Here is an interesting article on the growing labour shortage issues in Singapore. From a productivity perspective, it shows that the labour controls put in place are doing more to hurt productivity than to help it. I believe the idea was that if there was less ‘cheap’ labour then the country as a whole would learn to be more productive. What we are seeing is the opposite. I’ve been to Din Tai Fung twice in the past month and both times there was a queue outside, several empty tables, a lot of tables that hadn’t been cleared and a lot less staff. The staff that was there were just casually walking around with very little urgency.
This is a far cry from Din Tai Fung of old. You could barely get your food in your mouth before they had cleared your table and ushered you out while simultaneously ushering their new guests in. There was a pace to the restaurant and that pace was fast. Now, it is like a turtle on its back, just…slowly…getting….there……whenever………they…………..can.
Where is the productivity? I imagine that Din Tai Fung’s (and other restaurants in Singapore) issues are either not enough kitchen staff to make the food (so why seat so many people when they will just complain about the wait?) or not enough wait staff to serve the food (so why seat so many people who will just complain about the wait?). Either or, it slows the whole process down to a crawl and in my book that isn’t productivity.
Personally, my solution doesn’t have to do with labour. It has to do with mindset. If you create a culture of self-development within the workforce, then productivity is a natural result of everyone stretching themselves to success. It doesn’t have to be a fast-paced mindset, just one that works on constant and never ending improvement. Remember Deming?
Unfortunately, what I see instead is a lot of workers learning to be slow. They are learning to be unproductive. How is that going to help the economy or the workforce?