Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Experience, Shmeerience.

A while back, a co-worker of mine sent me an email saying she'd been "let go". So, drop my dinner and grab the phone. To try to keep the situation concise... The company handed down a "wage adjustment" that basically didn't even meet the inflation rate for the last couple of years. The problem with doing that to my co-workers department is that they see all the raises that everyone else gets. Can you guess which department she is in? So, after seeing $10 and $15 thousand dollar raises for management and then getting slapped in the face for making these managers look good, she went into her bosses office and said as much. Although, she probably put it nicer than I would have been able to. At which point her boss says she was planning on having my co-worker train in her replacement anyway, and if she felt the way she did, maybe she should be looking to move on anyway.

After taking to her, it occurred to me that it's become a rather common story. Some fresh out of MBA school bean-counter somewhere figured out that having a work staff that was all on initial hire pay was much cheaper than having a work force that had been with the company any length of time. Also, the shorter the average worker's been with the company, when you cut back on company insurance and benefits, the less likely they're gonna know what they've lost.

Eff-in brilliant, right?

This way companies don't have to even attempt to keep up a satisfying work place environment. Hell, they don't care. They don't want you around longer than a year or two anyway. Six months to train you, 1 year to figure out how bad the place is, and 6 months for you to train in your replacement. That means they won't have to do more than one raise and then it's back to cheap labor again.

The problem, I see, is one of experience. There are careers out there that the more experience you have at the job, the better you'll be able to do it. Call it seasoning, picking up some intuition, familiarity, whatever. What it boils down to, is there are some jobs that the more experience you have, the more efficient you'll be, the cheaper you'll be able to perform the job.

Take background checks, something that has to be done on every employee hired. An experienced person could, to pick a random number, do the check in 2 working days. A new person might take twice as long or longer doing the same thing. Just from having to look up the procedure or who to call to do the job, whatever. So, say your HR department has to hire 150 employee's per year. That's 300 man-days of work for one experienced employee, according to my example, and even if it only takes half again as long for an inexperienced one, that's 450 man-days for a new person. But wait, there's only 365 days a year, total. That means I'm using half of next year to hire the people I need this year. So, you, brilliant manager that you are, think "I'll hire 2 people to do the job and get it done in half the time. There done in 225 real days". Quicker than my mythical experienced person, you scoff.

But wait, it gets better.

If we both hire our people (I'm naming mine Mabel) at the same starting wage ($30,000) and we both do, for example, a 5% yearly raise. After 5 years, I'm paying Mabel roughly $38,300 per annum. While you're still paying $30,000 for yours. Oops. my poor lonely Mabel is doing the same job that you're paying 2 people to do. So, you're wage costs are actually 60,000 to my 40,000 for that year. No, you can't have my Mabel. She knows her job and, in fact, I can afford to bump her salary come review time by 10% for doing such a bang up job and still have lower overhead than you. And I like her lemon bars she brings in on occasion.

So, my company's widgets are cheaper than yours because my work force, while individually paid more, is more efficient. Creating my widgets in less time and cheaper per unit than you. Eat my widget making dust.

I didn't say who it got better for.

Don't like that example? Think about this every time you climb on board that regional airline. They're hiring those guys, right now, at 600 hours total flight time because their older pilots are moving on as quickly as possible to better paying jobs. The guy in the left seat might have upgraded to that seat in as little as 6 months. Depending on where they did their training, they might have 2 years flying experience when they hire on. That's just 2 cycles of seeing what the weather, controllers, airports, runway conditions can do. And most of that will have been in small single or twin piston engined trainer airplanes. Every time I climb on board one of those jets, I quite probably have more time flying turbine engined airplanes alone than they have total flying combined. Don't misunderstand me. The airlines train their pilots to the highest of standards. But, no matter how good the simulator, there's still a world of difference between shooting an approach to a weathered in airport with an inch of packed snow and ice on the runway and simulating it. I've done it, real world, more times than I like to remember. I can't say the same for the guys on that RJ. If you're stuck on that airplane having to do that, who would you like to try it? What's your safety worth?

Okay, I'm done ranting. And I'm not saying that all industries are like that. There are some, many really, that know the value of experience. Cops never send out rookies on their own. They pair them up with an experienced training officer and then a veteran officer first. Air traffic controllers are required to be mentored, reviewed, and monitored by more experienced shift managers constantly. These are guys who are controllers themselves, not some johnny-snot-nose who got an MBA straight out of high school before seeing a real job. There's just some company men out there that don't look far enough into the situation to see it's cheaper in the long run to keep you employees and keep them happy, than look at some number on a spreadsheet showing "wages paid" at the end of the year.

The lemon bars are a bonus.


Home on the Range said...

You forgot to mention all the jobs going overseas to India and China so we can have cheaper goods, (and massive layoffs in the tech and manufacturing industry) but of course, then the economy BOOMS in India and China, resulting in them using a WHOLE lot more oil, so their consumption skyrockets followed by the world price of oil going way up.

By outsourcing to save somebody some money we've increased our costs probably double what we saved. Brilliant.

aepilot_jim said...

Your right. It just goes on and on. My brains spinning, can I get off now?