Gregg Profozich [00:19:41] Got it. Got it. Okay. So I think that makes a lot more sense. I'm hearing you say that the toolkit really is it's something I can download, obviously, but it's a guidepost, it's a set of checkpoints or checklists for a company to measure themselves against right? And it's a set of options. So it's not like you have to have these things. It's if it makes sense for your company, your workforce, that something you can consider. And I heard you say earlier there are strategies included in there, and how to implement those is that part of the toolkit. 

Kelly Welsh [00:20:10] There are strategies that are kind of the higher level groupings. And then there are some actions underneath those. So a strategy might be something like prioritize onboarding. And so then it would go on, and it would explain some different actions you can do regarding onboarding. So it doesn't just tell you to do onboarding it might give you some actions underneath that really helped direct you towards onboarding.

Gregg Profozich [00:20:34] Okay, so I'm a small manufacturer, and my onboarding process is I bring someone in, I have them go through all their HR paperwork. And then I pair them up with Charlie, who's the guy who has been here longest, who trains everybody, is that what onboarding means? In this sense?

Kelly Welsh [00:20:47] If Charlie's a really dynamic person that understands all the aspects of the organization and can answer all kinds of questions, including how to select their health care benefits. Sure, you gotta greet Charlie. But I will say this, in my-

Gregg Profozich [00:21:02] In my work experience, if it's a machine shop, Charlie is the oldest machinist here who knows everything. So he's the guy you want to learn from right?

Kelly Welsh [00:21:12] Hey, he may be able to tell you that AETNA is your best bet. No. So yes, you could definitely get some wisdom from your fellow employees. But having a structured onboarding, even it doesn't have to be deep or super fault, but it should be structured and purposeful, and meet the employees needs, not necessarily just meet the employers needs that the biggest mistake is, I've told you just the key things I need you to know, I'm not going to make space or time to get your needs met. And that message of belonging and respect starts on day one. Most employees decide whether or not they're going to leave a job within the first 90 days of a job. When you lose someone that you just hired, it can take on average six to nine months to fill a position. turnover is probably one of the most silent damning things that happens to organizations. And it's a very hard thing to get ahead of, because it's a systems issue. It's not just a one decision issue. It's a multitude of things.

Eliot Dratch [00:22:09] You know, the job quality toolkit is, is pretty robust, and it's deep. And it might, it might be worthwhile for us to just take a few minutes and talk about a couple of points that are worthwhile from each of the headings just  give the listeners an idea of of, of exactly what we're talking about. Does that make sense?

Gregg Profozich [00:22:31] Absolutely. That's where I want to go next. But first, I want to ask one last question. Is the job quality toolkit just for manufacturers?

Kelly Welsh [00:22:38] No, it is for all organizations. I think I mentioned when broadening that point about how you said that the manufacturers are having a real recruitment, hiring and retention problem. It's a national problem. And the toolkit was designed to address that national problem. And it definitely applies to MEP. I know that the MEP national network does a yearly survey of its members and the organizations that are served. And for the last three years running, workforce has been the number one issue, and within that, it's retaining and basically hiring and retaining skilled workers. So I think it is definitely appropriate for manufacturing.

Gregg Profozich [00:23:21] Yeah, absolutely. I just wanted to make sure that wasn't just a manufacturing-only thing. But the toolkit contains, I believe, eight drivers of job quality, right? And so let's go through them and kind of from a high level, I'll call them off. And why don't you guys just make some comments on why these are important, and maybe some strategies for you to make the case for why, in case it's not readily apparent. And then some of the benefits and strategies and benefits if you want. Does that work? Okay. All right. So the first one that I have in my notes here is recruiting and hiring. So what are some of the things recruiters within companies can do at the early stages of recruiting to help attract quality candidates?

Kelly Welsh [00:23:56] Implement skills-based hiring and promotion practices. So this thing of just looking for a checklist of degrees and scanning, sort of superficial level things that aren't necessarily about the skills related to the exact position. That's just a core issue. That's a big one. Onboarding is huge. It's a huge issue in organizations. And it's a real common problem. And it relates to also to belonging, which we'll get into later. But onboarding is a key start. The other things with-

Eliot Dratch [00:24:29] Just wanted to add on that, I think, I think we need to challenge the status quo. To your point, Kelly, about you know, we're we have this approach of checking the box, you know, as a recruiter or as a hiring manager, we have certain things we look for, well, we're looking for those things because they've been on the job description for the last 15 years. Maybe it's time to challenge that job description. If it says that a four-year degree is required, well, maybe itreally isn't. Maybe, if it's a technical position, if you're doing design work and safety and engineering work, sure, obviously, it makes sense you have to be well qualified. But there's plenty of administrative positions where by default, we oftentimes say a four-year degree is required. And really, when we get down to brass tacks, we learn it's not. And so it's coming to an understanding like that. And being a being able to apply it to the workforce. And your community opens up all sorts of new opportunities for you as a hiring company. And we talk a lot about company culture, and we want the organization to be reflective of the community where we're located. Well, there's no better way to do that than to really look hard at those requirements and challenge the existing requirements. Sorry, just just wanted to get that in there. 

