As I and a handful of other journalists had a casual conversation with some senior executives from one of the international machinery brands recently, it was interesting to hear about the intricacies of managing production facilities in a variety of countries around the world. Their firm has plants in the UK, the U.S., India, China and elsewhere.
What was most interesting about the discussion was hearing how employee attitudes differ between those diverse countries. One executive recalled a discussion with the manager of the Indian plant about how he was able to keep assembly lines fully staffed, all the time.
In Western Countries, most companies usually have to account for an absentee rate of about five percent, due to employee illnesses or other reasons for not showing up for work. In India, however, the manager of that plant explained it always operated at a 100 percent staffing level.
The executive relating the story to us said he pointed out to the manager from India that people there obviously get sick too. So how is it humanly possible to maintain a perfect staffing level, he asked him. The Indian manager explained by saying when someone doesn’t show up for work, supervisors just open the front gate and let in the required number of other people who are waiting there for an opportunity to get a day’s pay. These other people fill in the staffing gaps for the day.
Recounting his experiences spending time in India, the executive described how many people are slowly moving up out of poverty and looking for a more comfortable lifestyle, and all the things that go with that. “People in those countries have aspirations too,” he noted. “Why would we think they don’t?”
To improve things for themselves and their families, people in this country, that has more than its fair share of poverty, are eager to work and earn some good money when the opportunity presents itself. So if the only way to earn a wage is by waiting outside the front gate of a factory to snag a temporary job, people do it to help improve their lot in life. And those that have full-time work tend to work pretty hard by Western standards to not only keep them but move up the corporate ladder.
“It kind of makes you recalibrate when you get home,” said the executive, noting that many of us tend to get a little complacent about our jobs from time to time.
The point he was making is there are those in other places that are willing to work hard to get the standard of living we in the West often take for granted. Maybe the best way for us to avoid that complacency is to have a chance to look around and see the big picture. If we don’t work hard as well, we may find ourselves overtaken. Opportunities tend to go to those who try the hardest.
Almost as if to emphasize that this principle applies to everyone in business, everywhere, this week I left three messages at a local equipment dealership after making up my mind to buy a side-by-side UTV. But days later after making three attempts to get the attention of a salesperson, I haven’t yet received a phone call back.
Last night I asked my wife if she was in the mood for a trip to the city. “We’ll just drive in and pick one up there,” I said. That dealership may be the only one nearby that handles the brand I want, but I have a feeling there are others not too far away with aspirations of selling me something. I’m going to go find out.
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