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Building From the Bottom Up

Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman

Harvard Business School

45 min


January 2022

Original Content 

America’s lowest earners are also its most essential workers: truck drivers, packers and shippers, grocery clerks, servers, healthcare assistants, housekeepers, and janitors. Despite working long hours in difficult jobs, many of these workers are trapped in positions with low wages and little or no prospects for advancement. Most employers believe they have policies in place to help these workers. However, a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. low-wage workers (pdf) and a matching survey of 1,150 U.S. business leaders (pdf) shows that implementation is poor. Workers don’t get the support they need in the form of mentorship, training, or career guidance. This results in stagnant wages for workers and high churn for companies. As companies struggle to fill positions in the post-Covid recovery, they will need to invest in retaining and nurturing talent—especially for the lowest earners who perform the most critical tasks.

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