Monday, April 30, 2012

The Darwinian Workplace Harvard Business Review (2012) 25-28

Dale Carnegie told a story about the steel magnate Charles M. Schwab. One evening, to incentivize the workers in a mill, Schwab wrote on the floor the amount of steel the day shift had produced. Seeing the number, the night shift worked hard to top it, marking its own figure down. Soon the two shifts were vying for bragging rights, and production soared. “The way to get things done,” Schwab said, “is to stimulate competition.” Servers at the Massachusetts-based restaurant chain Not Your Average Joe’s don’t find numbers chalked on the floor, but they always know how they’re doing relative to their colleagues, owing to a cutting-edge workforce management system. Rather than forecasting demand and staffing a restaurant accordingly, as most systems do, the software tracks waitstaff performance in terms of per-customer sales and satisfaction (gauged by tips). Highly rated servers are given more tables and preferred schedules. By shifting work to its best servers, the restaurant hopes to increase profits and motivate all employees.