Friday, March 25, 2022

From the Management Side: What’s Been Happening, and What it Means for Workers

While the pandemic has influenced almost everything businesses have been doing in the past year, it has not been the only source of change.  Stories about how companies have been operating, except in ways Covid has driven, have generally been pushed behind the scenes, but reality has marched on.

While slightly mistitled, Nancy Collamer’s August 5th MarketWatch “Four hiring trends you should know about and how to put them to work for you,” while describing mostly long-time truths, still provided a good look at what’s been going on there.  Her first point, that “the hiring process is increasingly automated and virtual,” calls for not only candidate countermeasures but for realizing that some strategies, such as using “referrals to network your way into jobs,” are as important as ever.  It’s nothing new that “interest in remote work remains strong among many workers and employers,” and more and more information is available on how to get such positions.  The third, “diversity and inclusion have moved to the hiring and employment forefront,” could have been written 40 years ago, and, while the same could be said about the fourth, “it’s still not easy for older job seekers,” the latter has been worsened by accelerating working-technology change, meaning that older candidates, in particular, should emphasize their specific software experience areas. 

What skills do hospitality workers now need?  How about conflict resolution?  That they do seems clear from “Restaurants and hotels push back against the uptick in customer tantrums” (Clare Ansberry, Fox Business, September 28th).  Not fresh but still noteworthy, this piece focused on hostile customers who became more common during the pandemic, and are now not tolerated as much.  One restaurant owner found that a simple message on ordinary paper, posted on the front door, saying “BE KIND OR LEAVE,” helped.  And people will try more than that.

On September 29th, Peter Coy of The New York Times asked a good question: “Why are fast food workers signing noncompete agreements?”  Those accords, once reserved for people with high-value proprietary knowledge, have spread disturbingly in the past decade, and, as here, are often used to shackle workers rather than to maintain information security.  Although many such agreements may be invalidated in court, we are not far from nationwide restrictions on when they can be imposed.

We move on to something which management keeps trying, despite no sustained financial success, with “Will Rapid Grocery Delivery Change N.Y.C.?  Look to Berlin,” by Margot Boyer-Dry in the February 11th New York Times.  The currently-attempted model discussed here involves not runs from stores but from “new grocery warehouses, or “hubs,”” which have drawn complaints in that German city for their “noise and congestion,” and may violate zoning rules.  These services have many similarities with Uber and Airbnb, from a lack of profitability to the looming question of whether they could be even nominally successful if they were held to the same regulations as more established enterprises.

“Do Today’s Unions Have a Fighting Chance Against Corporate America?”  Here is another worthwhile query, addressed in article form by E. Tammy Kim on February 17th, also in the Times.  For decades, unions, with their heyday long in the past, have found their growth in representing governmental employees with nonconfrontational management, but have recently gained relevance as intense personal controls, comprehensive monitoring, and daunting production requirements have appeared at the likes of Amazon.  Unions have greatest appeal when employers are abusive or bordering on that – with such behavior on an upswing, they can regain much of the value they had when workers who died on the job were often denied even that day’s pay.  We should not expect labor organizations to resurge in pleasant, safe, reasonably fair workplaces, but when that is threatened, it is appropriate for them to return.

Finally, on the topic of that gargantuan concern, we got “Here Comes the Full Amazonification of Whole Foods” (Cecilia Kang, The New York Times, February 28th).  Amazon bought that grocery retailer “more than four years ago,” and didn’t say much about what they were doing with it for about three of those, but now is pioneering a system where “hundreds of cameras with a god’s eye view of customers” can see exactly what they pick up and walk out with, and bills them later.  The technology is not perfected yet, was only at press time at two locations, and uses “deep-learning software” to improve it, but, if management likes the results, will spread, not only to other Whole Foods stores but to competing chains.  It does, indeed, mean even fewer checkout personnel, but also cost savings that could be passed along.  We’ll see – and that, as well, goes for everything else in this post.

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