Eroding Employee Expectations

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A recent study cited in The Wall Street Journal on jobs has indicated that American workers have far fewer expectations concerning employment than ever before. The high employee turnover numbers that dominate the employment scene today have become the new normal. The issue worthy of consideration is what would cause employees to have lower expectations from a job, or employment in general. Several decades ago, a job was something that Americans tended to keep for some considerable length of time. The last few decades have meant high turnover as well as insecure jobs for a great number of Americans.

 

Work satisfaction has decreased in the past several decades, as has the length of time employees spend with an organization. It might be that dissatisfaction is a motivator for people to leave organizations, and more people are dissatisfied, so they leave more often. I won’t give the Millennials credit for “re-inventing” the work week or the work day: the nature of work has changed a great deal, but the Millennials are not as influential in that equation as technology has been. In the past, work had to be performed at specific times in specific processes, whereas today’s work, largely the work on computers, can sit until the employee is ready to work on it. Things such as mechanical processes on foods and materials still require the work be performed at certain specific times. When the metal is melted, it has to be poured into the molds. When the food is mixed, it has to be cooked.

 

The growth of white-collar jobs and the application of computers have allowed the work force to juggle hours around, but the Millennials didn’t invent that, they just took advantage of it, and, again, most of the hour-juggling is white-collar work that has extended expiration dates.  Despite the brilliant Millennials and their re-arranging the workday, I still do not see all-night car repair shops, or twenty-four hour bricklayers, painters, electricians or carpenters. We certainly have the technology to perform blue-collar work like bricklaying and carpentry at night with the powerful LED lights now available, but I am not seeing much of that happening, if at all. The skilled trades might start earlier or stay later, but the blue-collar work is mostly day work and within certain boundaries, because again, things like bricklaying and carpentry are process-intensive and certain work has to be performed at certain times, rendering fewer opportunities for getting ahead, and make-up work is usually weekends.

 

The lowered expectations of the workforce might be caused in some measure by the 2008-2009 economic crisis; some workers are just so glad to be employed that any job is worth being happy about. The Wall Street Journal article cites components of employee dissatisfaction as promotion policies, bonus plans, training opportunities, and the performance review policies. Translation: they are expecting less from management. It is a well-known fact that employees who are satisfied are usually happy with their bosses. Employees leave bad bosses and tend to stay with good bosses. Bosses are an integral part of the working environment.

 

The most disturbing fact is of the recent survey is, however, that the employee expectation of bosses and management is not high, if recognition, performance review, job training and promotion policy are considered important. Some wages are creeping up, but job security is low and, the article says, “the idea of a job for life has vanished.” While I do not consider employers obligated to offer jobs for the rest of one’s life, the idea of job security as well as retirement has fallen to new lows. Perhaps the managers in today’s business environment are just dealing with the situation that has been put in front of them. But perhaps today’s workplace could take more measures to increase the feeling that the jobs will be secure.

 

The steelmaker Nucor almost never lays off employees. In the midst of the Great Recession, in 2009, Nucor lost $249 million, and didn’t lay off a single employee. Nucor, by the way, is listed as number 8 among small employers on the Journal Sentinel’s Top 100 workplaces list. Perhaps Nucor knows something that other employers do not. Nucor does, however, change pay rates depending on production, so that wages can fall to $12.50 an hour, and rise to almost twice that. The smart thing about Nucor is that when they need more talent, they still have their workforce. Companies that hire and layoff as well as outsource might learn that keeping the skilled workers, referred to as “talent,” can benefit a company in the long run, long run meaning job security. The steel industry is prone to booms and busts more than other sectors of the economy, but having the talent available means that the firm can take advantage of increases in demands. In a fast-moving economy, a quick response can mean fast profits and the ability to exploit opportunities.