Kelly Welsh [00:25:56] No, that's a great point. I think that's really important. I think another interesting point of that, Eliot, is to go and look at also the people who are actually in those jobs and asking them, what has made you stay? Like, do you know where you're strong? Are you aware of that? And are you using that as a recruitment technique? Because maybe you don't understand some aspects of certain positions well enough to know how to sell them. And so that's where the actual people who are in those jobs can help you to build those relevant job descriptions.

Eliot Dratch [00:26:26] Exactly, exactly. And this is an opportunity to hire a workforce that brings a diversity of ideas to the company, you know, I think that's really important. Looking at a problem from multiple angles, and if you're only hiring four-year college graduates from the State University, everyone's going to have kind of the same approach. So it's an opportunity to challenge that way of thinking and say, might it be valuable to have other approaches mixed in within our company?

Gregg Profozich [00:27:03] So okay, that makes sense to kind of summarize around this, number one, implement skills-based recruiting. Is that like behavioral interviews? When have you done this before type of thing? Kelly, is that what you're talking about with skills-based?

Kelly Welsh [00:27:17] Or even just the job description that's in the job posting, is that you're having a skills-based hiring and promotion practice where you indicate, here's the skills we need. So when you send me your resume, make sure you speak to the skills that we're asking for when you do the interview, we're going to ask you either to demonstrate or tell us how you employ those skills in previous positions.

Gregg Profozich  [00:27:41]  Right, okay. Then the onboarding process, right? It seems like we spend a lot of time finding, right? We go through the hiring process here. And it's going through lots and lots of resumes, choosing the ones trying to get them to come in, going through an interview process, a couple of rounds, etc. You spend a ton of time and money, and effort. And then when you finally get that, yes, we made a deal that you're like, Okay, here we go to work, and the employee has been vetting you as much as you've been vetting them. And now they're like, Okay, how do I know how I fit in this organization? What's really expected of me, right? And how do I know how to be successful? And what do I need to know? Right?

Kelly Welsh [00:28:13] Oh, it could be worse than that. It could be, "Oh, I don't have an email on my first day of work." "I don't have a computer on my first day of work." "I don't know what office to go to on my first day of work." These are the most basic kinds of things that fall apart on lots of people's onboarding, like even in some high-level places that she would say go they've got that all together, and it doesn't. And the problem is, that really leaves an impression, and it makes someone feel like then you weren't ready for me, like I don't really matter enough for you to have an email for me or a badge like, huh, it just sets a tone that you don't want to set.

Gregg Profozich [00:28:50] Got it. Okay. And the last one, ask employees. I think, you know, from a lean quality perspective, go to the gemba. Employees know what's going on. Ask them what's right. Why haven't we applied that to recruiting? Right? And that just makes sense. What do you love about your job? Why do you keep doing it? Why do you come back every day? What are you excited about? You know? Those are the things we should be marketing. You're looking for the same kind of person who's going to be able to thrive there and be happy there. Right? So it stands to reason there's probably some parallels. Benefits. How do benefits play a role in attracting and keeping/retaining workers?

Kelly Welsh [00:29:23] Eliot and I have already kind of covered this. I'd say it's about having the right fit, that you have the benefits that your employees need that you could afford to offer. And that you know what those are and that there's some choice in there, if possible. This isn't about setting up an impossible task for the employers or for employees to just accept what's given if it doesn't fit. So again, it's back to that dialogue.

Eliot Dratch [00:29:46] Yeah. And the companies should be looking at themselves critically and saying, well, what are the other companies doing? Are we leading? Are we lagging? Is employee benefits an area where we could do better? I was traveling this past winter, and we were in another country, and I was amazed to find out how much community service the employees were doing in this country. So it was Poland. And there were hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees that were flowing out of Ukraine into Poland. And the amount of hours that the employees were spending there, they got time off from work because many of the companies there in Poland had these rich policies to give time off to allow employees to do community service, much of it was unpaid. But they have these policies. And I was amazed, I had never seen anything like that. And it was eye-opening. It was refreshing. And it made me think about what are we doing here in the United States? What are the best companies doing? Just having the concept of allowing employees to take unpaid time off for something that's important and valuable is hugely beneficial, right?

