Getting to Yes, And

Zeynep Ton: The Case for Good Jobs


Zeynep Ton

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Kelly sits down with Zeynep Ton, Professor of the Practice in Operations Management group at MIT Sloan School of Management to discuss her new book  “The Case for Good Jobs: How Great Companies Bring Dignity, Pay, and Meaning to Everyone’s Work.”

In reading your book, I was reminded of a quote from futurist Gary Boles: ‘Work is just 3 things, our human skills to perform tasks to solve problems.’

“Yeah, I mean, what a fantastic way to start. I think what you said takes me to two different places, one smaller, one bigger. On the smaller scale. What I'm thinking about is designing the jobs for humans. And the second one is about decision making choices and agency to create a much better future. We never want to ask a person to do what a machine can do. And then, we want to design the jobs to be able to leverage the entire human being: their heads, their hearts, and their hands.”

And one factor you zero in on bad jobs is that they don’t pay well, and this actually costs companies more than they know.

"The theory is that market pay is the right pay. Lean and mean is what drives efficiency and spreadsheets tell the truth. These are the stories that have been told to business leaders for decades. And what I have found in my work, both in my research and work at the Good Jobs Institute, is that low pay costs companies a lot more than they think. First of all, low pay for human beings is extremely costly when you think in terms of their physical health, their mental health, their cognitive functioning, and their ability to do a good job. But it also costs companies a lot more than company leaders think. Because when pay is low, turnover is high.”

So, we call get how the bad jobs are bad, but what makes the good jobs good?

“The competitive benefits of the good job system are often less understood. And, in fact, when I look at the companies in the last couple of years who have adopted the good job strategy, the reason that they did that was because of competitive reasons. They wanted to win with their customers, they wanted to be able to adapt to changes, and they realized they can't do that without having a great team that's set up to succeed.”

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