What we need is a lottery

Published 10:50 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What we need is a lottery

GE Aviation last week hosted an informal get-together for plant supervisors, and human resource managers, at its Batesville facility, and I was glad to attend with the Panola Partnership folks.

People from Winchester, INCA Presswood Pallets, TVEPA, both school districts, and others took part in open discussion, then we enjoyed a tour of the site and seeing the products GE is turning out for the aviation industry.

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The crux of the discussion was the state of our workforce, and how schools, business, and government can combine efforts to mold the available labor in the area into top-notch employees for the industries that drive our local economies.

The cost of labor problems weigh heavily on the bottom lines of these industries, and each of the companies represented have a vested interest in reducing this waste. Hence, the effort to solve labor issues before they adversely affect profits and margins.

Several people commented about the quality of the work produced locally, and no one can complain about the general “likability” of our people. But, the nagging problem of absenteeism continues to plague our stores and factories.

Each company keeps data on the burden that absent workers place on their particular industries. Sometimes a few missing workers will strain production lines a few days here and there, but the problem is often far more costly. Budgets are compromised because of excessive overtime hours, and production always suffers as workers just can’t “meet the numbers” when there is a shortage of hands on the floor.

So, what is the answer? Obviously, a better trained workforce, but to what extent can high schools and job training courses produce a “perfect” employee? State and federal programs already throw millions of dollars a year at the productivity problem, and it often seems like good money after bad.

With these things in mind, and with tongue (partly) in cheek, I make the following modest proposal.

What we need is a lottery. No, not a state lottery, and not a lottery that allows suckers to buy tickets for an (almost) impossible dream ending.

We need a workers’ lottery to help incentivize our labor pool. Funding such an endeavor would be easy, considering all the hundreds of thousands of dollars already being lost due to absenteeism, and overtime.

Put that money up for the workers to “win” with a lottery drawing every Friday afternoon. Let workers earn and collect lottery tickets, based on a few factors that are causing the hiccups in the labor economy now.

Let’s just say workers at participating factories could qualify for one ticket each morning they report to the site on time and ready to work. Give them another ticket at the end of the day if they worked a full shift with no late clock-ins.

With all the costs associated with absenteeism, industry could afford to put up a substantial prize each week if those expenses were slashed because so many people participated in the lottery. An hourly wage employee could win five or six times the amount of his regular paycheck with the lucky lottery ticket.

The more you work, the more tickets  you get, and therefore a better chance at winning the prize.

This would give some workers more incentive to show up.  The people who are already showing up would not suffer, as they would get their tickets each week also. But, it might be just enough push for a lazier employee to haul himself to the plant if there is a chance he will win a good bonus check come Friday.

Shrewd plant managers could take it a step or two further. Worried about overweight employees and the possible burden of their health care later? Let them earn additional tickets with a few pounds lost each week. Just put a scale beside the time clock – step up, punch in, and see what you weigh all at the same time.

Does the editor really believe we can change the workforce’s habits with the chance to win money? Sure I believe it. After all, the same type of system (in reverse) is used all the time by governments to force desired behaviors.

Taxes were constantly added to cigarettes until the extra costs finally began to affect smokers’ attitudes, and many of them stopped buying cigarettes not for health reasons, but because of the taxes.

Likewise on the highway. The editor  (nor you) obey the speed limits solely out of concern for safe driving. Mostly, we obey the posted limits because we don’t care to have negative financial consequences that can result from driving too fast.

Which reminds me, wonder how much a ticket for 76 in a 55 will be? I’m almost afraid to call and ask.