Kelly Welsh [00:31:02] Yeah. No, I think that's great. That's also showing a certain community commitment by the organization. So there's a lot of boats arriving with that scenario. I think, you know, another part about the fifth aspect is, again, build in some kind of mechanism for communication. I think that's the key thing with benefits, measure the uptake of, at the most basic level, measure the uptake of the benefits that you provide. If they're not, if you're spending that money, and it's not being used. That's just a key thing to know.

Gregg Profozich [00:31:30] Right. That makes sense. Okay, so the next one on the list is DEIA, what is DEIA? Can you define it in simple terms, and make sure all of our listeners clearly understand it, and discuss the ways that DEIA can help with recruiting and with retention. 

Kelly Welsh [00:31:43] So it's a massive term, I'll just start with that. So it's diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Honestly, job quality toolkit could be the DEIA toolkit. If you hit all of those and are doing great things in each of them, you probably have quality jobs to some degree. But in terms of what our angle is, it's from the point of view from that employee. And one of the things that we would say is that make equal opportunity a core value and a practiced norm. Foster systems where all workers feel respected and empowered in the workplace. Identify and remove system systemic barriers to DEIA. In some ways, this is calling for awareness. It's looking for a diverse workplace. It's looking for a workplace where people feel that this system and behaviors are fair and equal. It's a workplace where people feel like they belong. So that's the inclusion and the accessibility, is, hey, this work environment works for me.

Gregg Profozich [00:32:42] Okay. Eliot anything?

Eliot Dratch [00:32:44] Yeah, I think to build on that. The goal, of course, is to do outreach to make the company more inclusive, to make everybody feel like they have a place, that they're part of the organization. That they can contribute to the organization, and the organization reflects a lot of the community. And so how do we make that happen? This doesn't happen on its own. So many companies have created a diversity council, or they call it a maybe a diversity and accessibility council. They include people from the organization to make suggestions about how to be more inclusive within the organization. They identify someone from senior leadership that's responsible for developing that strategy and deploying that strategy. And then really holding the rest of the organization accountable for making sure that that strategy is discussed and fully deployed, it could be something as simple as just making sure that we have open communication channels. So we can take the concerns of the employees and funnel them back into this council so that they can get addressed. It's forcing the company to look at their practices, find those gaps and start filling them. And then this is ongoing. This is not a one-and-done kind of action.  There should be training that supports this. We offer this training to our employees, and we reinforce that training every year. And that's part of the company's strategy to be more representative of the communities that we work with and serve.

Gregg Profozich [00:34:1] Good points. Eliot, thank you so much. Then the next one is empowerment and representation. How can manufacturers foster a culture that ensures workers have a voice? And how does that help with hiring and retaining workers?

Kelly Welsh [00:34:30] This is probably one of the most important of the drivers in many ways because it's about that dialogue. I think the first and most important within this category is about communicating and listening to your workers systematically and frequently. So systematically, it's you don't talk just when there's a crisis or when there's a problem. You're having an ongoing dialogue regularly. That is predictable, and it's an open communication channel.

Eliot Dratch [00:34:59] I think the goal is really to build a system that promotes the workers' input, and we take that input and we look at it seriously, you know, we use that word empowerment lightly sometimes and empowerment, the concept is really powerful. And in order to empower somebody, you have to give them the responsibility to make a change, but also the authority to make the change. And all too often, we give our employees responsibilities but don't give them the wherewithal to implement change. So if we want to make sure that our workers have a meaningful voice, we have to make sure that there's no fear of retaliation, we have to make sure that employees can speak their minds and feel like it's okay to go against the current sometimes, and I'm not going to get fired. I mean, we have to be open to those kinds of suggestions. And sometimes it's not easy to listen to someone be critical of decisions that we made. But that's part of the growth that comes out of a process like this. People want to feel valued. People want to know that their suggestions went somewhere, that they that they actually made a difference, that they moved the needle in the right direction just a little bit. So that concept of empowerment is a big one.

