4 Ways We Can Fix a Broken Workforce Opportunity System

Carrie Varoquiers, president, Workday Foundation, and vice president, Global Impact & Employee Life, shares why it’s more critical than ever for organizations to commit to building onramps to opportunity—from accelerated funding, to hiring practices, to collaborating with others who share a common goal.

2020 has been a year filled with many challenges and uncertainties, whether it's the loss of Black lives, unemployment, or the impacts of the coronavirus. But with so much change, some good may come as we come together. These crises have prompted the world to deeply examine already existing societal gaps and inequities with a new lens and urgency to help solve our toughest problems. By no means are these challenges going to be easy to solve, but I’m confident in the common good of humanity. With a shared goal and collective determination, I’m optimistic for the positive impact to come.

As I reflect and observe what we’re witnessing as a global community, I’m prompted to think about the role businesses can play as part of the solution. How do we, as business leaders, help rebuild a system that was already broken to begin with? How can we build it back better, and open up more opportunities for all?

Here are some of the ways we at Workday have navigated these last few months, and how we are committed to the fight for economic equality.

How can we take a broken system and build it back better, and open up more opportunities for all?

Accelerated funding for our nonprofit partners. We’re experiencing a record number of unemployment claims in the U.S. and an increased demand for services—like the pivot to online learning and new programming to meet the needs of today’s virtual workforce—in response to the impacts of the coronavirus. At the same time, many of our nonprofit partners face reduced revenue as a result of cancelled fundraising events.

We at Workday knew our nonprofit partners would appreciate extra financial support sooner than they regularly receive from the Workday Foundation. So, we expedited grants to those who are doing critical work in the workforce development field, so they can serve more unemployed people seeking work. Many of our nonprofit partners have rapidly transitioned from in-person skills development to online learning, which has allowed them to serve hundreds more job seekers without the space constraints of a traditional classroom. In the last year, the Workday Foundation has granted more than $5 million to aid in the fight for economic equality. 

Stayed committed to building onramps to opportunity. We’ve kept our commitment to creating onramps for those who traditionally haven’t had access to opportunity. Our Opportunity Onramps® programs are more critical than ever before, which is why we’ve committed to filling 20% of our early to mid-career full-time roles with Opportunity Onramps candidates by 2023. And in late July, we welcomed our thirteenth cohort of Year Up interns at Workday. Talented and highly motivated candidates without a four-year degree or previous work experience in a professional field may be the first to be overlooked in a recovering economy—with many people competing for the same jobs. Paid work experience through onramps programs continues to provide economic mobility for people from under-resourced communities.  

Collaborated with those that share a goal and vision. The tech sector does a good job of innovating, and we’re proud to have partnered with others to strive for economic equality. We joined other companies as a Founding Coalition member of #RecoverStronger, an initiative launched by JFF, to ensure we’re accountable for how we’re building back a more equitable economy. We also have a partnership with Opportunity@Work which will leverage Workday’s skills cloud to connect workers in the U.S. without four-year degrees to employers in need of their skills, allowing them to work, learn, and earn their full potential. And we also joined the Rework America Alliance, an innovative nationwide initiative to enable unemployed and low wage workers emerge from this crisis stronger. 

In addition, we joined forces with 25 companies to collectively raise $22 million to support the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. In a recent conversation with JFF, JVS, Salesforce, and Walmart, we discussed the ways in which organizations can partner to break barriers to economic opportunity for all. 

As we come together as business leaders, we have a responsibility to help do our part to improve the global social, economic, and health crises.

Hosted Workforce Week™ events. Putting the spirit of collaboration into action, we teamed up with customers and partners to host our sixth annual (and first virtual) Workforce Week this year, with a goal of closing the opportunity gap through employee volunteerism. We started Workforce Week at Workday in 2015, and it has grown into our largest global employee volunteer program aimed at making a difference in the life of job seekers. Through mock interviews, resume reviews, and mentorship, Workforce Week provides opportunities for companies and their employees to help connect motivated individuals of all ages with well-paying careers, while building critical social capital through newly formed professional connections. So far in 2020, hundreds of Workday employees across the globe have donated more than 700 volunteer hours to Workforce Week events with more than 40 workforce development organizations. 

As we come together as business leaders, we have a responsibility to help do our part to improve the global social, economic, and health crises. For organizations looking to diversify their workforce, creating programs like Opportunity Onramps and making hiring through these programs a part of your overall talent acquisition strategy can lead to meaningful impact. To help get your employees involved in closing the opportunity gap, your organization can use these free, turnkey Workforce Week toolkits with guides for full workforce development training resources, including draft agendas, communications, and more. Let’s all work together to build back a stronger economy, and a more equitable system that works for all of us. 

Photo: Workforce Week at Workday, 2019

Interested in learning more on how to help those experiencing barriers to employment in today’s environment? Hear perspectives from JFF, JVS, Salesforce, Walmart, and Workday in Wdaychats: Breaking Barriers to Economic Equality.

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