 

Companies do not owe any employee a lifetime job, but many firms must understand that loyalty is a two-way street. The idea of loyalty is that the one to which you are loyal will reciprocate. We’ve all seen the loyal employee who took on the tasks that no one wanted, who cleaned up the messes and solved the problems, only to be dumped at the first sign of trouble. Perhaps this is an issue of character. I see less and less loyalty in organizations, coupled with indifference on the part of managers. Organizations have character, and that character starts with the managers and reverberates through the employees. I know as a manager, when you show loyalty, it often comes back, and loyalty often brings with it the feeling of security. I don’t, however, recall any classes on loyalty, nor any way to measure or quantify it. Napoleon Bonaparte knew almost all of his 1500 officers by their first names. There is something to be said for that.

Comments

Autumn Cote Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:36am
Please note, the second best way to draw more attention to your work is to comment on the work of others. I know this to be true because if you do, I'll do everything in my power to draw more attention to your articles.
 
PS - There is a lot I can do and would like to do on your behalf.
Dino Manalis Added Sep 10, 2017 - 8:37am
Chronic economic stagnation has caused many problems.  People and businesses currently expect tax cuts and GDP picked up to 3% in the second quarter.  There are signs of strength, if trends continue and companies repatriate billions from abroad, employees and the middle class will benefit with higher income and more jobs.  I hope so, we haven't seen much growth in wages and investments since 2000, Trumponomics may prevail!
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 9:36am
Corporations like Apple keeping billions offshore makes me think that Apple doesn't have much faith in the U.S. economy. Managers in the U.S. moved entire factories overseas, indicating to me that the managers believed that the skills necessary to be profitable were as easily available overseas as in the U.S. Of course, the same could be said for executive talent as well. We can move the factories, and pretty soon we'll just use the indigenous talent found in the relocated countries, top management included.  At that point in time, the organization ceases to be a U.S. organization.
Or we could have countries that are deliberately seeking to put people from their country into the top positions, so that they might favor their native country when decisions need to be made. I'll leave it to your imagination what country that might be.
George N Romey Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:04am
Good article Jeff.  Employees are no longer assets but a cost item to be reduced.  We are heading towards a world of gig and contract workers which will destabilize society.  
Bill H. Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:55am
 
Corporations have totally lost touch of what really makes a successful and cohesive long-term operation. It's all about immediate profits and not at all about creating an operation based on teamwork, trust, and all of the other benefits derived from dedicated and challenged employees. I've witnessed the results of replacing full-time employees with contractors in the communications industry. Believe me, more money is spend patching a leaking hull to keep the ship from sinking than sailing the ship.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 1:24pm
Thank you George, thanks Bill. Yes, Bill, it seems that Nucor, which retains talent, is capable of taking advantage of opportunities, while the firms that you have experienced are too busy trying to find the right people when they would never have that expense if they just broke down and paid people to stay. I'm wondering what management textbook that the bosses studied that said temps were the key to success. None that I have read, I can tell you.
Could the lack of success, the erosion of employee expectations, and the U.S. being bested by firms all over the world be the responsibility of the managers? They always love basking in the light of success, but are talented in passing the buck when in the darkness of failure.
Leroy Added Sep 10, 2017 - 2:33pm
Thanks for another excellent article.
 
I read recently that despite Trump's efforts, worker's at Carrier are leaving in droves.  If they are able to retire early, they are getting out.  It appears to be a sign that they have had enough and the job is no longer rewarding.  Gone are the days that Americans define themselves by their work.  I had an interesting conversation with a French colleague in the early 90s.  His observation was that the French work so that they can take vacation.  Americans take vacation so that they can work.  There was a lot of truth in that statement at the time.  I no longer believe it's true.  Or, if true, it is certainly on the decline.
 
