Recommended actions provide the specific steps that a workforce or economic development agency can take to implement job quality in their local area. These steps are intended to provide both guidance and inspiration by highlighting a variety of options including how to support job seekers, businesses, and their own operations.

Learn from leading practices around pay and benefits data, retirement policies and employee turnover. Below are some useful resources:

  • The Good Jobs Institute launched a scorecard, pay analysis template and a diagnostic to help organizations understand current performance, set goals and track progress for employee basic needs/stability, customer satisfaction and operational performance. Use these tools to address job quality considerations within your organizations.
  • The Aspen Institute launched a tool called Working Metrics to track equity and job quality data at the business level, including job growth, retention/turnover, earnings and benefits by gender and race. Throughout 2021 and 2022, Results for America piloted the tool with a variety of state and local Workforce Fellows to learn more about how it can best be leveraged both for internal purposes and as part of an agency’s procurement process.

  • The Aspen Institute Center for Urban Innovation, in collaboration with the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, produced a set of practices for infusing equity into public sector procurement practices. This includes addressing the planning, solicitation, award and implementation phases of any government procurement lifecycle.

  • B Lab (PA) is a nonprofit network that created the B Impact assessment, which allows an organization to assess itself and determine gaps in the areas of governance, workers, community, environment and customers. This includes exploring information on job quality features such as benefits, worker voice and purpose.

Disaggregating HR data by race/ethnicity, gender and age is critical for understanding disparate experiences among groups. Additionally, procurement is a powerful tool for using public and private sector funds equitably, as well as for signaling commitment to quality jobs in the community. Small changes can have huge impacts; this example from San Diego, California, shows how.

Collect information about your current state to identify the practices that will address highest priority issue areas for your jurisdiction.

Sample Human Resources Practices

  • Reevaluate your pay bands to see if pay compression is creating inequities. Pay compression includes:
    1. Paying new hires at compensation levels equal to or above those of employees with more experience in the same position

    2. Paying newly promoted employees more than their counterparts

    3. Paying nonexempt employees  more than superiors who work comparable hours without overtime pay

  • Examine your benefits package. Consider whether insurance, retirement plans, training and education benefits and scheduling enable workers to take care of their own mental and physical well-being and that of their families. If there are gaps, determine if your budget permits more flexibility or if a conversation with relevant funders will be required. The Measure What Matters Most (B Impact Assessment) is a useful tool to gather existing data around benefits and other intangibles.

  • Gather qualitative information through interviews or focus groups to understand employees’/contractors’ needs and concerns. This diagnostic tool has survey questions that can be tailored to your agency.

Sample Procurement Practices

  • Analyze your completed procurements to determine how many contracts were awarded to minority/women-owned business enterprises. If the data are available, drill into trends by gender and race. Review your standard procurement documentation (e.g., RFP templates, announcements, websites) to identify any existing incentives or prioritization given to minority-owned businesses or businesses offering a living wage.

  • Review your data collection templates and systems to understand what demographic and job quality information is collected on potential vendors as part of your existing purchasing processes.

  • Shift messaging to RFP respondents from a focus on the lowest possible cost to making the largest impact for those served. When coupled with early communication about the agency’s overall strategy and target investment period, this allows respondents space to plan and deliver transformational programs.

  • Encourage RFP respondents to detail the full cost of services including staff development, market-aligned pay, benefits and other aspects of job quality. Provide specific examples or guidelines on what you will accept. Be vocal when proposed salaries don’t reflect living wage for the area where the work will be carried out or don’t include raises in multi-year grants.

  • Develop a standard set of job quality disclosures as a prerequisite for participation in city procurements. This should address equity considerations such as gender, race and ethnicity, as well as wages and benefits (such as prevailing wage requirements akin to those used when companies hire foreign workers). Explore piloting such standards through infrastructure investment spending.

  • Establish guidelines on the award of priority points, much like those given for small or minority-owned or women-owned businesses, with particular focus on industries that have historically had low-quality jobs and/or higher representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and immigrant communities and can leverage public investment to build capacity and strengthen workforce and economic development practices.

  • Pair changes in the procurement process with an in-depth technical assistance program for community-based organizations and small businesses, especially those led by people of color. To ensure that these organizations are equipped to participate in the procurement process, you may need to approach procurement differently (e.g. size of procurements, response timelines, pre-bid engagement opportunities, demonstration of experience and even payment terms).

  • Develop a good jobs marketing designation such as the National Labor Exchange’s (NLX's) Hire Vets medallion that businesses can receive after providing a required set of job quality disclosures.

  • Allocate a percentage or dollar amount of the selected program’s wage subsidy budget to living wages. To formalize this goal, consider establishing a working group of key stakeholders to develop a draft policy for approval (e.g., workforce development board, economic development  committee of city council, etc.). This should include a mix of business representatives, worker advocates and agency staff working together to keep the conversation focused on job quality strategy.

After completing the above tasks, assess the associated costs and benefits. This calculator from the Good Jobs Institute addresses aspects like cost mitigation and labor productivity gains. 

Once you have a plan, you may need to make the case for internal workforce investments to your board or funders. Consider highlighting how internal investments can improve programmatic results, increase employee retention and provide valuable learnings for future external implementation.

Localities can enable or facilitate collective bargaining and unionizing among their municipal workforce. Public employee unions can be stable bargaining partners to local governments, promote labor peace and ensure the delivery of high-quality services. In addition, unions reduce inequality as well as racial and gender disparities and boost democratic participation.

Whether or not local government workers can form and join unions varies by state and by the type of municipal worker. Many state statutes expressly authorize collective bargaining by teachers, police officers and firefighters. In some states, local governments are permitted to collectively bargain with all municipal workers. In some states, local governments are prohibited from doing so. 

In 2020, Virginia’s state legislature passed a law lifting a previous ban on union organizing by municipal workers and allowing localities to recognize and collectively bargain with unions. A number of Virginia localities including the city of Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Loudoun County and the Richmond School Board, have since passed collective bargaining ordinances,

Establish a formal process for reviewing progress toward your goals. Wherever possible, transparently report your efforts to staff, demonstrating leadership’s commitment to closing gaps. Use a plan-do-check-act cycle or a similar framework where you plan changes, test them, observe results and adjust as needed.

Here are some sample metrics to get you started. Aim to disaggregate them by race and gender.

  • Percentage of frontline employees making a living annual wage

  • Percentage of employees eligible for insurance

  • Percentage of full-time frontline employees on federal assistance

  • Number of weeks' notice for schedules

  • Number of employees promoted from within

  • First-year and/or 90-day turnover percentage

By implementing these strategies to support your own employees, you will develop key competencies and direct experience that will help your agency deliver service interventions to partners. For example, business services staff will be able to say to employers, “We tried this and the results were almost immediate!” or “Be aware that one challenge with doing this is ___. We found a solution using ____.”