Companies better their bottom lines by improving conditions for low-wage workers


Structure, rewards and engagement central to profitability, Heymann says

A new report by McGill professor Jody Heymann, published by the Harvard Business Review, shows how companies throughout the world have improved their bottom lines by improving working conditions for lower-wage workers

The report details critical changes in corporate strategies that can serve as a blueprint for innovations for lower-wage workers - creating job growth and increasing profitability.

Heymann will participate in an audio news conference today, Wednesday, May 19, at 1 p.m. (EDT). Media wishing to join are invited call the toll free number 888-500-6974 and enter the pass code "Job Quality."

"These companies have been profitable for their owners and shareholders not only while being profitable for their employees, but because they have been profitable for their employees," said Heymann, founding director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy. She was also founding director of the Project on Global Working Families and chair of the Work, Family and Democracy Initiative at Harvard University. "These firms have been able to do this for a simple reason. How work is structured, how it is rewarded, and how workplaces encourage employee engagement are all central to the profitability of firms and to the quality of the daily lives of working men and women. Employees determine 90 per cent of most businesses' profitability."

The companies selected for the report represent small, medium and large firms employing between 27 and 126,000 men and women.

The report, "Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder," details how to successfully implement five recommendations:

  • Provide incentives at the bottom of the ladder.
  • Support the health of the lowest-level employees.
  • Train employees at every level of the company.
  • Engage line workers and act on their best recommendations.
  • Take strategic steps that ensure companies and communities profit together.

"Changing the lives of the least-advantaged workers while becoming more profitable is exactly what the companies in this report have done," Heymann said. "Their approaches, which include raising wages, rewarding productivity with strong earnings and profit-sharing opportunities, providing paid leave and flexibility, providing health care, and many other benefits, are frequently allotted to employees from the middle to the top of the corporate ladder, yet they are truly rare for the lowest-level workers."

A more detailed summary of the report is available at

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