The Rising Tide: The OneTen Project

2020 was a challenging year for the Black community. 

COVID-19 reared its ugly head, disproportionately impacting the economic, emotional and physical well-being of Black Americans. A recession followed, worsening the employment outlook for Black workers. 

Also in 2020, a wave of civil unrest rocked the nation triggered by the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer and the shootings of Ahmaud Arbery, Daunte Wright, Breanna Taylor and countless other Black individuals. 

“This series of events moves people. In fact, they continue to move people,” says Maurice Jones, CEO of OneTen. “Many folks began to ask the question that a lot of us had already asked and answered – is America as good as we think we are and as good as we can be? A handful of corporate CEOs answered that question. No, we’re not as good as we can be and the private sector can do something about it.”

The Founding of OneTen

Days after the murder of Floyd, a group of executives, including Ken Chenault, Chairman and Managing Director of General Catalyst and former Chairman and CEO of American Express and Ken Frazier, Merck’s Executive Chairman of the Board and former President and CEO, pledged to ‘do something about it.’

In December 2020, nearly 30 companies, including Merck, American Express, IBM, Target, and Whirlpool, founded OneTen. The goal of the coalition is to upskill, hire and promote one million Black Americans in ten years into family-sustaining jobs that provide opportunities for advancement. 

“We can do something about the disparities that are tearing this country apart,” says Jones. “The private sector can lead and where we should look is jobs because that’s what the private sector does better than anybody else.”

Almost one year later, OneTen is making progress toward improving the outlook for Black families for future generations.

“We effectively started in March of 2021. From March of 2021 to September of 2022, this coalition of now 70 plus companies hired and promoted over 73,000 Black workers that don’t have four-year degrees into family-sustaining jobs,” says Jones. “It is off to a robust start.”

Emphasis on Family-Sustaining Jobs

The median annual wage for Black workers is $10,000 lower than that of white workers, according to McKinsey & Company research. Blacks tend to be concentrated in low-wage jobs with less opportunity for advancement.

OneTen defines family-sustaining jobs as positions that don’t require a four-year college degree for a candidate to perform successfully and pay a wage that is sufficient to raise a family. Family-sustaining careers are in various industries, including healthcare, information technology and manufacturing. As of 2021, a family-sustaining wage ranges between $58,000 and $90,000 and more, depending on where you live. 

“The idea of opening up opportunity and creating generational change for folks that maybe wouldn’t have had those family-sustaining wage jobs, it changes the entire economic outlook of our country,” says Kelly Ryan Bailey, Head of Growth and Marketing at AdeptID. The software development company has partnered with OneTen to improve the hiring outcomes for Black talent with its technology. 

“From an organizational standpoint, we believe many people are being overlooked. A lot of companies could be more successful if they could see the true value, the hidden gems available out there,” says Bailey.

OneTen also categorizes family-sustaining jobs as ones that provide opportunities for advancement and have a low risk of being automated. While Black professionals are more likely to be ambitious than their white counterparts, they face high promotion gaps. In addition, Black people are overrepresented in 11 of the 30 jobs most at risk of automation

Removing Degree Requirements 

While a growing number of companies have been eliminating degree requirements because of the talent shortage, 75% of new jobs still require a bachelor’s degree

“Think about all that Black talent that is leaving HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) every year,” says Keith Brown, Director of Community Impact at Randstad (No. 21 on Fair360, formerly DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 companies for Diversity list). “What is happening for those individuals who are three credits shy of a four-year college degree? What does their journey look like? How do they engage in the workforce and create opportunities for their families where they are productive members of society?”

Not having a college degree can hinder Black workers from certain positions and impact their earnings potential. Race-based pay inequities are significant contributors to the racial wealth gap. The average difference in net worth between white and Black families is $143,000. 

“All jobs that pay $40,000 or more, on paper, 71% of them require that you have a four-year degree just to compete for the job,” says Jones. “When you look at all Black talent ages 25 or more in the workforce today, 76% of us do not have a four-year degree. You have a systemic barrier in the form of a credential that keeps folks from earning their way into the middle class in America.”

Instead of using credentials when hiring and promoting workers, OneTen focuses on the competencies needed to succeed. 

“The whole point of OneTen is to create a skills-first culture among our hires and our employers where skills become the dominant factor of success across the entire talent journey,” says Jones. 

Partnerships in Action 

Being a partner employer with OneTen requires a ten-year commitment from a company’s CEO.

“What that means is they’re going to put jobs on the table that pay a family-sustaining wage and don’t require a four-year degree,” says Jones. “Secondly, they’re going to remove four-year degree requirements on jobs where they don’t need it to get the skills they’re looking for.”

Northrop Grumman (No. 20 on Fair360, formerly DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 companies for Diversity list) joined the OneTen coalition in 2021. The defense, aerospace and security company has pledged not only to train and hire Black workers but also to design educational and employment solutions to retain and advance underrepresented talent.

“We continue to invest and engage with trusted partners to grow and support a diverse talent pipeline,” said Melanie Heitkamp, Vice president, Talent at Northrop Grumman.   

Randstad is working with OneTen through its TRANSCEND initiative, which addresses the divide between skills and opportunities and prepares diverse talent for jobs in in-demand industries.

“When you think of it from the perspective of sourcing and screening minority talent into organizations, we recognize that being a talent-focused organization and client-centric was in direct alignment with our corporate social responsibility strategy,” says Brown. “Since we’ve joined the coalition, we’ve doubled-down on that effort.”

OneTen also partners with talent developers – organizations that provide Black talent with wraparound services to support their training and job transition. At the heart of OneTen is its Career Marketplace, which improves hiring outcomes for employers and connects Black talent with jobs, powered by AdeptID’s automated smart technology solutions.

“I am always careful to say this technology doesn’t solve every problem, but it is something that helps humans move faster,” says Bailey. “Once the technology runs through the OneTen eligibility for jobs on their career marketplace, there is a check from a human from the employer to agree or not agree to the options that AdeptID technology has offered them in terms of the appropriate jobs.”

OneTen supports the entire worker by filling gaps in services offered by employers and talent developers. Program participants are provided with need-based services for a limited time, including childcare assistance, financial literacy tips, mentoring support and transportation access.

Attracting and Retaining Black Talent 

Despite the best intentions, research has shown that many companies struggle to build diverse workforces. OneTen’s partner companies are asked to become a community of practice, where they share the best practices for recruiting, retaining and advancing Black talent. 

“When you take transferrable skills and incorporate the appropriate skilling apparatus to support that talent journey, those competencies will be well integrated and aligned for success for those individuals,” says Brown.

Partner companies can meet their OneTen goals in three ways: directly hiring Black talent through OneTen or another channel, upskilling and promoting Black talent within their organization into a family-sustaining job or referring partner suppliers and business partners to hire Black talent.

“We are so excited to see over 70 plus organizations across the country, the largest brands you can think of, then to be able to engage 100 plus talent development organizations,” says Brown. “Never before has talent acquisition been engaged with talent developers in this context.” 

Looking to the future, Jones says he sees the opportunity gap for Black workers improving. 

“The number of companies that understand that skills are better predictors of success on the job than credentials and experience and the number of companies understanding the business proposition and are attempting to build their muscles to be skills first cultures, I don’t think we’ve ever seen the movement of this volume in my lifetime,” he says. “I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing.”