Work for Humanity (WFH) and Workforce & Organizational Research Center (WORC) are committed to creating an inclusive economy where “every worker has a job worth having” by transforming low-quality jobs into high-quality ones.

Approximately 20 million workers in the US are employed by businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Many of these employees don’t have a college degree and have little prospect for higher wage employment. Among low-wage workers, nearly 54% are women and 4o% people of color. If these jobs could be transformed into good jobs with opportunities for continued professional growth, it would make a significant impact on rebuilding the middle class in the US and on achieving the goal of every worker having “a job worth having.”

This ambitious job transformation journey is getting started with a program that helps small business owners from underrepresented populations change their approach to leadership and develop the full potential of their workforce.

Bounce Forward is a proof-of-concept pilot designed as an eight-week coaching and experiential leadership program for women and BIPOC small business owners so that they can more effectively tap into the creativity, intelligence, and performance of their teams. In the process, owners create opportunities to reimagine the employer/employee relationship and improve job quality.

In short, the first phase of the Bounce Forward program aims to:

  • Make work more enjoyable for/enhance the well-being of owners
  • Enhance owners’ mindset around what “leadership” means and looks like
  • Teach foundational coaching and feedback skills to owners
  • Provide small business owners with a community of support

With a curriculum built around high-involvement work practices and coaching – both shown to increase engagement, performance, and well-being for managers and employees – the first phase of the pilot seeks to answer the following questions:

  • To what extent does the 8-week learning experience influence the beliefs and behaviors of small business owners, so they act less like managers and more like coaches?
  • To what extent does the 8-week learning experience improve the mental health and well-being of small business owners?
  • How do small business owners perceive the relevance of the program and its helpfulness to their business? How willing would they be to recommend the program to other business owners?

The first 8-week experience wrapped up in December 2021 and the preliminary feedback from participants has been very positive (you can learn more about what it means to Bounce Forward and hear directly from the participants in the short video below). Based on participant enthusiasm, an Alumni Program kicked off in April 2022. In this follow-up pilot, business owners will more fully develop their coaching skills and their employees will be engaged, as well, to co-create a program that helps workers enjoy their work and thrive/further develop in their roles.

We are excited about the opportunity to improve job quality in ways that enable small business owners and their employees to thrive. In their final report — Mind the Mindset Gap — the authors explain how changing  mindsets—the set of beliefs and assumptions that shape how we make sense of the world — is a prerequisite if we want to create good jobs at scale. The report is available as a PDF from the link above or in the Project Publication section (right column).  Please open it to read in your browser or download it and let us know what you think!

Jennifer is the former Assistant Chief Scientist for the Human Performance Wing for the Air Force Research Laboratory. She has served as a high-performance coach and small business strategist for nearly 10 years, helping hundreds of people around the world find more fulfillment and financial success in their work. She founded Work for Humanity to reach a larger audience and bring innovation to workforce development and leadership training. Dr. Gresham earned her PhD in biochemistry at the University of Maryland.

Ellen is the founder of Workforce & Organizational Research Center, an applied research center focused on bringing implementation science to bear on the task of creating an inclusive economy where every worker has a job worth having. She conducts rigorous mixed-methods evaluations and research focused on managerial practices and frontline job quality interventions. She was a senior scientist at Washington University for six years before starting WORC. Dr. Frank-Miller earned her PhD and MSW at the University of Chicago.

Mind the Mindset Gap

We’re exploring a future webinar series to share the results and insights from this study; dates to be announced. You can receive updates from IRC4HR by providing your name and email address.