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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Fuller

Joseph Fuller | Faculty Profile

David Deming, Faculty Co-director of the Project on Workforce

Joseph Fuller, Faculty Co-director of the Project on Workforce, is a professor at Harvard Business School and co-leads the school’s initiative, Managing the Future of Work. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and co-host of the MFW podcast series.

Fuller's research focus includes skills and workforce development, degree inflation, corporate recruiting, income inequality, U.S. competitiveness, entrepreneurship, and the future of work.

Fuller was a founder of the Monitor Group, now Monitor-Deloitte. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of its commercial consulting operations, working with senior executives and policymakers on corporate strategy and national competitiveness. He has particularly deep experience in industries with a heavy reliance on technology, such as life sciences, ICT and the defense and aerospace industries.




Selected Projects

Managing the Future of Work — Managing the challenges posed by the changing nature of work

Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work pursues research that business and policy leaders can put into action to navigate this complex landscape. The Project’s current research areas focus on six forces that are redefining the nature of work in the United States as well as in many other advanced and emerging economies: Technology trends like automation and artificial intelligence; Contingent workforces and the gig economy; Workforce demographics and the “care economy”; The middle-skills gap and worker investments; Global talent access and utilization; Spatial tensions between leading urban centers and rural areas.

Selected Research

This report uses a novel dataset from CareerWise Colorado, one of the U.S.'s most widely cited youth apprenticeship models. During the program, CareerWise students split their time between a traditional classroom and the workplace, allowing apprentices to earn a wage, while accessing meaningful work experience and debt-free college credits. Our research analyzes the outcomes from CareerWise Colorado's first two cohorts (2017-2018). We find that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of CareerWise apprentices achieve the program’s stated goal of serving as an “Options Multiplier”- they transition on to postsecondary education, employment, or both. Supportive supervisors, job match, industry type, and Registered Apprenticeship status all have a significant impact on retention and completion. Better understanding these factors means that employers can structure programs that lead to apprentice success, teaching students the skills they need for a good job and generating a high return on investment for employers.

We need an ecosystem approach to career navigation. This paper lays the groundwork for the development of an evidence-based, field-informed strategy that will give every learner and worker the agency to pursue fulfilling careers and build a more prosperous economy. Moving beyond the study of individual elements of career navigation, these insights provide a foundation for imaging and improving the system as a whole in service of advancing outcomes for individuals and employers alike.

In the report Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent we studied workers who are often excluded by traditional hiring processes. In this follow-up, we focus on a large sub-set of hidden workers: part-time workers, who indicated in our survey that if their circumstances were different, they would prefer to work more hours. Part-time workers are heterogeneous, with a variety of attributes that prevent them from working to their full potential: caregiving responsibilities, health challenges, and partial retirement, among others. By learning about and accommodating the needs of these workers, firms can encourage part-time employees to take on more hours—and help ease the talent shortage as well as raise productivity.

Post-COVID, many more employers recognize that their employees are juggling work along with caregiving responsibilities—but management tends to lack a strategic response. This is because few employers calculate or track the economics of providing support to caregiving employees. Our research shows that employers who make the right investments in caregiving benefits for employees are more likely to see better outcomes such as higher retention and better engagement.

To close America’s chronic middle skills gap, U.S. employers have to partner much more actively than in the past with local community colleges. Due to waves of disruptive automation, the nature of middle skills jobs is evolving much faster than educators’ abilities to change curriculum. Surveys of educators and employers reveal the disconnect behind this partnership’s underperformance and underscore the need for businesses to take the lead in making it more relevant and effective in three areas: training and education aligned with industry needs, commitments to hire community college students, and sharing of data on the supply and demand for talent.

Selected Media

Job seekers are increasingly confronted with new AI-driven hiring practices. New York's law allows opting out of AI resume vetting, but its effectiveness remains uncertain. Concerns over bias and transparency persist. While AI screening may offer efficiency, opting out could diminish job prospects. Applicants must weigh the pros and cons carefully.

