Friday, July 17, 2015

Employees: cost or asset?

Companies pay a range of wages for what are essentially the same jobs.  For instance Costco pays higher rates than Walmart, and other retailers fall in between (with no doubt some even higher than Costco and others even lower than Walmart).  This violates the infamous "law of one price" in economics, so there must be something else going on.

I recently came across the research of Sloan MIT professor Zeynep Ton in a NYT column by Joe Nocera that addresses this issue.  Professor Ton has focused on supply chain management practices in retail.  She found that companies do a great job of getting product from China (or wherever else it is made) to the store.  But once the product hits the loading dock, things often went haywire.  The product needs to be in stock in the right place of the store, and apparently that is easier said than done.

Ton compared execution success to HR practices and found that companies that paid bottom dollar and provided little to no training were the ones that were having the most difficulty; the results were published in Harvard Business Review.  Her conclusion: "investing in employees can boost customer experience and decrease costs."

With more retail companies raising wages, it will be very interesting to see how the remaining low wage employers in retail react.

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