Mantra for success – Productive and innovative workforce
Ever since industrialization started in early 19th century, the industry was always finding ways for improving productivity. More than a hundred years back, economy was a small fraction of what world is exhibiting today and things did not change much over decades. Technology too was changing after a long gaps and it was common for a generation to see little change in their way of life.
The challenges for industry that primarily constituted of manufacturing was about improving the productivity of the workforce. Labour was in plenty as industry mostly needed only hands that would do the given task and do little or no thinking. Industrial revolution moved to mass production and assembly lines that needed even more labour and intense need to regulate the quality of production by training the labour workforce to follow a motion based on time and motion studies conducted by industrial engineers.
It was a very mechanical and boring. Workers clung to their jobs as there was nothing else for them to earn and loathed the working environment that forced them to do things that needed them to behave like machines. Over period of time, they would adjust to this lover level of work needs and reduce themselves to just hands that were needed to do a defined work every day, year on year at the same place without taking any pride in what they did.
New machines and any effort to modernize the process that threatened the livelihood of the workforce were opposed using all techniques including strikes. This continues even today in a small number. It was constant tiff between the management and labour workforce, for reason that stemmed out of the facts that workers did not take pride in their work and the management used the workers as machines. Later, to bring better harmony Industrial relations started gaining traction. Workers too started coming under common umbrella of unions to bargain better deals for themselves.
Workers who took no pride in their work, hung on to their work as they had no option for their livelihood. Over a period of time factories closed and workers lost their jobs and a lot of churn happened as change was resisted from both sides. Since availability of labour was high, management did get their way more often than not even though labour unrest started giving rise to a different kind of socio-political dynamics.
The famous quote by auto manufacturer Henry Ford ‘Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.’ appears very comical today. Those times when customer had little choice, anything manufactured could be sold. Today, even the best product is challenged and a competition to that is ready in no time.
Now, more than a century later the industry is needing absolutely different way of managing workforce. The service sector and even manufacturing sector who now depend on highly skilled workforce have set new paradigms for workforce management. The core reason even after a century later remains the same ‘Productivity’ and a new mantra ‘Innovation’.
Need for productivity and innovation is pushing companies to hire the best, retain their best talent, train their workforce well and create an environment where productivity and innovation can foster itself in a sustained manner.
This is a subject that is close to my heart and I have myself been very active in experimenting various models of bringing productivity and innovation in my own company. In the series of my blog for next few weeks, I will share some innovative ways companies are discovering and redefining new ways of managing their workforce.