My frustrations are that there are too many obstructions to doing my job.  It's death by indicators.  My company has an obsession with indicators.  The intent is good to drive towards a goal, but the result is just another means to put you in your place.  There are global indicators that are out of your control for which you cannot influence.  It's indicators like saving so many millions of dollars, yet there's another indicator for achieving a certain level of investment.  In essence, you are asked to estimate a project spending as little money as possible to achieve the goal.  The savings are how much you cut between there and when the project is approved.  Savings after approval count against you because it is capital not spent.  If you come up with a less expensive way after approval, you keep it to yourself.  So, in your first estimate, you throw in the kitchen sink so you will have something to cut.  You track everything you save so your boss can look good.  It's a joke.  It's global, so everyone has to do it to meet the dollar amount or the goal is not met.  Between death by indicators and design to cost, it makes my job a hell.  If some idiot tells you he needs something and he will only pay $10,000 for it, you are obliged to come up with a design to fit the budget.  Of course, they want a Cadillac.  It makes work frustrating.
 
I'm finished with my rant now.
Bill H. Added Sep 10, 2017 - 3:46pm
 
When operations are steered by spreadsheet numbers alone, all of the factors that keep those numbers high are ignored. The more they are ignored, the more they throw gasoline on the flames that are destroying them. When you finally have no moral, experience, or teamwork left, you fail.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:34pm
The U.S. corporate tax rate is 38.92 while the world average is 22, and corrected for GDP it is 29%, making the U.S. one of the highest taxers of corporations, according to the Tax Foundation, corporate tax rates worldwide. Apple has seen its products expand and expand. If Apple's demand was not expanding, how could they have made all the billions that they are sitting on?
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:37pm
Bill, the "numbers people" have taken over. I have seen so many policy makers use numbers to make every decision, and those decisions were fantastically unrealistic. Many of us have seen the boss who looks at numbers and never looks anywhere else to make decisions, and experienced the grief that comes along with those poorly-reasoned decisions. Thanks to the comments.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 6:38pm
Thanks for the insight Leroy.
Jeff Michka Added Sep 10, 2017 - 7:12pm
So this is the Jeff Jackson take on the economy.  A bit different than ol Geo R's.  Hmmm. You talked a bit about blue collar, but did allude to what will happen when every little subcontractor heads to Texas with a handful of flyers and a website, leaving other markets devoid of trades. The Apple talk is interesting, but you don't mention the use of slave labor in making it.  Now, last I looked, slave labor had very low wages and real crap conditions.  But that's me, I suppose.  No easy answers but even the local bus company is trying to get drivers and is paying an average of $29 an hour to get them.  Has to start somewhere...
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 7:47pm
A recent study cited in The Wall Street Journal on jobs has indicated that American workers have far fewer expectations concerning employment than ever before.
 
Link?
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 8:12pm
US corporates already have about the lowest effective tax rate of any major economy. 
 
So what. The "effective tax rate" only exists because of the many loopholes that corporations can leverage in order to stay competitive. If we want them to stay competitive and close those loopholes, you have to drastically lower the statutory tax rate.
 
Additionally, the way the tax code is structured now, many of these loopholes incentivize corporations to spend their revenues in the current tax year, rather than to save them for investment in new production plans for future tax years. Spending immediately what one earns is a recipe for slow growth and short-term thinking by management.
 
You've been hoodwinked.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 8:31pm
Saint: https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-are-happier-at-work-but-expect-a-lot-less-1504258201
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 8:32pm
Tax rates have nought to do with competitiveness you economic illiterate.
 
Yes, they do, arse-wipe.
 
You're so full of shit.
 
Have you impaled yourself at the bottom of a Turkish toilet yet?
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 10, 2017 - 9:00pm
Now Saint, I deleted John's comments. Please keep the vulgarity to a minimum. Some of my students read these. John is sick. The best we can do for all concerned is to just delete his inane and vulgar comments. If we all just delete him, he might find a website more to his, shall we say, "style." Thanks for your comments too Saint.
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:20pm
"Style" is an extremely diplomatic way of putting it.
In any case, understood.
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:49pm
A recent study cited in The Wall Street Journal on jobs has indicated that American workers have far fewer expectations concerning employment than ever before.
 
