August 18, 2025

August 18, 2025

Wake a bit before 7 and dismiss the alarm before it goes off. A quick body-weight workout in the basement followed by Greek Yogurt and some berries, sweetened by osmosis from the sugar in a mug of coffee. That one mug from the top of Pikes Peak, where they sell those fresh donuts, or did back in 2020. Kisses for the kids before they head off to school. Just took the oldest back to college this past weekend, missing her in these moments.

Showered and ready. In the home office, thankful to be married to a carpenter who can build such beautiful bookcases so we get a good score from RoomRater when media interviews are done from home. Finally invested in a good office chair, thankful for that, too. 

Starting the day briefing the workforce development orgs that have been co-creators, partners and supporters the last five years. We’ve got a new client: Fortune 1000 company with 3,000 locations employing 70,000 people across the southern United States. Lots of entry-level workers, lots of turnover. Heard about what we did for their competitors that reduced turnover and saved millions, while reducing stress, raising employee satisfaction and net promoter score, and earning some industry accolades and consumer brand loyalty. 

An audit of their current workforce policies and procedures will come first, but we need to get a co-design session on the group’s calendar for once that audit is complete. Their participants – the people working to overcome barriers to quality employment – have been the secret sauce to our client success. The formerly homeless and formerly incarcerated. The single parents and immigrants. The LGBTQ individuals and those with a learning difference. The survivors of domestic violence and the non-college graduates.

They spot the ways job descriptions and interview processes weed them out unnecessarily. They give us insight into how policies support them or make it impossible for them to stick with it. They are the participants in our human-centered design sessions that develop and test prototypes that can scale across massive retail companies. They celebrate and tell their friends when a company works with and for them, bringing those accolades and cost savings to life in reputational capital.

Everyone now updated and design session scheduled for next month. Time for a conversation with our accountant: all of the workforce development orgs have an ownership stake in our business. Individuals who participate in our design sessions get “royalties” for the value they create and insights that we use. I have more names to add to the list of beneficiaries and owners after our last design session in Chicago. The payments are small, but add up over time. We have 80 individuals getting residuals in addition to the 7 workforce development orgs that get regular payouts from our profits. 

But more important than the cash, we’ve impacted over 1,000,000 employees of companies large and small – making their employment more profitable and more stable, allowing them to earn promotions and raises through seniority and high performance. They have benefits and savings accounts and networks of support when something goes wrong. They enjoy their work and contributing to their community.

And on the flip side, we’ve helped a dozen companies turn their “Black Lives Matter” press releases into real change that leads to inclusive workplaces, and improve their own bottom line in the process. Lots are still in it for the costs savings, but we’re slowly spreading the idea that we can all prosper together, it’s not a zero-sum game. 

The accountant has reconciled the equity accounts and will issue Q2 proceeds next week. Time for lunch with a friend who serves on city council. We’re in early discussions about what we’ve learned about the last five years and how the city could implement some of the same ideas. We walk through City Park and picnic under a tree. (One of the best side effects of the pandemic was the normalization of outdoor meetings, especially walking meetings.) She’s hopeful that given the data we’ve collected, the rest of city council is ready for some real reform. 

Bike home, work on a blog post sitting on my porch. Watch the latest Demo Day presentations from TechStars’ Workforce Development cohort, proud that we’ve been a partner to them since the beginning and this years’ startups are new partners in the business. Kids arrive home and tell stories about their day. Book some travel to see a client in New York next week to deliver the results of our pilot with their Atlanta region, showing them a 20% decrease in turnover in the last 6 months across 15 stores, while increasing overall employee satisfaction by 26%. The regional manager is thrilled and our partner workforce development program is sending them 2-3 new employees every month. 

As the clock hits 5, pour a glass of Colorado wine (getting better every year, thanks to the Paonia wineries!) and start dinner. Fuel the kids before soccer/softball/baseball with some plant-based goodness. Leave the dishes to someone else. Relax on the couch and play Candy Crush while the Cubs are on – been stuck on level 9,997 for two nights and wondering if there is some kind of prize for reaching 10,000. Go to bed. Sleep the sleep of the righteous. Dream of reaching 100,000,000 more souls who have the opportunity to work with dignity. 

Published by Sharon Schneider

Sharon Schneider is an entrepreneur, impact investor, philanthropy expert and strategy consultant to the next generation of social impact founders and family offices. Currently, Sharon is Executive Director of the Telluray Foundation in Colorado.

4 thoughts on “August 18, 2025

  1. Sharon–I love your vision and I’d love to work in and for it! I also love the way you nested it within the fabric of your daily life. I agree that this expansion into corporations would so enhance WFD’s success and play into the needs of the corporation for cost reduction and reputational (stock price!) enhancement. I see the potential for this program to be run very similar to employee engagement programs. (I was part of a team that expanded Qwest’s [Century Link’s] Employee Engagement program from 8000 to 25,000 employees–both union and non-union). I’m curious what parts of your 2025 vision are present today? what are some of the intermediary steps to get from here to there? what might some of the obstacles be? (For example, ongoing executive sponsorship is essential! In light of an imminent merger, our Qwest employee engagement “cost center” was eliminated within a year).

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  2. First off, I love RoomRater 🙂

    “all of the workforce development orgs have an ownership stake in our business. Individuals who participate in our design sessions get “royalties” for the value they create and insights that we use.” I really like this vision. Have you heard of the Aspen Institute Job Quality Fellowship? One of the current fellows, Tomas Duran with Concerned Capital, does employee ownership conversions in California and has shifted the way I think about job quality in the employee ownership space. The fellowship may be a good fit for you as you explore moving in this direction.

    This phrase also resonated with me: “Sleep the sleep of the righteous.” I know you are seeking to do work more in line with your values. This vision demonstrates what that may look and feel like. What action can you take over the next 12 months toward this five year vision?

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  3. I love this vision Sharon!
    It is a deeply impactful way to put your skills and experiences to work.

    Is there anyone else doing this work already? Who are the other players in this space?

    One thing that struck me is whether it’s possible to push a little further on the ownership stake that the individuals participating in the design sessions could have. Why do the payouts to the design session participants need to be small? Could these folks be owners along with the workforce development agencies? How can you model not just good jobs, but actual shared ownership for the companies you are working with?

    There are so many programs that extract the knowledge and experiences of working and marginalized folks in order to serve them back solutions. Why not have them be inside the enterprise in a more integrated way? Maybe you could find a partner to start the enterprise who has experienced some of these barriers and knows the landscape experientially?

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    1. Thank you for this push, Anna, both here and in our conversation last week. I hadn’t thought of this until you brought it up – shows again how i need to “decolonize my mind.” Definitely now thinking about the participants as consultants and my potential role here as a facilitator to make the enterprise function as a business. Definitely not the person with the expertise in the subject matter.

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