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Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder


For my white paper, I plan to focus on poverty in America with a specific lens on the working poor. Through examining statistics about the working poor and poverty in America in general, I hope to get a better understanding of what causes poverty. I want to examine the socioeconomic, demographic, and educational components that together are consistent among individuals who comprise the working poor. While I don’t necessarily expect to fully explain what causes poverty, I hope to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of factors which come into play.

This week we were asked to take a trip to the library to identify sources which would help us in our research for the White Paper. I found a book that was particular helpful with regards to my focus on the working poor.  Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder by Jody Heymann is a book which discusses the stories of businesses which have taken and alternative approach to business and employee treatment. Heymann examines twelve companies from nine countries with workforces which range from as small as 27 to over 100,000. These businesses are very different from one another and serve a diverse range of customers. Despite the significant differences between the businesses, each company has proven to do well financially, successfully implement a strategy that places emphasis on high quality working conditions for low-level employees, and has developed a wide range of other employee centered policies which have made them desirable places to work. Their financial successes have balanced the needs of various parties including owners, shareholders, and all employees of the firm. Some of the firms included are Costco, American Apparel, and Xerox.

Heymann thoroughly examines each example and makes the clear argument that it is beneficial for companies to invest in all employees at all levels. She also draws clear links to data to prove that this practice can be profitable for the companies, despite the investment. She utilizes specific references to prove that the rewards gained from the additional workforce investment outweigh the costs.  The section of the book which I read discussed the companies of American Apparel and Jenkins Brick. In this chapter, the values of incentive policies and appealing salary scales were noted. The explicit link between these types of policies and increases in employee motivation and productivity are made. Furthermore, the heightened lower-level salaries results in recruitment of the most dependable employees. This section of the book also described the case studies of Autoliv Australia and Isola. In these examples, policies involving flexible scheduling of time off and extended leave created a greater sense of loyalty amongst employees along with increased job satisfaction. Both companies determined that more generous policies surrounding sick leave and time to care for family was very important to their respective staffs. After the policies were implemented, the companies experienced lower turnover rates, fewer missed days of work, lower costs, and wrongful use of sick days. The conclusion was that such policies lead to greater employee loyalty and connection to the firm.

Now, you might be wondering how this book applies to my topic of poverty amongst the working poor. This topic is largely “Society” focused. In order to bring in “Government” and “Business” into the picture, I need to offer valuable suggestions to policy makers at the federal level in addition to upper level executives in business. This book directly addresses the “Business” piece. It offers effective solutions to companies which will result in more productivity. Meanwhile, the policies mentioned lead to a better quality of life for ALL employees, even those at the “bottom of the ladder.” Many of those individuals comprise the working poor in America. All in all it was a successful trip to the library!

Come Join Me at Downton Abbey


This week I have decided to stray from my normal political banter to share one of my current favorite shows. Downton Abbey is a television series which is produced both by Carnival Films of the UK and WGBH Boston, Massachusetts. The setting of the program revolves around a fictional estate named Downton Abbey which is located in the North Riding of Yorkshire. It was created and largely written by actor and writer Julian Fellowes. Downton Abbey is currently in production of its third season and premiered in the United States on PBS on January 9, 2011.

The series begins during the Edwardian Era in England and the year 1912. The main focus of Downton Abbey is a vivid portrayal of the lives, romances, scandals, and secrets of the aristocratic Crawley family and their staff which keeps the estate running every day. The audience is captivated by a detailed sequence of happiness and heartbreak with each of the characters in the story.

Downton is the home of the Crawleys, who have been the Earls of Grantham since 1772. The scenic estate is emphasized throughout the home in elaborate in the family drawing rooms, libraries, and bedrooms, all of which look over the vast landscape. The servant staff also lives on the property in their own quarters. Regardless of whether a character is a Crawley or a servant, there are rigid social hierarchies that all are impacted by.

There is a range of motivations and dreams amongst the servant staff at Downton. Some are extremely loyal to the Crawleys and view working at Downton as a way of life. Others, looking to climb up the social ladder, view Downton as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, everyone enjoys the adventures inherent with working at Downton and is aware of privileged information within the family.