Gregg Profozich [00:36:20] I think you make some great points there about, you know, the balance that's required, and it can't just be lip service, right? You've got to have the authority along with the responsibility, right? That kind of concept is, you know, how do we make sure that it goes back? I'm listening to both of you. I'm thinking about that dialogue that Kelly has been talking about since the very start, right? It's about the dialogue, it's about the two-way relationship. It's not that the employee should have the attitude, you're lucky to be here, lucky to have a job. It's no, we're partnering together, I have something I need from you, and I have something to offer you. And vice versa. Both parties should be saying that, but that's a dialogue because the needs and the offers will be changing over time. Kind of getting that sense from what you guys are talking about. Kelly, is that on target?

Eliot Dratch [00:37:01] I think you just hit the nail on the head, Gregg. So if the company has the position that we really don't need you, you're replaceable, and I'll just get somebody else to fill that chair. If I don't like what you have to say, then that's not a company that is setting themselves up for continuously improving and embracing these concepts. So we have to be able to take a little medicine sometimes and listen, and sometimes that's not fun. Would you agree with that? Kelly?

Kelly Welsh [00:37:33] Oh, completely. I think that's one of the things is doing regular temperature checks with your workforce, also. And that's in terms of assessing your workforce satisfaction and engagement. You can have those channels open. But it's also good to have some measures where you have those baselines you were talking about, Eliot, where you kind of, you know, you have some measure of where that relationship is. That's a really key thing. Because job satisfaction is the main variable through which job quality is perceived. 

Gregg Profozich [00:38:03] Got it. Okay, so the next one on the list is job security and working conditions. What are some of the ways that employers can communicate job security to workers?

Kelly Welsh [00:38:13]  You know, embedded in this one, and it is a very important variable almost second to pay, as a lot of people are surprised to hear that and then go, we just increase the pay, and then we're fine. Giving a sense of security and a job is equally as important as pay. And so what do I mean by that? That can be offering stable and predictable hours. Those are huge drivers of low-quality jobs. So talk about things that you can change is look at your staffing patterns. Another really critical one is this notion of security, like safety and security, emotional safety, and physical safety. It's sometimes if you are not able to have that dialogue we were talking about before, you might not speak up about conditions where you don't feel safe, because you've got the implicit culture that says, hey, you don't say anything you don't complain. You're replaceable. That really does start to foster some corrosive environments that affect your bottom line eventually.

Eliot Dratch [00:39:14] Yeah, and I think we can just continue to build on what we've known for many years. I mean, this concept of making sure we have good job security is not new. Eighty years ago, Deming, the great quality theorist, started talking about how important that was to make sure your workers feel secure where they work because only if they feel secure will they give you their all, right? And so he also talked about driving fear out of the workplace, and you can't have a workplace where people are intimidated or they feel neglected. You know, sometimes we work for a boss and we we think we're doing a good job, but we talk to the boss so rarely, we don't really know what the boss is thinking. So that can that can become a problem as well. Companies need to be aware and looking for things like job strain. And employees that are struggling, obviously, the work hours, that's very important. But just having the kind of company where we encourage workers to talk about problems and talk about maybe they're getting burned out or they're fatigued, what can we do as a company to realign our resources to address some of that, right? So the goal is for the company to challenge themselves to do all of these things, to look at ourselves critically, and come up with some solutions. And oftentimes, the employees will come up with some great solutions. And sure, maybe working from home 100% of the time is not a great solution. But maybe working from home one day a week or a half a day a week doing telework, or some sort of remote hybrid work, maybe that would be helpful, and so appreciated by the employees. I remember years ago, I worked for a company that implemented a 4/80 work week. So every two weeks, we had a day off. And everybody just loved that. And it was the first time we ever worked in an environment and people would do anything to make sure that they got that extra day off every two weeks. And I think it's the same thing here. If companies took the approach that maybe our employees have some suggestions, and we can work with, meet them halfway. I think those are the best companies to work.

Gregg Profozich [00:41:32] So it sounds like if I think about these last couple of items, not just the job security, working conditions, but empowerment representation, DEIA benefits, etc, all the way back, it's really about this partnership that happens during employment, right? If you feel like the company treats you as you're replaceable, do it or else you don't feel respected. And by building some of these tools into the way you do recruiting and hiring and retention, you're going to end up with the other side of that too, which is, you know, no one is irreplaceable. But they're not replaceable, either. There's that, you know, it's not that the employee has all the power, or the employee or employer has all the power; it's a 50/50 kind of meeting, are we meeting each other's needs. And you know, in a world where so many jobs are going unfilled, you got to be thinking about that. It's not like people are so desperate for a job, they'll take anything, which you know, my grandfather was it was an immigrant, he worked in a steel mill all his life. And you know, that was the job he could get. And he was grateful to have it. That's not the world we're in anymore, that the world has changed now. And you know, there's a shortage of employees. And we need to be thinking about how we can we can meet them halfway and make sure that we're meeting each other's needs, is that the sense of where this is really going,

Eliot Dratch [00:42:41] I think, if we could meet each other halfway, that would be fantastic. But that's unexpected. Even if we could meet each other 30% of the way, that would be a huge step in the right direction. What do you think, Kelly?

