Do more with less

Do more with less

The man hour war

I worked 33 years in the supermarket industry and served in upper management for three large chains and two regional chains during that time. The common theme between each of the companies was the manner in which they dealt with rising costs—whether in goods, transportation, administration or whatever.

Always, without exception, labor costs were targeted for cutback. This translated into employing less people who were given fewer hours and provided reduced benefits. It also has resulted in an aggressively adversarial relationship against employees by management. There is little love lost between management and employees in the companies with whom I am familiar. Each is constantly in the process of insistently if not belligerently protecting what they believe is their share of the business.

Supermarkets invest a great deal of money in technology that allows their stores to operate with fewer man hours to accomplish the job. As a result, there is no one in training to assume the position when an experienced employee is terminated, retires, or is injured or no longer available to work for whatever reason.

The easy assumption is that the customer is the one who suffers when all these factors play out within the company, and ultimately that’s true.

But the company itself is the one who really suffers. Lower sales and profits always follow a reduction in man hours.

Of course, lower sales and profits mean that the lost dollars must be made up somewhere else, so the same destructive cycle begins anew—employees have their hours cut back, benefits are reduced and the battle between management and employees continues.

Unfortunately, customers, managers and employees will all lose the war.