February 18, 2022
New research by the Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work finds that access to work-based learning is a key factor in low-wage workers’ upward mobility.
The study defined "low-wage" workers as individuals who earn less than about $20 per hour, or live in a household of 3 with annual income of $39,970 or less. These workers comprise 44% of the American workforce, and 6 out of 10 remain stuck in low-wage jobs despite their aspirations to advance.
Researchers analyzed worker and employer surveys, resume and job posting databases from EMSI Burning Glass, and other literature to identify differences between workers who advance beyond low-wage jobs and those who don’t. Among their findings:
Joseph Fuller, co-author of the research report, recommends three actions employers can take to increase clarity and understanding about job pathways and required skills – give workers clear, actionable and regular feedback, direct them into a pathway program designed around their needs, and offer some mentorship or guidance to help them address barriers.
Faced with a tightening labor supply and rapidly evolving technologies, employers need to rethink their approach to upskilling and reskilling if they are to remain competitive. Alternative staffing enterprises, as trusted workforce intermediaries, are well-positioned to help employer partners design and communicate pathways for entry-level workers' career and wage progression that will improve job quality, increase earnings, and boost long-term retention.
Visit the Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work for links to the full research report and detailed results of the worker and employer surveys, and read a recent interview with Joseph Fuller about the report at the Harvard Gazette.