No, that is not what the recent study says. Cited by the author of the WSJ article, Lauren Weber, is a survey of 1,600 employees in various lines of work, conducted by a group called the Conference Board.  Their 2017 survey appears to be behind a pay-wall, but excerpts of their 2016 survey are here:
 
A few paragraphs from their July 2016 job satisfaction survey:
 
"The survey results show that in the post-recession recovery period, job satisfaction has made incremental gains each year. In the most recent data, nearly half of US workers (49.6 percent) are satisfied with their jobs. Overall job satisfaction is at its highest since 2005 (see chart below).
Increasing job satisfaction is largely due to labor market improvements and tends to mirror overall gains in the labor market. The rapidly declining unemployment rate, combined with increased hiring, job openings, and quits, signals a seller’s market, where the employer demand for workers is growing faster than the available supply. Young workers especially are benefiting from this—their wage growth has accelerated in recent post-recession years, as has, not surprisingly, their satisfaction with their wages and job security.
 
This year, the job components US workers are most satisfied with are: people at work, interest in work and supervisor. The bottom five job components all relate to evaluation of employee performance and, by extension, how and whether employees can expect to advance in the company: promotion policy, bonus plan, performance review process, educational/job training programs and recognition/acknowledgement. Employers can see there is room for improvement in these job components and can concentrate their efforts on increasing job satisfaction in these areas." [END OF EXCERPT]
 
Nothing about "lowered expectations" there, and I don't think you'll find them in their 2017 survey, either.
 
The bit about lowered expectations is completely the opinion of the WSJ writer, Lauren Weber, who cobbled together some positive insights from the aggregate responses in the Conference Board survey with some less positive stories from individuals mentioned in her article (David Hunt, Peter Bynarowicz, Haley O’Donnell, and a broad opinion by an academic, Peter Capelli, from Wharton). Ms. Weber then brings in unquoted statements from another organization, the Employee Benefits Research Institute, regarding retirement.
 
Weber takes positive statements by the Conference Board 2017 survey regarding a robust increase in employee job satisfaction over the past decade and contrasts them with a statement by the Employee Benefits Research Institute claiming that in 1993, 73% of employees felt they had a secure retirement, while in 2017, only 60% of employees felt that way, and she concludes that the increase in job satisfaction is the result of lowered expectations.
 
She doesn't prove her argument or support it very well.
 
In any case, your opening sentence is simply wrong: the recent study (i.e., survey) cited by the WSJ (conducted by the Conference Board) does not claim that workers have lowered their expectations.
 
It's important to keep firmly in mind that the author of the WSJ article is comparing a statistical survey of 1,600 employees with personal stories from individual workers, which is a clear instance of comparing apples and oranges.
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 10:57pm
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/30/theres-little-evidence-that-cutting-corporate-taxes-creates-jobs.html
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 11:29pm
http://www.nber.org/papers/w20753
To Cut or Not to Cut? On the Impact of Corporate Taxes on Employment and Income
Alexander Ljungqvist, Michael Smolyansky
"We propose an identification strategy that exploits variation in corporate income tax rates across U.S. states. Comparing contiguous counties straddling state borders over the period 1970 to 2010, we find that increases in corporate tax rates lead to significant reductions in employment and income."
 
 
http://www.nber.org/papers/w13756
The Effect of Corporate Taxes on Investment and Entrepreneurship
Simeon Djankov, Tim Ganser, Caralee McLiesh, Rita Ramalho, Andrei Shleifer
"In a cross-section of countries, our estimates of the effective corporate tax rate have a large adverse impact on aggregate investment, FDI*, and entrepreneurial activity. For example, a 10 percent increase in the effective corporate tax rate reduces aggregate investment to GDP ratio by 2 percentage points. Corporate tax rates are also negatively correlated with growth, and positively correlated with the size of the informal economy.**
 
The results show no statistically significant effect of the statutory tax rate on investment but a large effect of that rate on FDI. The effects of effective rates on both investment and FDI are statistically significant and large. The estimates indicate that raising the 1st year effective tax rate by 10 percentage points reduces the investment rate by 2.2 percentage points (average investment rate is 21.5%) and FDI rate by 2.3 percentage points (average FDI rate is 3.36%).
 
