Sustainability Means Not Wasting People, Part 2

People who take time out of the workforce — to raise children, to care for a sick parent, to explore other career opportunities — often find it extremely difficult to “step back” in.

I assume that this is a problem of privilege: I don’t know how people earning minimum wage would have this option.

This is also a likely engine of entrepreneurial development. (If you leave your banking career for 7 years to stay home with your kids, and can’t get back in, you may wind up starting your own business.)

One company with a sustainability effort that extends to people is UBS: this past weekend, UBS underwrote a course for 60 women with advanced degrees who seek to re-enter the workforce. Students participated in workshops to pinpoint skills they need to update, receive coaching and set goals for their re-entry.

Bravo to UBS and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School for creating this groundbreaking course.

(Or maybe I should say, “brava”!)

There’s a positive implication for small business, too. Forward-thinking small firms can employ these people as consultants or employees.

When I ran a small company, one of our staffers was a great woman in her early 40s who had been a marketing executive in the cosmetics industry. She had lots of great ideas. There was a learning curve for her, though, too, to understand how a Mom & Pop business differed from a major cosmetics firm.

Spending three figures on marketing materials was out out of the question for us…putting an ad in a yoga magazine would not have been an intelligent use of our resources. Our most effective advertising dollars were spent on our (decidedly home-made) website, and in a local free paper that everyone in the neighborhood picks up at the grocery store and in building lobbies.

Small business has a different way of working than large corporations do. But it is possible to move back and forth between the two.

Everyone wins when employers are enlightened enough to help employees translate their skills, whether gained on a trading floor or the kitchen floor, to gainful employment.

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