Through a research-driven approach, The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation strives to support and address economic self-sufficiency for women in the region. Part of the Women’s Fund work is advocating for workplace policies for lower-wage workers that offer mobility, flexibility, and help with childcare needs. Because of the pandemic, its importance was underscored—especially for frontline workers. “Many of our workplace policies were made to support middle and senior level positions and reflect their professional and personal needs,” says Sam Molony, communications director at The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. “Our research helps employers reimagine how their workplace can support all of their workers in a comprehensive way.”
An example of a workforce policy is the probation period when an individual starts a new job. Even though an employee is accruing paid time off (PTO), often the individual isn’t able to utilize the PTO in the first 90 days of employment. It’s a common practice in manufacturing and similar industries, making it difficult for parents, especially moms and single parents, when childcare issues arise unexpectedly. Having the policy in place has a negative unintended consequence that results in rapid turnover within a company and costly absenteeism, while employees at a higher level have more options and resources to fulfill their needs. On average, companies are spending more than $2,000 in turnover costs per entry-level position. “We talk a lot about infrastructure and putting money towards a strong public infrastructure, but we often don’t talk about how childcare should be seen as a public infrastructure need,” says Molony. “No matter your social class, if you have kids or elderly parents that need to be taken care of, and you aren’t able to meet those needs for them, you aren’t able to bring your full self to your workplace and to your job.”
Aside from childcare, other policies that need to be assessed are schedules, training opportunities to level up skills, wages, support services, transportation, and benefits. To help evaluate and solve these policy issues, the team produced an Employer Toolkit. The collection of 60 policies helps an employer evaluate and impact change to support their lower-wage workers and thus retain and stabilize their workforce. The goal is for employers to see employee performance growth over time, increased loyalty to their organization, and individuals to become economically mobile. Since its release, the Toolkit has been viewed by more than 1,000 employers in 47 states with dozens of resulting success stories. Here are two local companies that utilized the Toolkit to implement change in their organizations.
Toolkit success stories
- Maple Knoll: After reviewing the Women’s Fund research and understanding employee stress and challenges related to work schedules, Maple Knoll created new scheduling options to better support their care workforce by providing more advanced notice of upcoming schedules and options such as various shift lengths and the ability to self-schedule for three months at a time. This allowed the workforce to plan and adjust for their personal responsibilities and helped them to better manage their income expectations each quarter. In reviewing the impact of the policy change, Maple Knoll saw improved employee morale, a decrease in employee turnover, and an improvement in the consistency and quality of the patient care.
- The Cincinnati Zoo: The Employer Toolkit recommends employers to not use reimbursement policies as a benefit because many front-line workers can’t afford the upfront cost, even if it will be reimbursed by their employer. When the Cincinnati Zoo read this recommendation, they reexamined their bus pass policy. Previously, they offered to reimburse the bus pass purchase, but the policy was underutilized by the bus riding employees at the Zoo. When the HR manager asked employees why they didn’t take advantage of the policy, employees expressed that they couldn’t afford the bus pass cost in their monthly budgets. In response, the zoo changed its policy and bought the bus passes directly from the Cincinnati Metro. One employee shared that not only did it offer reliable transportation to work, but they were able to travel to the grocery, doctor’s appointments, and the park without worrying if they had enough change to go.