New York at Work report explores opportunities, challenges

New kinds of job opportunities abound in the cannabis and clean energy industries, and justice-involved people, people with disabilities and others can benefit from improved wages and training, according to the ILR School’s New York at Work report, published Aug. 30.

The report is part of a growing body of work by ILR experts on state and national workplace issues, many of them intensified by the pandemic.

Cornell impacting New York State

“The pandemic exacerbated many preexisting problems, but there are some bright spots in the form of new models that can serve both workers and employers,” said Ariel Avgar, Ph.D.’08, senior associate dean for outreach and sponsored research and a professor in the Labor Relations, Law and History Department in the ILR School. “This report is a terrific illustration of the important work of our Outreach colleagues.”

A resource for policymakers and the public, the New York at Work report is organized into eight sections: 

  • Impact of low wages on child care workers and the families they serve
  • Broadband inequities
  • Returning New Yorkers with criminal records to the workforce
  • Cannabis industry employer needs
  • Economic opportunities created through clean energy jobs
  • Inequalities experienced by workers in low-wage nail salon industry jobs
  • Development of employment professionals who serve people with disabilities
  • Improving career pathways for justice-involved youth who have disabilities

With the report as a springboard for discussion on some of the state’s most pressing issues, many of them connected to the creation of decent, sustainable jobs, Avgar will host an ILR webinar Sept. 16 from 1 to 2 p.m. The public is invited to join him, New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, Deputy Commissioner for Workforce Development Chris White and Associate Commissioner for Policy, Research and Strategy Yvonne Martinez. Registration opens later this week.

Nationally, ILR research, data and insight have been informing pandemic-related labor and management challenges such as organizations’ desire to get workers to embrace a return to the office and workers’ interests in negotiating with employers for flexibility. 

Decisions around remote work and the return to the office have become a source of conflict for organizations and workers, said Alexander Colvin, Ph.D.’99, the Kenneth F. Kahn ’69 Dean and the Martin F. Scheinman ’75, M.S. ’76, Professor of Conflict Resolution in the ILR School.

“With these new workplace issues, we see again the importance of effective conflict resolution approaches that seek to respond to the varied interests of businesses, unions, workers and communities,” Colvin said. “Helping the parties make informed decisions on these types of challenging workplaces issues is at the core of ILR’s mission and a major focus of our Outreach activities.” 

Christopher Collins, associate professor of human resource studies and expert on strategic human resource management, said the current workplace landscape has hastened some shifts that predate the COVID-19 crisis.

“Well before the start of the pandemic, companies began to see a steady increase in turnover and changes in workers’ expectations and loyalty, and this trend has strengthened in the past 18 months during the so-called ‘Great Resignation,’” he said.

“In order to attract and retain key talent, organizations and HR leaders have been rethinking the nature of work, how to enhance the overall employee experience, and additional changes that make their places of work more attractive. In particular, design thinking, employer brands, new technologies and organizational culture changes have become increasingly important tools and strategies that HR leaders can draw on to win the new war for talent.”

Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior and a social psychologist, has been urging workers to negotiate for what they want in this volatile environment.

“A lot of workers have been in a holding pattern waiting to see how serious their employers are about bringing them back to the office,” Bohns said. “As more and more decisions about remote, hybrid, etc., work are made and implemented this fall, employees who aren’t happy with these decisions may find themselves at a critical juncture with their employer: Should I stay or should I go?”

But those aren’t the only two choices, Bohns said,

“There may in fact be a third choice: negotiating. Research suggests people tend to feel uncomfortable with negotiation and asking for what they want, which may lead them to hold back from having such a conversation with their manager,” she said. “But when people do ask, research shows they are in fact more likely than they expect to get what they ask for.”

Mary Catt is the ILR School’s communications director.

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Jeffrey Martin