The effects of taxes on entrepreneurship are large and statistically significant, and show up with both the statutory and the effective tax rates. A 10 percentage point increase in the 1st year effective corporate tax rate reduces business density by 1.9 firms per 100 people (average is 5), and the average entry rate by 1.4 percentage points (average is 8).
 
According to the evidence we have presented, corporate taxes have a substantial adverse effect on investment and entrepreneurship."
 
[END EXCERPT]
 
[*FDI = "Foreign Direct Investment", which is the amount of capital invested by foreign countries domestically.
 
**The "informal economy" = the black market, grey market, and barter economy; i.e., any part of the regular, formal economy, that is unmonitored, untaxed, and omitted from GNP or GDP measurements. Think of it as that part of the economy that enjoys evading taxes. Thus, the authors' research shows a "positive correlation" between 1) increases in corporate tax rates, and 2) increases in the size of that part of the regular, formal economy that likes to evade paying those taxes; as the former grows, so does the latter.]
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 11:35pm
http://www.salon.com/2012/12/12/the_ceo_who_says_tax_cuts_dont_create_jobs/
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2017/08/24/437625/trickle-tax-cuts-dont-create-jobs/
Tax Cuts Don't Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65-Year Study Finds
John G Added Sep 10, 2017 - 11:36pm
Saint George Added Sep 10, 2017 - 11:54pm
<snark> Hey, arse-wipe-g, you do careful research! </snark>
 
The link to "Tax Cuts Don't Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65 Year Study Finds" has this revealing paragraph about the research that is presented there:
 
"Does this story prove that raising taxes helps GDP? No. Does it prove that cutting taxes hurts GDP? No.  But it does suggest that there is a lot more to an economy than taxes,"
 
Er, uh, so what does it prove? Nothing. It proves what everyone has already known: i.e., taxes ain't everything.
 
Er, uh, but that doesn't mean they're nothing . . . as the two academic links to NBER above prove. You want to take issue with those two papers, be my guest. But I don't think you have the chops — or the balls — to do so.
 
Additionally, "Tax Cuts Don't Lead to Economic Growth, a New 65 Year Study Finds" wasn't written by an economist, but by a lefty journalist at the lefty New York Times named David Leonhardt. His online profile says the following:
 
"David Leonhardt is an American journalist and columnist writing from a liberal progressive perspective. His column appears in The New York Times on Tuesdays, and he also writes a daily e-mail newsletter, Opinion Today."
 
Is anyone surprised that lefty journalist writing from a "liberal progressive perspective" for the lefty New York Times claims that corporate tax cuts do nothing for competitiveness, jobs, investment, or entrepreneurship? No. We shouldn't be surprised.
 
We should simply yawn.
 
See the NBER papers linked above for more sophisticated, robust studies of the matter.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:16am
Giving net savers tax cuts clearly won't stimulate spending.
Tax cuts to the poor, on the other hand, do.
 
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 3:24am
Labour is a cost of doing business. In other words, wages are fully tax deductible.
Thus lowering corporate tax rates will have little to no effect on the hiring decisions of corporations.
This is basic stuff.
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 4:25am
target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/papers/w13756
The Effect of Corporate Taxes on Investment and Entrepreneurship
Simeon Djankov, Tim Ganser, Caralee McLiesh, Rita Ramalho, Andrei Shleifer

"In a cross-section of countries, our estimates of the effective corporate tax rate have a large adverse impact on aggregate investment, FDI*, and entrepreneurial activity. For example, a 10 percent increase in the effective corporate tax rate reduces aggregate investment to GDP ratio by 2 percentage points. Corporate tax rates are also negatively correlated with growth, and positively correlated with the size of the informal economy.**
 
The results show no statistically significant effect of the statutory tax rate on investment but a large effect of that rate on FDI. The effects of effective rates on both investment and FDI are statistically significant and large. The estimates indicate that raising the 1st year effective tax rate by 10 percentage points reduces the investment rate by 2.2 percentage points (average investment rate is 21.5%) and FDI rate by 2.3 percentage points (average FDI rate is 3.36%).
 
