A convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and modern technology, followed by historically low unemployment numbers, created a new paradigm, a workforce without walls. This new workforce has fewer geographic borders than ever, and employment opportunities and recruitment within a commuting distance no longer bind many industries.
In previous recaps of the Academy’s Fall Meeting, we investigated the theme (and one of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges) of Connecting Individuals to Meaningful Work. To start, we defined what makes work meaningful, followed by examining the cultivation of meaningful work through economic development and community investments, and lastly, exploring how to incorporate equity and inclusion into the workplace to allow meaningful work to flourish. However, the question remains: How do we connect individuals and employers once we’ve created the environments for meaningful work? Results for America believes one of the critical answers to that question is data.
The collection and sharing of workforce data has a variety of uses. It can:
- Drive nonprofit and private innovation
- Inform government decision making
- Influence career paths
To demonstrate the importance of data, Results for America helped the Academy develop the Data-Driven Meaningful Work Session. Panelists from Boulder County, Results for America, and the Data Quality Campaign discussed why the collection and sharing of meaningful data must occur and who benefits most from it. Early evidence suggests that meaning and purpose in the workplace produce more engaged bosses and increase morale.
Signs of recruitment innovation exist in nonprofit and private organizations across the country. Some of these employers offer benefits such as childcare, flexible schedules, and even 4-day work weeks to attract potential candidates. Access to new meaningful workforce data will continue to drive innovation and more closely align the 21st-century workforce with 21st-century values.
We’re already seeing solutions pop up around the country. For instance, the state of Colorado created the Job Quality Framework. It aims to attract businesses committed to job quality, create jobs that meet basic needs, and elevate opportunities for growth, connection, and meaning. In Alabama, under the leadership of Governor Ivey, the Credential Engine, the Lumina Foundation, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and the Alabama Workforce Council formed a partnership to create a Credential Quality Registry. This learner-centered and employer-driven talent development system will publish all the certifications, credentials, degrees, and licenses offered in Alabama, connecting employers and employees to a verifiable marketplace of quality credentials to further meaningful work.
The federal government has also taken steps via the U.S. Department of Labor by launching the Good Jobs Initiative. The program focuses on providing critical information to workers, employers, and the government who work to improve job quality and create access to good jobs that are free from discrimination and harassment for all working people. In the nonprofit sector, the Aspen Institute’s Job Quality Center of Excellence wants to flip the script from fixing workers to fixing work. The Job Quality Center of Excellence identifies exemplary organizations that produce meaningful jobs, practical tools (e.g., guides and resources) that further meaningful work, inclusive conversations, and ongoing research.
However, many challenges remain. One of the most significant lies in collecting data about meaningful work that is useful to the entire workforce. Several problems persist:
- Data gathering at federal, state, and local levels is insufficient.
- Sharing data is confusing and inconsistent due to a lack of a universal language.
- Siloed private, nonprofit, and governmental initiatives stifle collaboration.
- Complex privacy laws stymie the sharing of data across agencies or state governments.
- Lack of guidance to states on the possible blending and braiding of federal funding sources to facilitate investments in the meaningful data collection infrastructure.
Often, intergovernmental partnerships form to detangle complex policy problems after those individual programs produce insufficient outcomes. Leveraging data on meaningful work is a new concept that allows federal, state, and local governments to collaborate with private and nonprofit sectors to build an integrated data collection and sharing system that works for everybody. This system will help every sector better meet the needs of a 21st-century workforce where geographic boundaries and location factor less into workforce opportunities.
If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to read the other Fall Meeting Recaps:
- Fall Meeting 2022 – A Look Back on Creating Meaningful Work
- Speakers Address the Role of Equity in Meaningful Work – Fall Meeting Recap #1
- Creating Meaningful Work Through Inclusive Workplaces – Fall Meeting Recap #2