Investment or expense?

1 Feb

Once upon a time, a good employee was regarded as an asset.  Training, stability, pay, and benefits were all considered to be investments in a company’s future, for no company is any better than its poorest employee.  A solid team of workers ensured that a business ran smoothly and accomplished its goals.  A worker was expected to be loyal, and companies preferred workers that stayed for their entire career.  In return, companies were loyal, and worked to ensure that their employees were well compensated for their labor and loyalty.  That’s also how they attracted and held those desirable employees too.

Then there was a change in the business world.  Employees became mere expenses.  No longer were they regarded as an investment, but rather a necessary evil.  They were replaced like paper cups, and regarded to have about as much importance.  Employees no longer felt loyalty to their employers either.

We saw a lot of other changes happen too.  Product quality deteriorated, customer service became a joke, and jobs were outsourced to foreign countries.  Not only were the people employed now disposable, so were the products and services they were paid to deliver.

How many companies have any real customer loyalty these days?  How many have CEOs who make many hundreds times the wages and benefits paid to workers?  How does this compare to past eras worker wages versus executive wages?

Once, it was common for a worker to spend twenty or more years working for the same employer.  Today, the average worker has three different CAREERS during their working life.  That’s not just changing employers, that’s leaving a field entirely!  Many companies have a long established policy to discourage workers from staying beyond the ten year mark and even more discourage/prevent employees from staying long enough to retire.  Few employers are actually concerned about employee well being beyond the bottom line in the accounting office either.

It seems that Scrooge has taken over the business world, and maybe the recent economic woes are the visits of the ghosts of the past, present, and future.  It might be time for all of the “Bob Cratchetts” of the world to take notice and start voting with their dollars too, few they may be.

There ARE a few companies out there who try to attract, hold, and even retire the best employees.  Granted, not many of them are major manufacturers of anything.  Some are mom and pop shops, some are small retailers and distributors, but whatever they are…it’s a quarter past time to start supporting the businesses that deliver, both in terms of their employees and in terms of services/products.

It’s simple.  Happy, contented workers deliver better work.  That means that they care about their jobs, they care about the tasks they are assigned to do, and want to do the best job possible, each and every day.  Yes, it’s partly about the money, but it is also more than that.  It’s about knowing that your efforts are appreciated, that your needs are considered, and that at the end of the day, you have a name.  It’s about silly things like a birthday cake in the lunch room on your birthday, about the  boss dropping by when you have an open house when you buy your first home, it’s about someone playing Santa Claus for the kids at the company Christmas party.  It’s about realizing that those employees are not automated machines that deliver on demand, but people with real lives, problems, joys, and sorrows…and accepting them.

It’s also about employees being encouraged to give their best each and every day too, about how to improve their job performance with training and education, about how much more valuable an employee is after a decade of work.  It’s about not calling in sick because you drank too much over the weekend or want to go skiing with your buddies too, because not showing up means  your coworker has to do your job for the day.  It’s about caring about your job performance, because it’s more than just a job to get a paycheck because you get a lot more than just the paycheck from the job.  You get appreciation, respect, consideration, camaraderie, satisfaction, health care, dental care, vision care, child care, education, training, physical fitness…and you like it.

We hear all the fussing about Obamacare, about the health care industry crisis, about the economy, about our lack of a manufacturing base, about how everything is being outsourced, but what are we doing about it?

When I was a child, vacations were a big deal.  Most employers offered health insurance.  There were sick days.  And, you could buy American made products.  Yeah, we didn’t have as much “stuff” and it cost more to buy what we had, but it lasted…a long time.  It worked.  When it broke, it could be fixed.  Warranties were worth more than merely being a piece of paper.

Today, if it breaks, we throw it out.  Warranties require consumers to jump through hoops and beg and plead with some foreign customer service agent.  Our products are made in countries we can’t even find on a globe half the time.  Technical support, even from American based companies, requires us to be able to decipher thick accents and dense mindsets to understand what we are trying to convey to them…as they sit in a foreign country that doesn’t have the same worker protection as American laws provide.

We have products we don’t want shoved down our throats, and can’t buy things we want to and used to be able to legally purchase.  The economy is going down the tubes, unemployment plagues most regions, and consumers are pinching each and every penny.  We’re looking at an election year, and the candidates are causing national disgust and aggravation at the choices between rocks and hard places.  The Occupy Movement is losing steam, due to a lack of leadership and centralized spokesman.

We know there is a growing problem with the so-called middle class.  It’s poorer than ever, and increasingly unable to maintain the status quo.  Owning a home is a dream that has been shattered for many people.  The richer have grown richer but the middle class is sliding further towards poverty than ever before.  We look at our politicians and realize that they are coming from the uppermost reaches of economic class in the United States.  How can we honestly expect any of them to actually represent Middle America?

It’s time to start voting with  your dollars.  Buy from companies that support their employees and communities, and boycott those who merely skim off the cream to pay their CEOs and shareholders, with no regard for the environment, the economy, the community, or their employees.  Demand customer service, and don’t stop demanding it when it becomes a bit inconvenient.  Start demanding better representation for Middle America from the politicians who have made representing us their career too, and vote out of office those who fail to hear their constituents.  Change doesn’t happen by merely waiting for it to happen unless you want the weather to change!

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