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Introduction to the Livable Jobs Toolkit

Introduction to the Revised Edition, Fall 2006

"We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we cannot foresee." - Marion Write Edelman

This toolkit was developed in response to the many requests received by VBSR for practical information on how to become an "employer of choice"—how to create a quality, work/life-friendly workplace, offer an attractive package of combined wages, benefits and workplace practices and remain profitable at the same time. That is the challenge this toolkit is designed to address.

Most Americans believe that someone who works full-time should be able to meet his/her basic needs without resorting to public financial assistance. Said in another way, they believe in livable jobs. A livable job is a combination of wages, benefits, and workplace practices that enables a full-time worker to be financially self-sufficient. At the same time, it is commonly understood that the businesses providing jobs cannot survive over the long term if they spend more money than they bring in. Everyone knows a business must be profitable to survive. This 2006 edition includes updated statistics, new policy suggestions, and many new resources.

The following questions arise from what some consider to be these two conflicting objectives: livable jobs and profitable companies.

  • How do certain successful businesses manage to combine making a profit with providing livable jobs?
  • What can be learned from these companies?
  • What are the barriers preventing more companies from becoming profitable, livable jobs employers?
  • Which benefits and workplace practices are most commonly added to wages to create livable jobs?
  • What are the returns on investing in employees by providing livable jobs?

This toolkit results from research on companies that have successfully created livable jobs. The toolkit presents the specific actions those companies used to create livable jobs and helps the user to determine which of them might be appropriate and helpful to his/her business. These actions are offered as a menu of options—from very affordable practices to larger investments that offer a greater potential return. Whether used individually or in various combinations, these business practices can enhance the "livability" of employees' jobs.

Many studies, including the Job Gap Study summarized in this booklet, have addressed the livable job issue from a societal perspective. This toolkit addresses the issue strictly in business terms. It is a how-to guide for employers, especially smaller companies. In short, it will help employers to:

  • Determine their costs of turnover, recruitment, etc.—the costs that can be reduced by using livable job practices.
  • Understand their company and employee needs in terms of benefits, wages and workplace practices.
  • Select which workplace practices and policies best fit their company and employee needs.
  • Create an action plan to implement the selected practices.

Improving the livability of jobs within an individual company is a worthy endeavor in itself. However, each job that becomes a livable job also benefits our overall economy and our communities. This toolkit is offered with the hope that we can create a future in which livable jobs are the foundation of our companies, our economy and our communities.

Many thanks to the generous financial supporters who made this project possible, and to the many business people who shared their insights and experiences. 

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