Many U.S. companies are rethinking hiring practices to offer higher-wage jobs to non-degree holders. The Burning Glass Institute's analysis shows a gradual decline in degree requirements, with 51% in 2017 dropping to 44% in 2021. Removing this filter enhances diversity and taps into overlooked talent pools. Yet, challenges persist in changing entrenched hiring habits, requiring clearer skill definitions and manager training. Companies like IBM and Accenture lead by example, requiring degrees in fewer job postings, offering pathways for upward mobility.

Joseph Fuller discusses key drivers differentiating companies in creating worker opportunities, highlighting practices like promoting from within and integrated talent development. He emphasizes the indirect costs of high turnover and the need for companies to prioritize upward mobility for retention. Fuller expresses concerns about the financial incentives hindering progress in hiring non-degree workers and the erosion of traditional HR practices. He stresses the importance of real progress in increasing mobility for non-degree workers and highlights the potential impact of AI on skills-based hiring. Regarding community colleges, Fuller discusses the need for reform in program evaluation, clearer data on job outcomes, and stronger partnerships between educators and employers to address the changing landscape of workforce development.

The article discusses the shift towards test-optional policies among selective colleges, prompted initially by the COVID-19 pandemic, but maintained thereafter. While lauded as a move towards equity, others argue that standardized test scores offer valuable predictive information about college success, especially for identifying lower-income students and underrepresented minorities with significant potential. Research indicates that test scores are often more reliable predictors than high school grades. Despite concerns about bias and inequity, standardized tests can help create diverse classes of highly talented students when used alongside other factors such as overcoming adversity in the admissions process. Critics worry that the abandonment of standardized tests may exacerbate biases in admissions and undermine efforts to promote excellence and diversity. The article suggests that the polarization of opinions on standardized testing reflects broader ideological divides in American society and urges a return to evidence-based decision-making.

Selected Articles

The rise of generative AI poses significant job disruption in the US, offering both challenges and opportunities. To leverage AI for a more equitable economy, a robust career navigation system is crucial. Historically, technological shifts have disadvantaged marginalized groups. AI can perpetuate this trend or break barriers by providing accurate career information, improving matching between candidates and jobs, and offering personalized pathways to advancement. However, equitable access to resources like career information, skills, social capital, and support services is essential. Policymakers, employers, educators, and philanthropy must collaborate to build transparent career pathways, expand exposure to diverse career options, provide accessible information and services, foster foundational skills, and invest in career coaching and wraparound support. Upholding worker voices is paramount in redesigning systems to ensure AI supports equitable economic prosperity.

Amid ongoing uncertainty and a tight labor market, organizations face increasing risks related to their workforce. Beyond productivity and cost, employees' behavior, alignment with organizational purpose, and upskilling readiness pose significant risks. Many leaders overlook broader dimensions of workforce risk, affecting strategic, financial, and regulatory outcomes. A Deloitte and Oxford Economics survey reveals inadequate preparation among executives to address workforce risks comprehensively. Pioneer companies effectively manage these risks and outperform the market, emphasizing a broad view, leveraging technology for measurement, and tailoring management practices. To improve workforce risk management, organizations must define, measure, monitor, and govern risks systematically, considering internal and external sources. This entails leveraging data, employing predictive analytics, and adjusting workforce management practices for different segments. Effective governance requires C-suite leaders and boards to define the workforce risk profile clearly, refine it frequently, and develop continuous mitigation strategies.

Middle-skills workers — those with less than a four-year college education but more than a high school diploma — make up more than 60% of U.S. workers over the age of 25. These workers are the life force that keeps America’s economic engine humming, but, increasingly, as they enter the workforce they find that they are unemployable, even though companies have a growing number of jobs to fill. Much of the problem, the authors report, stems from inadequate collaboration between employers and community colleges, which represent employers’ largest potential source of talent. The authors offer practical suggestions for improving employer-educator collaboration, and they encourage business to take the lead in doing so, because they know the emerging requirements of work and control the most valuable currency in the labor market — jobs.


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