The effects of taxes on entrepreneurship are large and statistically significant, and show up with both the statutory and the effective tax rates. A 10 percentage point increase in the 1st year effective corporate tax rate reduces business density by 1.9 firms per 100 people (average is 5), and the average entry rate by 1.4 percentage points (average is 8).
 
According to the evidence we have presented, corporate taxes have a substantial adverse effect on investment and entrepreneurship."
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 4:44am
Apples and oranges as usual.
Saint George Added Sep 11, 2017 - 5:11am
Your namesake, the illiterate arse-wipe-skidmark-g, was the one who averred that "corporate tax cuts have nothing to do with COMPETITIVENESS." Then another john-g, whom I call "skiddy" (in honor of his namesake) moved the goal-post a bit by posting nonsense by non-economists on the supposed non-relationship of corporate taxes to EMPLOYMENT.
 
Guess what? 
 
The more competition there is, the more employment occurs. The less competition, the less employment.
 
And since one of the drivers of competition (aside from the usual, "No government barriers to entry") is innovation — and since innovation is driven by entrepreneurial risk-taking — the relationship between "Corporate taxes" and "employment" should be easy to grasp.
 
But only to normally functioning minds. Those corrupted by MMT would understandably have difficulty with ordinary cause-and-effect.
Bill Kamps Added Sep 11, 2017 - 9:03am
Jeff, economies are complex, so it is important to dig a bit to understand cause and effect.  You speculated that Apple keeps most of its money offshore because it doesnt have confidences in the US economy.  However, Tim Cook has said they do this, because the US would tax that money at a high rate, therefore it makes sense to keep the money off shore.
 
People dont keep jobs for life anymore because the economy  changes rather quickly.  Jobs that I had 20 years dont even exist anymore. 
 
 
Dave Volek Added Sep 11, 2017 - 12:52pm
Jeff:
Good article. And I like the Nucor example. It shows a small part of the world is thinking differently about business models. I believe that profit-sharing needs to a significant part of an employee's earnings.
 
You mentioned something interesting about how many businesses are still running only day-time hours--despite opportunities to get more out of assets by moving more to a 16-hour or even 24-hour production cycle. I used to marvel at the investment made in office towers, yet these assets are mostly empty 16 hours a day. 
 
I think there is a natural tendency for humans to work during the day, then spend the evening with family or recreation. If we don't have that, we lose our ability to be economically productive. Of course there are many businesses and public services that require workers in non-traditional hours. But unless a certain occupation really needs to go there, it's going to be difficult to find talented workers.
 
Another force hindering this kind of change is the nature of the workstation. In your mechanic example, mechanics have their own way of sorting out their tools and parts and little tricks to fixing cars. If an evening mechanic takes over from a daytime mechanic, it just might take him an hour or two just to figure out what the other mechanic was doing. So the second mechanic really isn't that productive by expanding the shop from 8 to 16 hours a day. I think that we would already be using 16 or 24 hour work stations if there were a profit to be made. But we aren't doing it because there is no profit.
 
 
Jeff Michka Added Sep 11, 2017 - 2:25pm
I wonder a poll of all the WB school of economic commenters, how many of you use Apple iCrap? I take it iCrap "users" believe in slave labor and support it by buying Apple crapola...
Tamara Wilhite Added Sep 11, 2017 - 4:21pm
The rise of the gig economy, temp workers and contractors has created a large class of people who aren't traditionally employed, and I wonder to what degree their sense of uncertainty and disposability impacts those who ARE traditionally employed.
 
