Workers Are Gaining Leverage Over Employers Right Before Our Eyes

“By creating your own dumb barriers, you’re actually making your job in the search for talent harder,” said Obed Louissaint, I.B.M.’s senior vice president for transformation and culture. In working with managers across the company on training initiatives like the one under which Mr. Lorick was hired, “it’s about making managers more accountable for mentoring, developing and building talent versus buying talent.”

“I think something fundamental is changing, and it’s been happening for a while, but now it’s accelerating,” Mr. Louissaint said.

Efforts like the one at I.B.M. are, to some degree, a rediscovery in the value of investing in workers.

“I do think companies need to relearn some things,” said Byron Auguste, chief executive of Opportunity at Work, an organization devoted to encouraging job opportunities for people from all backgrounds. “A lot of companies, after the recessions in 2001 and 2008, dismantled their onboarding and training infrastructure and said that’s a cost we can’t afford.

“But it turns out, you actually do need to develop your own workers and can’t just depend on hiring.”

Any job involves much more than a paycheck. Some good jobs don’t pay much, and some bad jobs pay a lot. Ultimately, every position is a bundle of things: a salary, yes, but also a benefits package; a work environment that may or may not be pleasant; opportunities to advance (or not); flexible hours (or not).

Statistics agencies collect pretty good data on the aspects of jobs that are quantifiable, especially salary and benefits, and not such great data on other dimensions of what makes a job good or bad. But it is clear, as the labor market tightens, that people routinely favor those less quantifiable advantages.

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