Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by timojin, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. timojin Valued Senior Member


    A new study has revealed that US engineering firms have one supervisor for every seven employees. In Germany the ratio is one boss for every 26 workers. What explains the difference?
    The study, carried out by the Hans Böckler Foundation and released earlier in April, looked at 22 engineering firms in Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the US.

    Each of the companies had at least 50 employees and worked with comparable technology.

    The results of the research showed that on average German firms had 26 employees per supervisor. In Switzerland this ratio was 13.6 to one, in the UK it was 10.3 to one, and US firms had 7.1 workers for every superior.

    And while the German firm with the most supervisors per employee had roughly 17 workers for every superior, the US firm with the thinnest management structure had a supervisor for every 13 employees.

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  3. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    I very much doubt that German workers need less supervision than any other nationality unless there's a marked difference in the number of skilled vs. unskilled employees
    As the article says: “A high standard of vocational training, a high degree of internal promotion, and worker representation are all necessary for firms to be able to have fewer bosses. As soon as one of these elements is missing, the need for supervision rises considerably,” they argue.
    Well yeah ...
    Do you want to employ skilled people who know what they're doing or unskilled people and add the extra cost of employing a supervisor as well?
    There seems to be an increasing tendency for people to qualify as managers and add extra layers of bureaucracy - sometimes "just because" [1].

    IMO it's a self-defeating system because (in my experience) a great number of managers think their job is micro-managing (and in most cases they're not qualified at, or experienced in, the job that the workers are doing) and that leads to bad decisions and bad work.

    The article goes on to say “Solid vocational training creates qualified workers who need little guidance or control. And because highly qualified employees take on challenging tasks, their level of motivation is higher,” the report notes.
    Well yeah. But "being a manager" seems to be the in thing, and you can't be a manager unless you've got people under you.

    There used to be a poster going round in the 90s that said "What if I train my people properly and they want to leave or ask for more money?" And underneath it said "But what If I don't train and they stay?"
    The message being:train your employees because those that don't leave will be better workers.

    But having a lot of managers allows you to have untrained workers and keep their wages down.
    Apart from anything else, NOT training workers is short-sighted for the national economy - but then again, when they're out of work they're STILL unskilled and a new employer can claim that because they're unskilled they'll only get a low wage.

    1 A friend of mine is in a situation where there's 3 workers, 1 direct manager and then the manager's manager. And whenever the budget is tight the workers are the first ones on the list to be made redundant (despite being on less than half of a manager's pay).
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  5. danshawen Valued Senior Member

    Peter Drucker's "corporation of the future" model explains the difference. The R&D division of the corporation where I worked for 22 years (the former COMSAT laboratories) was organized after Drucker's model, which was also used by General Electric. The idea was to permanently REMOVE MIDDLE MANAGERS from the corporate structure, and organize the engineering staff into tight specialist groups, the way that a modern hospital or a symphony orchestra operates. Except for the question of how to manage the pay scales, this model worked beautifully, and I don't know any specialist group the whole time I worked there that would disagree.

    Of course, when Lockheed Martin took over the corporation after a bad merger with the company that was rebuilding the Greenbank, WV radio telescope (formerly the UMd radio telescope, which was destroyed in a windstorm, the corporation was left flat broke. But this was largely the fault of a CEO whose signature as well as management style rather strongly resembled that of Donald Trump. Middle managers, mostly ex military, were added back into what became Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, and all but the regulated telecom part of the corporation abruptly was folded by Lockheed.

    Corporations organized with an inner layer of middle management are by far less efficient by far than corporations that do not have that extra layer, which is basically only there for the purpose of relaying messages between the lower echelons of corporate staff and the upper tip of the management isoceles triangle. American corporations are noteworthy for ignoring Drucker's model when organizing their workplaces, but elsewhere (Germany and Japan, for instance), the model was taken to heart and continues to be a source of corporate efficiency that keeps on generating profitable returns.

    No place I ever worked before or since has provided a higher morale environment for its technical staff than Comsat Labs. The technical result was hard to undervalue, but that point was totally missed by a CEO more interested in building Hockey and Basketball teams and stadiums. We who were the technical staff never bother to invite him to any reunions of the company he ruined.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
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