There seems to be a growing movement in manufacturing, and in other industries, to recognize employees as assets. Consequently, companies are making efforts to protect and grow those assets and, more to the point, keep these assets engaged in their work so they are less likely to seek happiness at another company.
While it would be nice to ascribe this apparent change of heart to high-minded application of basic interpersonal understanding, reality for the most part is probably more pedestrian. My guess is we’re looking at a classic case of supply and demand at work here. Too many jobs are chasing too few workers. This is especially true in a higher technology arena as found in metalworking industries.
What astute companies are beginning to realize is that workers today are often motivated by more than money. I’m sure this has always been true, but for the most part conventional wisdom has preached “give them higher pay” and their hearts and minds will follow. I think that myopic view is much less relevant to the modern employee/employer relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, pay is important. However, it’s also a reality that in addition to quantity of dollars, workers are seeking quality of work as well. And they have choices as to where they ply their trades.
Ford and other companies recently announced that they would provide employees personal PCs and Internet access at home. These are ostensibly gifts or a bonus, if you will. Some wags speculate that these supposed perks are really a back handed way to get people to work more at home, in other words, put in more hours.
Maybe, but my bet is that the people at Ford and these other companies are ahead of the curve in understanding that ties that bind an employee to a company are often more than just a paycheck. To be competitive in the people market, a company has to do more to woo and keep good employees. Therefore, a PC in every pot is quite simply good employee relations. It’s a benefit. If a few e-mails get answered on a Saturday morning, that’s OK too.
Too often, companies are like armies. They are well prepared to fight the last war. It’s important to understand that the people attracted to manufacturing have a lot going for them in terms of where they want to work. It’s a new war for good skilled people, and the winners are companies that understand and treat their people as valuable assets rather than cost and overhead.