A new social contract for work – Tom Kochan and Lee Dyer

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

MIT Sloan Professor Thomas Kochan

From Boston Review

This Labor Day we could join those speaking out against Donald Trump’s many hypocrisies, chief among them the preposterous notion that he represents the American worker. We could point out that he is further dividing an already divided country, turning to Wall Street tycoons as his key economic advisors, advocating for the elimination of health insurance coverage for the poor in favor of tax cuts for the rich, rolling back overtime regulations, abandoning requirements that investment agents focus on the interests of the retirees that hire them, and appointing a Education Secretary who attacks public education, teachers, and their unions.

We could go on, but a better approach is to lay the foundation for what will need to be done in the post-Trump era, whenever that arrives, to repair the damage, regain the trust of workers, and unify employers, unions, government leaders, and all who share the responsibility for shaping the future of work. We can do so by laying out a positive vision and strategy built around a simple narrative: a new social contract for work capable of meeting the expectations and obligations that workers, employers, and society in general hold for work and employment.

A new and fresh approach is long overdue. It is now all too apparent that America is paying a severe penalty for failing to address several decades of growing income inequality and stagnant wages and deep social and political divisions between the winners and losers from globalization.

And things could get worse. If we don’t turn the digital revolution into an opportunity to increase the number of good new jobs it could offer, the gap between the haves and have-nots will grow. If we let this happen, the legacy we will leave for our children and grandchildren is a lower standing of living and the prospect of more violence.

The good news is thanks to innovations happening around the country we can see how a new and more inclusive social contract might be built.

First, more businesses must embrace “high road” strategies that do good for shareholders and employees and their communities. This means competing through innovation and high productivity that are achieved by and in turn support paying fair wages; eliminating workplace discrimination; investing in worker training; and aligning compensation and incentives via profit sharing and employee stock ownership.

High road strategies also involve empowering workers on the job by giving them greater discretion and autonomy, being open to their suggestions on ways to improve processes and services, and resolving problems before they fester into hardened views that lead some to blame other groups or self-serving corporate leaders for their problems.

Read the full post at Boston Review.

Thomas Kochan is the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management, a Professor of Work and Employment Research, and the CoDirector of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Lee Dyer is Emeritus Professor of Human Resource Studies and Research Fellow, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies at the ILR School, Cornell University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *