The Good Jobs Strategy – Book Review

Great ideas – not so great communication. It also really should have a better title…


This is a different type of book, which is very timely as discussions on wage increases vs. job layoffs and retaining staff are in the news regularly and will continue for at least the next 2 years. If you are a small business owner looking for your “good jobs strategy”, this is not a quick fix book and it requires thought and analysis.

An increasing amount of American discretionary income is spent in retail and that means a certain parentage of jobs will be there.

Chapters 1-3 provide an adequate introduction to the topic. Using the rise and fall (and rebound) of Home Depot’s unsuccessful strategy to reduce full time staff for less costly part timers makes sense.

Chapter 4- The Model for retailers

Of course, Wal-Mart’s tactics are discussed and contrasted with others, although comparing the largest global retailer with regional companies is not an easy or ideal comparison. She does use UPS but one wonders if that is really a retailer?

Chapters’ 5-8 Operational choices

This book offers the approach that instead of paying minimum wages to employees that usually means a high turnover, owners and managers must pay attention to treat staff as individuals with coaching and then develop talent from within the company to motivate people.

The author discusses her approach of how to minimize costs and maximize profits, which includes long term approaches done in other industries but not so much in retail. She suggests e competitive salaries and cross-training, which while solid approaches are hardly new in concept.

The author offers 4 detailed operational choices

1. Offer fewer of everything- services, products, promotions, hours of operation.

2. Standardize common tasks , but also empower people to make decisions

3. Cross-train (meaning staff do many different jobs depending on customer needs in the moment)

4. Operate at less than full speed (called slack in the book), which means to over-staff instead of under-staff, which can be hard to forecast and defend to investors.

Chapters 9-10 Benefits of this approach

The explanations are not always easy to embrace.

The intended main point from the author seems to be to find ways to persuade people to want to work with you and not for you. As a career hotelier, I have been part of organizations where this has been the norm and others where the bottom line is the only driver.

If the goal is to motivate staff to have pride in their company and to be proud of the work they are doing, then business owners and managers must lead and not manage. Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Costco and a handful of other big retail operations manage to appear to do this right although the 1st two mentioned are more in travel or hospitality than pure retail.

Overall, I found this book fascinating with motivational potential, but it is delivered in confusing ways that are not easy to follow.

Great ideas – not so great communication

It also really should have a better title – something like A Retailers Guide to Creating Good Jobs or A Good Jobs Approach for Retailers


Comments and suggestions for future articles are always welcome 



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