When Paula Marshall stood in a packed conference room in one of the dozens of nondescript buildings on 11th Street Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t to make a major jobs announcement or show off an over-sized check headed to one of the area’s charities.
The CEO of Bama Companies was there for a different reason.
“There’s no one turn to. There’s no government agency that’s going to do this,” she said.
She was referring to was the Bama Caring Center, which was unveiled to the public Thursday.
The center is a company initiative to increase productivity and retention by providing services for employees ranging from counseling to financial planning completely free of charge. They can also go there to be referred to social service organizations throughout Tulsa.
The space is comfortable. It looks like a posh doctor’s waiting room. Comfortable chairs, a row of computers and small bowls of candy dot the lobby.
“The goal instead of losing 8 out of 10 people is maybe lose 5 or 6 out of 10,” Marshall said in an interview recently. The company loses most employees within the first three to four months of employment.
Lower-skilled, lower-wage workers consistently have trouble getting to work, finding child care and other domestic issues, government studies have shown. Those problems make it tough to show up and focus on their jobs.
Not showing up becomes a lost job. Now the company needs to find new workers, and the lost workers need another way to feed themselves and their family.
Marshall said Thursday that Bama, and Oklahoma’s business community overall, can no longer ignore the problems that their workforce brings to the office or the factory floor. It eats into their productivity and, without help, they fall through the cracks.
A significant chunk of the population struggles to fulfill its basic needs, Marshall said. The business community has a responsibility to end the cycle of poverty, adding that a major deterrent to some people taking work is they lose the government safety net they rely on.
Bama spokesman Isaac Rocha said Bama is stepping up in a state where cuts to social services have become the norm.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services announced $25 million in additional budget cuts Monday.
The Caring Center is also a business decision.
Marshall said turnover costs $5,500 per team member, and the more turnover the company has, the less productive workers are and the more accidents happen.
When talking with the World, Marshall spoke of an employee who almost quit because he couldn’t find housing and was living in his car. The company helped him find an apartment quickly, she said. He had thought of quitting because without a job, he felt he was more likely to find assistance.
“There are so many needs like that, Marshall said. “This guy wants to work. He wants to be a productive member of society. … I have to stop the flow.”
Samuel Hardiman 918-581-8466