Kelly Welsh [00:42:54] Oh, I completely agree, we are seeing a culture change, like in the United States, we are seeing a culture change. That is it's a force of some sort. It's not necessarily a choice. It's just these aren't conditions were living in now.

Gregg Profozich [00:43:06] And that is a perfect segue, because the next one on the list is organizational culture. So how do employers demonstrate that workers belong, are valued and contribute meaningfully to the organization? And how does this impact hiring and retention?

Kelly Welsh [00:43:21] I think one of the first things I would say is that having values like respect and trust, not stating them, but having them. They need to be visible. They need to be seen by the leadership and the management. There's nothing worse than stating something and then not following through with your actions, making sure that you share track results for workforce engagement, satisfaction and commitment. You're being transparent. You're essentially saying, hey, we will all own and account for what's going on in our world. I think that making sure that the organization is reflecting the community that it's in is another part of organizational culture. I mean, there's a lot that could go into this. I'll stop there. 

Eliot Dratch [00:44:04] Yeah, I think it's also really important to look for those behaviors that are destructive and unhealthy for the organization and route those out of the organization. So if 90% of the people are happy with the organization and feel like it's giving them what they need, and it's building a positive culture, they feel like they're able to contribute and it's a healthy place to be, but for some reason, there's one individual that you can just never make happy and brings these unhealthy behaviors to the organization. I think we need to talk to that person. I think we need to try and help that person see the bigger picture. And, you know, I think just identifying and driving those unhealthy behaviors out of the organization is also important, but totally agree with the other points that we've been making here. Kelly was talking about, really, leadership. And sometimes you don't have to state it, obviously, but leaders that lead by example and demonstrate how important it is to have a balanced work life and not work consistently 70 hours a week, take sick time when they get sick. Those are things that set an example for how we want to run the organization. That's a healthy kind of thing to communicate to your employees. And I think people appreciate that. That's a really positive company attribute to work for a company like that companies that assess themselves and ask their employees what do you think of our of our health programs? What do you think of the way we've structured management? Is management accessible? Can you talk to your boss, candidly? And do you have access to your boss's boss? Do you know who your boss's boss is? Those kinds of things, right? That's all part of the company culture. And it's all driving this feeling of belonging and contributing to something greater than ourselves. And I think that's the goal is to build an organization, like I was saying before, the company that wants to be the employer of choice. That's kind of the goal.

Gregg Profozich [00:46:16] There's the tried and true, right, almost cliche, our people are our most valuable asset. It sounds like by looking at the toolkit here on all these items so far, especially the culture one, do we really walk that talk? Do we really behave in a way that makes people think we that we actually mean that right? I think that's what you guys are saying,

Eliot Dratch [00:46:34] Yeah, we're not just checking the box, we're actually modeling the behaviors that we're talking about that are important. And people see that and they know we're taking it seriously.

Gregg Profozich [00:46:44] Okay, so the next one on the list is pay. Could you talk a little bit about fair compensation practices and how this impacts hiring and retention.

Kelly Welsh [00:46:52] So this is the hot button. This is the one where I think a lot of organizations, particularly small or medium-sized ones, they say I can't pay more. And so forget it, I can't do the job quality thing. They they're genuinely surprised when they hear pay is not everything, people will take a lower paying job, or a lesser paying job if it meets other needs that they have some needs like job security, stable or enough hours, training, voice and work belonging. Many of these things we've been mentioning, some of the lowest scoring self assessment areas and the job quality assessment. And this is a key point organizations are aware that they are not creating a place where there's belonging. And we'll talk about the next one in a second. They're not training people about how to do their jobs. So interestingly, it may not be that you have to pay somebody more, you just have to teach them how to do their job well, and maybe give them some different hours.

Gregg Profozich [00:47:47] The last one on the list is skills and career advancement. What is the value of an employer to focusing on skills and career advancement for their employees?