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 11, 2017 - 4:32pm
Jeff, I own 6 computers and have had cell phones for 17 years. No Apples, ever. As mentioned, Apple is an essay all by itself. Aside from them hoarding billions and not letting it into this country, where it is based, and using slave labor to make it products, I find Apple technology rather sloppy and cumbersome, but that's just me. How, if you had billions and billions, could paying some taxes hurt your firm? is the question I would ask Apple.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 11, 2017 - 4:35pm
Tamara, I am guessing the gig economy is not working very well for those workers, and I also think quite strongly that they are unhappy with their  jobs. The example if Nucor was showing how a company could keep a full staff and respond quickly to market changes and demands. As also mentioned, I have never studied any business textbook that suggested hiring temporary people when you need them and then letting them go.
Jeff Michka Added Sep 11, 2017 - 4:42pm
Jeff Jackson sez: I find Apple technology rather sloppy and cumbersome, but that's just me.- Spot on, although until the slave labor became associated with Apple, it was expensive gear and oft redundant in unpleasant ways.  Good for you staying out of the Apple ecology, Jeff.
John G Added Sep 11, 2017 - 9:04pm
I'm no fan of Apple but if you have a Windows PC, any HP stuff, anything with an Intel processor, any smartphone of any brand, you can't really claim any moral high ground I'm afraid.
Right down to the few grams of coltan that has been stolen by western corporations in a genocidal war of their making in the DRC.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 11, 2017 - 9:36pm
Dave, I was thinking that if the mechanics found night work as more convenient, then they could just be  short-term overnight assigned tasks like changing out tires or shocks, those sort of things.
 
Mechanical work is process oriented, as you described, and as such, like the other blue-collar work is not really something that you can address in separate parts, they have to be done step by step. White collar work, such as programs and reports, can be done in sections separately individually. The Millennials do work at unusual hours when it is convenient, but those are the mostly the white-collar workers and the work is mostly computer-based, not a disassembled engine or a construction project where certain things must be done in order to continue with the work. 
It is true that office buildings sit idle for two-thirds of a day, for the most part. Most of the office workers aren't into second or third shifts, though there are exceptions. It would be interesting to see what else could be done when the now idle office buildings are utilized to full potential, but given how long this has been going on, there hasn't seemed to be much of anyone who has thought of useful re-purposing (love that term) for empty office buildings all night long.
Leroy Added Sep 12, 2017 - 10:26am
In speaking about the gig economy, it could all coming tumbling down in the next week or so.  I am not predicting that it will.  The global elites have a stranglehold on our politicians.  Most likely, nothing will change, IMHO.
 
It's all over an $586.56 lawsuit.  It's turned into a battle over who is a permanent worker and who is a contract worker.  If the complainant wins, it could reverberate throughout the economy.  I know my company contracts everyday part of the business.  It would be very penalizing.  Uber is quite concerned.  Their business model is based on the gig economy.
Even A Broken Clock Added Sep 12, 2017 - 11:37am
Jeff - excellent article. My own career is a reflection of the changes you describe. I began to work out of college in '76, working for what was then DuPont. I heard stories about Uncle Dupie, representing the paternalistic side of the company. I saw the benefits I received, and the promise of pensions to come sometime in the future.
 
Shortly after I hired in, layoffs began at my site. Still, I remained employed. After 10 years I was given the opportunity to transfer, due to the skills I had learned. The plant I moved to in '86 had about 1200 employees. Over the decades, about every 2 years, came another mandated reduction in force. Still, the benefits kept coming, and I was able to stay relevant by learning new skills in my job.
 
In 1999, I made a big leap from supporting a manufacturing plant, to becoming involved in a business enterprise software implementation (SAP). Within a year after we implemented, another round of layoffs almost grabbed me - but missed.
 
In 2005, the plant I was associated with finally hired the first new wage roll employees in 23 years. Demographics were catching up. Meanwhile, benefits began to be cut. The pension contribution was reduced by 2/3, but we continued to accrue credits. Still, financial engineering seemed supreme. I worked to implement some of the foreign subsidiaries that are used to minimize total global taxes.
 