The plot thickens and social norms are challenged when members of the Crawley family and their servant staff are called to serve during World War I. Their lives become even more intertwined and many are concerned that life as they know it will be changed forever.

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All Magic Comes At A Price


So we all have our favorite fairy tale stories that our parents used to tell us before bedtime. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel… the list goes on and on. But, what we were living in an a world that was remnant of a parallel one? That is the basis of ABC’s new show Once Upon A TimeContinue reading

I Heart WordPress


I was on blogger for my own interests as far back as 2004.  And then by about 2008 or so, I started thinking about blogs in the context of teaching and writing.  I can’t remember how I found WordPress.com, but in those “dark ages” of social media, it was a life line.  See, Bucknell did not offer any good tools.  I was told that “Blackboard has a blog tool.” (Now, having nothing to do with me, Bucknell uses the open-source version, wordpres.org).

But I had seen what a good blog can do, both in function and design, and I knew that a tool embedded on a cookie-cutter course management system would not do.  It would be like telling students in a driver’s ed class, “we will drive real cars!” and then the first day they show up and see this:

WordPress.com was what I wanted:

  • Simple to start to use
  • Flexible
  • Good-looking
  • Plenty of ways to make more sophisticated
  • Has a “good vibe.”

So, I started using them.  Now, I know anything “free” is not, really.  If it is free, usually you can count on the fact that YOU are the product (Facebook anyone?  Traditional broadcast TV?).  Still, wordpress.com’s revenue model kicks in when you use lots of memory or buy a domain (like myname.com).  So, for me, for class, it was great product at zero cost.

So, what kind and kewl nerds made this gift from the cyber-heaven for me?

Automattic. Continue reading

Get Rid of Those Bad Apples


In looking through the blog choices for this week, the Work Matters blog stood out to me. I’ve worked since I legally could (and the typical babysitting prior to that) so work for me has always mattered. In clicking this link, I found Bob Sutton’s writing engaging and also gives the reader a bit of a chuckle. His style of writing is almost pointing out the common sense in things, yet somehow these topics might not necessarily seem obvious. His blogging is pretty addictive; I’ve read about five in a row now.

He has covered an array of topics but a similar theme I found is separating the good from the bad. In the blog posting I’m focusing on for this week, Sutton is arguing Bad is Stronger than Good . What I find interesting is he describes the first order of business is to actually eliminate the negative in a working environment prior to even thinking of acknowledging the positive. In bosses providing positive reinforcement and career development for individuals, this seems to create a more productive environment. While bringing in great people and rewarding their efforts is beneficial, Sutton feels ‘bad apples’ will undermine this culture. Continue reading

Standing > Sitting


I read a post called “All Hail the Stand-Up Meeting” by Stephen J. Dubner on the “Freakonomics: The Hidden Side of Everything” blog website.  I really thought the post was interesting and unique, but at the same time extremely relevant and profound.  It offers an alternative to mainstream business practices by advocating for stand-up meetings.

Before reading this post, I had never really considered the idea of stand-up meetings seriously. I guess it just didn’t seem practical to me. Why stand when you can sit? Continue reading

A Revolution in our Midst


With the economy in a recession and society’s trust in business at a low, Fuse Corps is a revolutionary venture that hopes to help solve these problems. In the blog Spring Wise, a blog post titled “Entrepreneurs matched with government leaders on grassroots projects” explains briefly the point and plan behind Fuse Corps. Fuse Corps is a one year program that hires 10 to 20 entrepreneurs who have high energy, at least eight years of experience, and great leadership skills to work side by side with mayors, governors, or social entrepreneurs. Starting this upcoming March, those selected with attend a two week leadership program and then be divided into working in either a “cabinet-level” position or with community-based organizations. They will be paid either based on a salary or on a stipend.

After further research on the Fuse Corps, I found that the venture is meant to offer a fresh approach to solving society problems that the government has so far been unable to complete. The program’s goals are to create a new generation of leaders that can solve problems from the ground up. The program is promoting a REVOLUTION!
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BLOG INSTRUCTIONS

Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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