May 31, 1995
High performance workplaces state's best chance to compete Labor-Management Council tells Governor
America's traditional manufacturing and service delivery systems "are ill-
equipped" to meet world competition, says a business, labor, and government
panel appointed to advise the governor.
The best way for Wisconsin to continue providing good-paying jobs and keep
unemployment low is to turn its offices, sales shops, and factories into
"High Performance Work Organizations."
That is what the Wisconsin Labor-Management Council recommended to the
Governor today in Milwaukee at the conclusion of a review of best practices
in Wisconsin firms. The 19-member council, appointed by Gov. Tommy
Thompson, provided a detailed blueprint for achieving High Performance Work
Organizations in a 22-page report.
The Wisconsin Labor-Management Council is co-chaired by Carol Skornicka,
Wis. Secretary of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, and Ted Hutton,
director of human resources at Allen-Bradley Co., Milwaukee. The third co-
chair, Jack Reihl, President of Wisconsin AFL-CIO, has retired.
In the new international and technology-driven economy, how work is
organized will determine success more than short-term, "bottom-line"
thinking. The Council said Wisconsin can best succeed"not by trying to
underbid on cost rote-labor, low-wage states and nations" but by
emphasizing high productivity and high-quality goods and services. The road
to the goal leads through High Performance Work Organizations.
"To meet foreign competition, keep pace with rapidly changing technology
and rapidly shifting consumer preferences, we must reorganize our
workplaces in order to develop and use the creativity, ingenuity and
problem-solving skills of our employees," Skornicka said, paraphrasing the
The Council recommended:
- Promoting public awareness of the effectiveness of high performance workplace organizations.
- Granting businesses that use such practices priority in receiving assistance from the stateís economic development and job training programs.
As part of its research, the Council visited five existing High
- GE Medical Systems in Waukesha, September 1993;
- Chrysler Kenosha Engine Plant, November 1993;
- John Deere Horicon Works, January 1994;
- Menomonie Area School District, November 1994; and
- APV Crepaco, in Lake Mills, March 1995.
- Modeling regional training partnerships after the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership in the Milwaukee metal working industry.
- Expanding membership of the Wisconsin Labor-Management Council to include the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin to reflect their role in supporting
high performance through training.
- Automating the Department of Developmentís information clearinghouse of technical assistance and training resources, including loans, tax credits, and grants.
Eight characteristics of a High Performance Workplace:
- Labor and Management cooperate;
- There is a commitment to quality improvement;
- The organization is decentralized and workers are empowered to develop the means for reaching business objectives;
- Jobs are flexible and work is organized into comprehensive processes instead of discrete tasks;
- Worker skill training is continuous;
- Technology does not drive the work process but rather is used to help workers perform their jobs better;
- The emphasis is on coaching workers rather than disciplining them.
- Pay is based on skills, knowledge and performance rather that exclusively on seniority.
- Leading the public sector into high performance workplace organizations, with the Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations and the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, in lead roles.
- Supporting the activities of a Local Government Innovation Center.
- Encouraging organizations that are committed to technology innovation and transfer, such as:
Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity
Wisconsin Centers for Industrial Competitiveness
Wisconsin Workplace Training Program Partnership
UW Management Institute.
UW School for Workers
UW Center on Wisconsin Strategies
Wisconsin Quality Network
Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce
Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership.
- Creating an information clearinghouse for these groups.