By the end of 2014, I had had enough, and retired. The last straw was another benefit cut that would affect retirees if you were working in 2015. Shortly thereafter, DuPont and Dow announced a merger that has just come into fruition. Now they are merged right now, but in a year or two will split into 3 or more companies. It's difficult to have any loyalty to an employer when that employer does not exist as an entity any more.
 
I was one of the last of the dinosaurs who could keep employment for nearly 40 years with the same company. No one would do that any more - there's no benefit for them. For me, I was fortunate that enough of Uncle Dupie stayed around to give me a comfortable early retirement.
Jeff Jackson Added Sep 12, 2017 - 11:06pm
Thanks Broken Clock. I think your story is part of the pattern that has overcome American business. The merger of Dow and Dupont is already showing to be one of the worst ideas to come along, rendering both firms no upside, and this was reflected in a Wall Street Journal article that I can remember but I can't recall the specific article just now. I think that American business was successful in the past because of the care and pride that they took in their employees, a notion that has been left in the dust of mergers, activist investors who only see financial reports, and the lawyers and accountants who oversee the mergers. I find it quite sad that only people like yourself see what has happened to American business, and the business leaders of today have no grasp of what really made American firms some of the best in the world. Thanks again.
Leroy Added Sep 13, 2017 - 5:38pm
For my company, the bean counters took over in 1991.  It was once one of the companies featured on the Late Night Show as not likely to survive into the 21st century.  They saved the company, but it is no longer a cradle to grave company.  A hatchet guy started cutting everywhere he could.  He left to take charge of another dying international company with great success.  Our company makes lots of money today.  The more it makes, the more it cuts expenses.  It is no longer the company it used to be.  It is ruthless in its pursuit of profits.  Nothing wrong with that, I suppose.


By 1993, employees started to be cut.  A colleague told me his secret to success: know one thing and know it well.  He was fired.  If your last appraisal wasn't good, you were fired.  Not a good idea in this day and age.  If you weren't working on a major project, you were sent to locations where no one wanted to work.  If you were working on a major project, you were safe.  I survived.  Then they offered a severance package.  You could volunteer for it.  It was said that if you didn't, you may be fired.  If they selected you, you would receive a package.  The intent was to get rid of the older workforce.  If a younger person applied, he would be denied.  It was a way around age discrimination.  I had one colleague who was about 35 at the time who volunteered.  They rejected him, so he set about to force them.  He sat at his desk all day reading magazines with his feet propped up on the desk.  It didn't work.  He tried to make a nuisance of himself.  That didn't work.  He sent a letter to the CEO advising him of the problems he saw with the company.  That worked.  He was given two weeks to clear out.  He sued.  He won.  He got his package.
 
We use to have many contractors who were pretty much regulars.  They are gone now.  If someone leaves, they are not replaced.  The work is distributed to others.  That causes a lot of bitterness.  The factory still uses contractors for everyday work.
 
The handwriting is on the wall.  There is one more major international project to complete.  When done, there will be massive layoffs.  We will start using the standard industrial equipment.  Long overdue, in my opinion.  There is no utility in a widget maker designing and building conveyor systems and equipment.  It was fun while it lasted.
Jeff Michka Added Sep 14, 2017 - 6:13pm
EABC sez: to becoming involved in a business enterprise software implementation (SAP). Within a year after we implemented, another round of layoff-hmmm, EVERY TIME i hear or read SAP, I almost hear of massive layoffs next, or a totally disputed and alienated customer base, weary of software deciding how they will be treated by a vendor.  SAP seems a good product for saps...
Cliff M. Added Sep 16, 2017 - 6:37pm
Saint George, How did those tax cuts in Kansas work out?
Cliff M. Added Sep 16, 2017 - 6:50pm
If tax cuts are to be effective they must be targeted at those who will benefit most from them .As policy since the recession has shown tax cuts to the top have been mostly stored in the cash ware houses and  the Wall Street casino and have had minimal effect in producing GDP growth and job creation. The tax cuts given in Kansas should be a prime example of what not to do and only had the effect of nearly bankrupting the state.