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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Emphasis on value of workers vital for
companies, March 9, 2007, 2D.
been just a little more than a century since Henry Ford and
his engineers created and perfected the assembly line. With
the development of the assembly line, all types of products
could be manufactured in quantities and at prices never
before seen in the history of mankind. Assembly line
manufacturing technology ushered in the heyday of industrial
production in the United States and around the world.
metaphor that dominated management thought during the
industrial revolution was a machine metaphor. Organizations
were viewed as elaborate machines that existed to transform
raw materials into completed products. Workers were viewed
as parts of the production machine and as such, were
replaceable and interchangeable. Little attention was paid
to the high-level personal needs of workers—for example,
growth, trust, recognition, affiliation, responsibility,
appreciation, and self worth. The focus was instead on pay,
performance, efficiency, and having a job.
consequences of ignoring high-level needs were that the
workers felt alienated, powerless, unappreciated, and
undervalued. Turnover and absenteeism were often very
high. It was not until the Western Electric Studies of the
1920s and 1930s that researchers and organizational experts
began paying serious attention to the high-level needs of
workers. In those studies, researchers discovered that
productivity could increase when workers were allowed to
contribute input to decisions, consulted on work-related
issues, and permitted to interact with co-workers and form
though it has been more than 70 years since the end of the
Western Electric Studies, too many organizations still cling
to outdated ideas about ways to manage and control their
workers. Many still view workers as expenses rather than
assets. In other words, they see workers as necessary costs
instead of what they are—the actual organization.
people, organizations are simply empty buildings and unused
equipment. It is people who give them life, purpose, and
meaning. Healthy and vibrant organizations are those with
healthy and vibrant workers. As learned from research and
experience, organizations that promote feelings of growth,
trust, recognition, affiliation, responsibility,
appreciation, and self worth tend to have healthy and
Starbucks Coffee is one company that does an exemplary job
of putting an emphasis on its workers. They have built a
successful company around the idea that their people are the
most important asset of the business. The culture, values,
policies, and reward systems are all designed to impart and
reinforce the ideas that their workers, or partners, are the
reasons for their success. Employees return the trust,
respect, and appreciation shown toward them back to the
corporation. Starbuck’s success using this business
philosophy has been tremendous.
saying that “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat
it” holds true for managers and organizational leaders.
Those who hold to antiquated industrial models of control
and management will see the same results as managers of a
century ago. Valuing employees and creating cultures that
promote respect, growth, dignity, and appreciation are ways
to build and run vibrant and successful organizations.
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