I see mass-manufacturer Foxconn has been pretty heavy in the news for all the suicides of their workers and now they have a solution: higher pay. How American of a solution is that? We’ll buy your happiness. Little do they know they will only make the problem worse because now workers won’t be able justify quitting because they can’t make that much anywhere else.
Pondering this, I had a typical impractical thought. But who knows, it’s “so crazy it just might work” ™. The root problem is job dissatisfaction. Some of it is long hours, some is monotony, but I might speculate a lot of it is a feeling of uselessness. It comes back to the Gung Ho principles. These anonymous, tireless workers don’t understand the good that they are doing. They don’t know the joy they are bringing to someone by assembling these products.
It’s not just Foxconn, it’s totally rampant. It could be the #1 American export. Automobile builders, apparel assemblers (shoes, shirts, jackets), farmers, everyone that makes something for someone else, they are all anonymized by a company name. When people buy something, they say “Apple made this” or “Nissan built this.” No, actually, people made these things. We’ve forgotten that people do the work. Take a look at some of the stuff around you. People made those things for you. Even if people didn’t make them, they maintained the machines that made them.
So, how to get this human connection back? What if every automobile running through the assembly line had a “Thank You” card on it that each worker would sign as it went through their post? What if an assembly worker would slip a note into each device they assembled stating “This was assembled by Dave Smith. Let me know that you enjoy it at http://www.companyname.com/feedback/DaveSmith.”  You offer a chance for the worker to connect with the customer.
And another thing happens as well. You create accountability. And it’s personal. Can you imagine how people felt putting tags that say “Inspected by #11”? That’s all I am, is a number. If that’s all you are, who cares what quality of a job you do? But putting your name to your work is incentive to do a good job.
Of course, maybe I’m wrong. The current generation seems to have no problem posting stories of exceeding stupidity and embarrassment on Facebook, tying it directly to their names. Maybe there is no value anymore to “having a good name.” On the other end, maybe it’s completely impractical for a large company with massive turnover. Then again, maybe there’s a reason for the massive turnover. Hmmm. We can’t implement this idea because of the turnover cost, even though the idea might improve the retention rate.