The past year has put workers squarely in the spotlight for corporate America. Whether it was return-to-office plans, strikes, or the impacts of AI, corporate leaders have needed to turn their attention to their workforce in 2023. JUST Capital’s own polling reflects that, with worker issues once again topping the American public’s priorities when it comes to just business behavior.
As the year winds down, we turned to the leader on the Workers stakeholder in our 2023 Rankings – Bank of America – for insight into its workforce investment strategy, which includes the industry-leading move to recently raise its minimum wage.
In a recent episode of our ongoing LinkedIn Live interview series, “JUST Better Business,” Bank of America Chief Human Resources Officer Sheri Bronstein spoke with JUST Capital CEO Martin Whittaker about how the company approaches its people strategy and why it’s been a boon for business. To Bank of America, the number-one overall company in our 2023 Rankings, prioritizing workers is part of operating sustainably, Bronstein said. Watch the full interview below and read on for our key takeaways from the conversation.
Ground Human Capital Decisions in Data
Bronstein emphasized that data is the foundation for all of Bank of America’s HR decisions, from raising wages to expanding mental health support to investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices. “I have an incredible data and analytics team that really sits behind all of our HR processes and services and products and helps us analyze and make sure that we’re using every dollar of that investment in the best way possible,” she said.
When it comes to DEI, Bank of America has disclosed its EEO-1 data since 2013 and uses it to guide practices and policies. “Here in the U.S., we really look like the communities and the customers that we serve,” she said of the bank’s 18% Hispanic and 13% Black employees. Data also grounds its work to advance women’s leadership in the company. Women make up over 50% of employees at Bank of America, with women comprising almost 40% of its management team and over 40% of those at the top levels of the company, she said. Bronstein also pointed to Bank of America’s own research that found that S&P 500 companies with at least 25% women executives saw higher returns on equity than the overall index.
Data from employee feedback also plays a role, Bronstein said using the company’s investments in mental health resources and support as another example. Following company-wide surveys conducted a few years ago, Bank of America began enhancing its benefits around mental health care and working to break down stigmas around mental health using the voice and influence of its leadership. It’s something that Bronstein said she’s grateful the company prioritized before the pandemic hit, because of the input of its employees.
Consider Impact Beyond Individual Employees
While Bank of America employs over 210,000 individuals, Bronstein often considers the impact of the company’s decisions beyond its immediate workforce. “We help our customers live their financial lives every day and so it’s so important to us that our teammates, especially as you mentioned those in the lower compensation categories, that they have more than a living wage. We want them to make sure that they feel comfortable and that they can take care of their families,” she said of the company’s decision to raise its minimum wage to $25 per hour by 2025.
Since 2010, Bank of America has raised its minimum wage by 121%, and for over a decade hasn’t raised healthcare costs for employees earning under $50,000 per year. It’s employees’ families that motivate Bank of America to do right by their workers, Bronstein said.
“Every day we come in and we think about our 210,000 plus employees, but we also take care of their families. It’s almost a million people that I have the honor every day to think about – ‘how do we help them live their personal lives, their professional lives?’” she said.
This mindset has also played a role in the company’s DEI work. As part of Bank of America’s $1.25 billion commitment to advancing racial equity, the company has invested in low-moderate income communities in the 90 markets it operates in across the country. In partnership with nonprofits and Bank of America’s market leadership, the company ensures that whether it’s investing in private equity, jobs programs, or health care systems, that these investments serve the needs of low-moderate income communities and embrace diversity, Bronstein said.
Invest in Pathways to Long-Term Career Growth
For Bank of America, investing in its workforce has led to higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover, Bronstein said, noting that she believes 2023 will see record-low turnover for the company. Part of that stems from its commitment to providing training and re-skilling programs that promote long-term growth at the company. Bank of America tries to bring in talent at the entry level, Bronstein said, and help them build skills and learn over time.
The company does this through Pathways – its community hiring and development program – The Academy – its internal learning and development platform – and its college recruiting process. “Helping people build skills and be able to choose many different careers over the course of a lifetime, that is something that we think has really helped us continue to invest in women and our diverse talent in particular, but all of our employees,” she said.
Bronstein sees Bank of America as a company that’s always valued its teammates, a mindset that has become increasingly valuable through the labor market shifts of the last few years and will surely continue to be through 2023 and beyond.