Throughout the 20th century, Americans became accustomed to working conditions that generally improved over time. Legislation was passed that was favorable to workers, both bettering the work environment and shortening the amount of time dedicated to one’s profession. After WWII, Americans began to fully exploit the benefits of mass production and felt generally wealthy. The large domestic market became the only signficant economic market [by default] for a set of years. Aided by military investments in R&D in alignment with research universities, the U.S. established an edge for itself for at least two decades.
Besides further discussing why this “edge” diminished, or rather changed, I want to talk about what makes a worker productive. Furthermore, how do you even measure productivity?
1) Years of schooling? Where? For how long? Who were the teachers? What did they study? Did their field of study involve “cross-studies” or make that individual aware that they could apply many different fields of knowledge to address a singular problem? Or, to the contrary, was their training extremely specific?
2) Does the hiring firm highly value the quality of education? Do they inticipate spending large amounts of time and funds retraining new hirees? Will they invest in future education for that individual?
3) Should a company measure the productivity of a worker in regards to hours worked? Projects completed? (Keeping in mind the “availability of opportunities” given to a worker to actually be productive.)
4) Does worker productivity decline with time? Is there an optimum point in time when a worker will be most productive in a firm? Do you measure this keeping in mind how long a worker has been in the same firm, or in the labor market in general? Should you also consider their age? Is it fair to not hire a worker because they are too old? Also, if they are too young, you are investing in an individual who has a high probability of leaving your company and applying their adquired skills in another. Is it fair for legislation to “correct” this sub-optimum in the free market, influencing firms to “not discriminate” even if it is “unefficient” for their business?
5) Do employees with more experience hault technological progress? Older employees are most comfortable with generally older technology? How does this inhibit the productivity of the firm? Can this be offset by “life-long continued education”?
5) How does your employee spend their free time. Honestly, this is one of the most neglected considerations of an employer. An employee who is physically there from 9-5 Monday-Friday is not the same an someone enthusiastic about what they do, who spends their weekends and nights furthering their knowledge in a given field. Also, why not do a vices vs. virtues comparison?
6) Do the beliefs and work methods conflict with other employees and/or the employer? Will these conflicts create inefficiencies only for the short term, or also the long term? Can these inefficiencies be offset by future productivity gains, given that the worker stays with the company? [Do these differences make your business stronger, giving you a net gain or advantage?]
7) How do you measure the worker productivity of employees from different countries? Can you put individuals from certain countries in particular brackets? Would giving these brackets a simple “efficiency” figure be over simplistic? Maybe taking a nap in the middle of the day is more efficient because it revitalizes the employee to have more productive work hours in the evening? Maybe eating a large American breakfast also has its distinct advantage? Maybe living above your office so signficantly cuts down on the commute that it changes the work incentives. Are these culture habits necessary or have their own particular ways of increasing worker efficiency?
Do answer any of these questions, one would have to 1) Make decisions regarding all of these questions; 2) choose a sample for which to measure, national, hemisphere, global, etc.; 3) be able to quantify all of these variables and minimize the room for error.
I attended an Avvo webseminar for my work discussing copyrights for pictures used in blogging. Now I have to start purchasing the images I want to use, but I guess it is fair, if you agree with the current patent right laws.