Kelly Welsh [00:47:55] This one is huge, I cannot stress enough going to look at the job quality toolkit assessment. And the dashboard, I'm hoping we'll share the dashboard as well, it was shocking to me to see how many organizations own and understand that they are not training people how to do the job that they're hiring them to do. And two big things that go into self esteem are mastery and control. If you every single day, are experiencing a workplace where you don't know what you're supposed to be doing, that literally leads to depression, and can really be a big part of low self esteem. Human beings don't like being in those kinds of conditions and will leave those jobs. And that's something that an organization can do something about. You know, this really even ties back to that recruitment and hiring. Do you really know, you know, how many of us have taken a job, I literally remember taking a job and out of 19 bullet points one of the bullet points ended up being the whole job. Like talk about misrepresentations. But they didn't know what the job was, they'd recycled that same job description for probably 10 or 15 years and hadn't updated it. So this notion of skills, you know, I've heard from small businesses, them saying, oh, I'm not here to train somebody to be on their next job. And my response to that is, what if it makes them stay in this job longer, and you negotiate what that means about getting to the next job, and maybe that next job is with your organization. So this is also about that notion of having some type of plan, really understanding your staffing, really understanding the skills that are needed to do the work that's in your organization. Yeah, I'll stop there. Let Eliot jump in. He's probably got some great insights on this one. 

Eliot Dratch [00:49:43] Yeah. I have this conversation regularly with the companies that I consult for, and the conversation usually winds up moving to the place where we say if I have an employee that is gaining new skills, shouldn't I reflect that on a skills matrix, let's say and reflect and maintain that? That way, when the employee comes and asks for a raise, I can pull out the skills matrix, and I can have a conversation with the employee and say, look, the goal, as you know, is to gain more skills, and I'm willing to pay you for more skills. And so it really serves us both to have the employee learning more skills and be able to add more value to the organization if they're trained in multiple areas. The goal should be helping the employees get cross trained to work in multiple areas, add more value, and we should be willing to pay for that. And usually, when we present it that way, it makes sense to everyone. The employers say it by all means, if I have employees with diverse skill set, I don't need to hire extra employees. I don't need to hire quote unquote, floaters, I can get by with fewer employees that are well cross trained, and therefore I should pay them more. And employees benefit. The employer benefits. I think, really all you have to do is just start tracking it and managing it and having that conversation.

Gregg Profozich [00:51:07] So I think the cross training element, I think, is the key that I'm hearing you talk about there, right? If I have people well-trained, when somebody calls off, I'm not as stuck as if I didn't have people cross trained. Right. And I heard earlier, kind of the whole whole adage of, you know, do we want to train them? Is it worth investing? And you know, there's the old saying, right, so a little cutesy, but I think it's on target, right? What if we train them and they leave? What if we don't train them and they stay? Right? If we train them and they leave well, they left. But if if we train them, they don't leave, guess what we got. We have cross trained employees, we have less risk and we have happier people. And they're growing. And you know that there's this cultural element of it too. Right. So all those things kind of feed together. Okay, so we've covered an awful lot of ground in our discussion, is there anything else that we need to cover that we've missed before we wrap up? 

Eliot Dratch [00:51:57] Yeah, I just think that, you know, the takeaway is, these are tools for the organizations to assess themselves and improve the quality of every job within the company.

Gregg Profozich [00:52:10] Okay. Kelly, Eliot, thank you for joining me today. For sharing your perspectives, insights and expertise with me and with our listeners.

Eliot Dratch  [00:52:17] Thanks again.

Kelly Welsh [00:52:18] Thank you for having us. 

Gregg Profozich [00:52:20] And to our listeners. Thank you for joining us for this conversation with Kelly Welsh and Eliot Dratch on the job quality toolkit. Thank you so much for your time. Have a great day. Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for listening to Shifting Gears, a podcast from CMTC. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and post it on your social media platforms. You can subscribe to our podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast directory. For more information on our topic, please visit CMTC is a private nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance, workforce development, and consulting services to small and medium-sized manufacturers throughout the state of California. CMTC’s mission is to serve as a trusted adviser providing solutions that increase the productivity and competitiveness of California’s manufacturers. CMTC operates under a cooperative agreement for the state of California with the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program, MEP, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce. For more information about CMTC, please visit For more information about the MEP National Network or to find your local MEP center, visit

Topics: Continuous Improvement, Human Resources, Employee Training, Business Growth Strategy & Strategic Planning, Apprenticeships, Workforce Development Programs, Workforce Development, Business Management

Tell Us What You Think