A seat at the table: Worker voice and the new corporate boardroom

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Sep 30, 2021

Perhaps more than any time in the last forty years, the needs and interests of workers now occupy the attention of corporate directors, CEOs and investors. Whether the focus is on wages, worker health & safety or diversity, equity & inclusion, the year 2020 elevated a wide range of worker interests and concerns, and opened up new conversations about how our modern economy treats workers. American corporate governance has been forced to survey a new frontier.

While boards are discussing worker-related issues more today, they still rely on indirect channels of information like employee engagement surveys and the opinions of senior executives. Absent direct worker engagement, it is difficult to know whether boards are having the right conversations to address worker concerns and receive worker insight about business operations.

These trends reveal an opportunity to strengthen America’s corporate governance system. Currently, that system is poorly designed to address worker interests. Workers have no formal role in American corporate governance. CEOs, board directors and investors are far removed from the tens of millions who work at the front lines of business. Worker insights rarely inform board-level decisions and the risks shouldered by workers are too often undervalued. The result is wasted potential that if captured, could benefit companies, workers, and society as a whole.

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