Mark Graban's leanblog.org - Lean Healthcare, Lean Hospitals, Healthcare Kaizen, Lean Thinking, Lean Manufacturing, Toyota Production System

Skilled Worker Shortage – Only for "Bad" Companies?

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CNN – Nov. 22, 2005

How ironic that we're reading about mass layoffs in the “big, old, and slow” companies (such as the auto industry) while there is a projected shortage of skilled manufacturing workers. There's no shortage of people who want to “mow lawns for $65 an hour” as Delphi “leader” Steve Miller complained about in a Detroit News Q&A. The days of high pay for low skill are over, that much is clear. But, wouldnt' Delphi do better (and be more lean) if they didn't view their people as a “cost”, but rather treated them with respect, as intelligent people who can solve problems and add value? (Thanks to Norm Bodek for expressing that idea so well).

This article, from MSNBC, includes a quote about how young people don't want to go into manufacturing. Who can blame them, with the stories in the news? Manufacturing in America is comatose, dying, or dead according to the mainstream media. Who would want to work at a company like GM or Delphi, based on what you read?

The UAW is fighting, rightfully so I think, the large bonuses being paid to Delphi executives. How hypocritical to be talking about cutting workers' pay in half, but thinking you're so valuable as executives that you have to be kept happy.

Delphi has claimed that its “key employee executive compensation” is vital to retain executives during bankruptcy, as well as to “boost employee morale” among its top management.

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I find it hard to believe the Delphi execs couldn't realize how callous that statement sounds when they're ignoring the morale of their value-adding employees. What a way to boost morale!

I'd imagine that Delphi, at whatever size it operates in the future, will have trouble finding skilled workers. Who would want to work for people like this? Delphi is right, maybe, to be offering $10 wages because that's all they'll be able to attract in the future — people who are worth $10 an hour. That will push Delphi deeper into the death spiral while smaller, growing companies, who treat their people with respect will be able to attract quality people, grow, and succeed.

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Last I heard, Toyota doesn't have trouble finding skilled workers. They're beating down the doors at new factories Toyota is building. Go figure.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent book is an anthology titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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