This Week's Herman Trend Alert

HR in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

January 29, 2003

Custom and Specialized Production

A subtle shift is underway in the American workplace. The consequences of this shift will influence education, training and development, work assignment---domestically and globally---the demand for skilled labor, and the kind of work that is performed by companies in the United States and in other countries.

Over the past decade, many lower-skilled jobs have been moved from the United States to other countries. We've seen the movement in the automotive, furniture, textile, and apparel industries, to name a few. These jobs can be performed more inexpensively in other countries where supplies of low- skilled and unskilled are plentiful. With lower living standards, workers can afford to work for lower wages than Americans, making the economic work- assignment decisions easy.

American employers are encountering shortages of skilled workers, forcing them to consider alternatives to using domestic labor in manufacturing and service roles. Skilled manufacturing jobs are going to countries that have a trained labor force ready to perform the duties as needed. A number of developed, and developing, countries like China and Brazil are increasingly investing resources to educate professionals and build worker skills, making it possible to attract more jobs for very reasonable wages.

Service and specialized jobs like daily account reconciliation, error correction, computer programming, engineering, and research are being performed in India and other countries. The assignment of work can now be accomplished on a global basis, thanks to real-time communications and technology transfer. More and more countries will benefit from the ongoing reallocation of work around the world.

The United States may be destined to be a world leader in design, development, and management of production, though the work may be done in other countries. American workers will be engaged in short-run fabrication, custom-building of machinery and products, and specialized work in manufacturing, information management, healthcare, and service fields.

To perform these higher level tasks, employers in the United States will need workers with skills and agility to move comfortably and efficiently from one kind of work to another. The shortage ( of these workers will inhibit American economic growth until the supply is rebuilt and reallocated.

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