What I’m Not Reading – and why I’m bothered by it (should companies focus, much more, on nurturing jobs?)

From today…
…l’m making it the responsibility of this government…
…to find a job for every American who wants one.

Have you seen the look in someone’s face…
…the day they finally get a job?
I’ve had some experience with this.
They look like they could fly.

And it’s not about the paycheck.
It’s about looking in the mirror…and knowing you’ve done
something valuable with your day.
And if one person could start
to feel that way, then others….
Soon all these other problems
we’re facing may not seem so…

(Dave, the “stand-in” President, at the Presidential press conference, from the movie Dave)


For eleven and a half years, my colleague Karl Krayer and I have each presented one synopsis a month of a best-selling business book.  In that time, themes emerged as dominant and lasting.  We’ve read books about how to find the right/best people; how to encourage your best people; why it takes such a serious work ethic to succeed – including the 10,000 hour rule and the need for deliberate practice; how to nurture innovation and cultivate creativity; how to be personally more productive with energy and time management in an ever-more-complex world.  These are just a few of the major themes over the last 11+ years.

In the last 15 months, a new theme has emerged – what went wrong? We’ve only presented a handful of such books (we generally have avoided “finance books” at the First Friday Book Synopsis), but the current best-seller lists include titles that make us sort of wish we could simply run for the hills.

For example, this week’s list of business best sellers from the New York Times includes
Too Big To Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin. — The 2008 financial implosion on Wall Street and in Washington, by a New York Times reporter and columnist.
This Time is Different by Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff.  — Analyses of centuries of financial blinders.

But there is one theme that is not being written about.  At least, if it is, it has not made it close to anyone’s best-seller list.  It is this theme:
how can we build companies that nurture and protect the jobs of the people who make those companies successful?

There are a couple that are close, like the terrific Encouraging the Heart by Kouzes and Posner.  But such books deal more with the idea of “bringing out the best in people” than with how to build a company that puts and keeps its own people first.

In other words, the growing joblessness, though understandable, may reveal a subtle truth – companies really do put maximizing profits and increasing productivity as the highest priorities, taking precedence over this question — what is the role of corporations and organizations in maintaining the overall work force for this great nation?

Some popular radio commentators like to call America the greatest country this planet has ever seen.  I agree.  But I know that one of the things that made it great is the American worker.  From Rosie the Riveter, who played such a key role in winning the second World War, to all of the men and women who worked in all for the factories for so many decades, this country was built by a rich and great combination of corporate leadership and an in the trenches workforce of unparalleled strength.

All the day long,
Whether rain or shine
She’s a part of the assembly line.
She’s making history,
Working for victory
Rosie the Riveter

(Big band era song popularized by Kay Kyser).

So this is what I am not reading, and it bothers me — I’m not reading any books about how corporations can nurture this great American work force.  We send jobs overseas, we cut jobs in entire industries, we cut entire industries, and we read, month after month, that we have lost even more jobs.

In the article Stop the ‘jobless recovery’ madness! — An economy that isn’t creating employment opportunities simply isn’t doing its job from Fortune, there are two charts that illustrate this truth:
But job and wage growth have been weak for a decade. Total private sector employment has dropped since the Yankees held their previous victory parade, in 2000.
That means there has been no net private sector job growth over a nine-year span where the U.S. population expanded by 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In my opinion, the fact there are no best–sellers on this reveals part to the problem. We might have a tendency to take the American worker for granted.  We might have a tendency to focus on everything but the well-being of the American worker.  And our negligence might be contributing to our biggest problem – a nation without enough jobs is a nation without a healthy economy.

Now, I’m not crazy.  I know that if there are not profits, then there is no way to hire and keep the workers.  But Henry Ford understood that if you don’t pay your workers enough to afford the cars they were making, then there would be no market, no buyers for the cars.

Well — if you don’t have enough workers to begin with, then the whole economy shrivels and collapses.

I think that CEO’s and Board s of Directors need to be asking, constantly, how can we keep people at work?

The reason that President Obama has called a jobs summit is that we don’t have enough jobs.  This is not a small problem – this may be the problem of the era!

Help me out.  Anybody got any really good books to recommend on this for me?

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