It’s no secret that businesses are facing unprecedented challenges in the current economy. People are also struggling. With poverty and disparities, especially along lines of race, it’s holding our community back. That’s where the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Workforce Innovation Center can help.
Through a newly unveiled three-tired service offering the Workforce Innovation Center helps by providing:
- assessment services to help companies identify issue areas
- more than 120 practice and policy recommendations and partnerships to customize solutions for companies
- evaluating and recognizing companies through a formal process, which is in development
Workforce Innovation Center Executive Director Audrey Treasure says the concept is led by the idea of “inclusive capitalism,” which aims to make capitalism benefit employees, communities, and shareholders with the positive results.
“Business was designed to be in the best interest of their stakeholders, meaning the employees, employers and community as a whole,” explains Treasure. “We aim to return to this idea that a business invests in their people as part of their long-term talent play for all. It doesn’t have to be about how fast you can turn a profit. It’s about building a strong community. We’re beating our drum that this is how we want businesses run in Cincinnati.”
Treasure says plans to launch the Workforce Innovation Center has long been in the works, but COVID-19 made the need for its services even more apparent. “COVID-19 forced us to make this more available to more companies. That’s why we broke it down into three service offerings, you can choose one, or two or three of those so we can help you reach your goals,” she explains. “The pandemic also made it more apparent that people live in financially precarious positions, which is really troubling. We want employers to be part of the solution.”
The Workforce Innovation Center takes a direct approach of consulting with companies to understand what is happening within their workforce. Through an assessment process of a company’s identified challenges, policies, and employee experience, the Center proposes solutions that can improve the business’ operations and can also help address challenges that employees might be experiencing. “A company may have a tardiness policy that is overly punitive and results in a high turnover rate of employees that could otherwise be successful,” explains Treasure. “The Center can then support an employer in implementing practice changes in order to achieve its desired outcomes and improve its bottom line.”
Not only does the Center offer this support, but it also serves as a hub between businesses and the workforce ecosystem that exists in this region. “These social solutions organizations excel at removing barriers for people who are looking to advance their lives through work and can bring companies new sources of talent that employers may not have previously considered,” she says. “There’s also been a real increase in focus on racial disparities. Companies come to us asking how we can help them bridge the gap. They want to be intentional about how they improve policies and practices, as part of their business strategy and we’re there to help.”
Treasure says they help local businesses large and small through the Center, the smallest currently having 14 employees and the largest having thousands.
“We see an opportunity for companies to drive changes within their business to improve company operational and financial performance and support their employees,” says Treasure. “We can give businesses – regardless of size – tools and measurements to tell them how they’re doing. We think if we can do this company by company, this will have a transformational effect on the community as a whole.”
The Workforce Innovation Center was established by business leaders who wanted to make the reduction of poverty in the region a priority. Liza Smitherman, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Jostin Construction, Inc. sat on the advisory board of the Workforce Innovation Center prior to launch, and also recently brought Jostin Construction on board to utilize all three service levels.
“They made it easy to share and acknowledge that there are opportunities for improvement so they can then help. It’s so important to know where our employees fit, center their voices, so we can hear from our stakeholders, our assets our employees,” Smitherman explains. “A good business that wants to have good jobs needs to hear from their people. The center helps our employees give comprehensive feedback, while also getting an objective review of that feedback, benchmarked by industry standards and best practices to let us know how we’re doing and areas of needed growth.”
Smitherman says she feels extremely thankful to have access to the Center’s services in Cincinnati. “We are in Ohio, so we’re more conservative about how we look at things,” she adds. “I give credit to the Chamber in particular who pull together a very diverse group of voices that then help move this needle forward. There’s some empowerment felt that my voice can be heard as much as a big business that’s been around for 20-30 years.”
This business-focused resource is part of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. Through this, the Workforce Innovation Center is able to offer support to companies while helping them solve challenges and find new sources of talent, consider new ways of doing business to support their success, and engage companies in the process of increasing economic mobility for those in poverty.
To learn more about the Workforce Innovation Center, visit https://workforceinnovationcenter.com. You can check out more using the Cincy Chamber’s presence on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and the Center’s new LinkedIn page. You can also watch and share these short videos focused on the Center’s approach for businesses and how it will impact the community as a whole.