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Why Cheap Labor is Like the Standard American Diet – Junk Food

by | Mar 2, 2019 | General Business

Americans (I am one) love a bargain. Actually they obsess about getting sweet deals knowing full well that the cheap purchase is probably too good to be true (isn’t it always?.) Americans purchase cheap products from China, cheap products from Walmart and loads more from the Dollar Store. But cheap does not end there. Americans adore cheap food. Cheap junk food. Loads of it, heaps of it.  So filling until it isn’t. 

Super-Size Me!

The more the better. Super-size, buy one get two free and so on. Not surprisingly Americans have garages and rented storage units loaded up with essentially useless crap that they are holding for fear of missing out and the cognitive dissonance that comes from tossing stuff you never needed to buy in the first place. Even less surprising is many Americans are carrying around their low cost junk food meals around their waists.  Heart disease and diabetes are at record highs now.  Cheap stuff and cheap food is weighing Americans down in so many ways.

But wait!

That’s not all that Americans love getting and holding for cheap. Now they love cheap labor (mostly from India, Philippines etc.)  If American businesses can’t import cheap labor (via H1B) then they ship the processes overseas.  Just as much as cheap stuff and cheap food sounds too good to live without so too is this cheap labor thing. I have sat in meetings listening to folks who are charged with marshaling  American companies’ resources as they chomp at the bit to find another cheap resource to bring on or find another monotonous task/process to ship offshore for the sheer joy of getting more cheap. The bragging rights of being able to cut out the grass fed beef and replace it with corn fed beef. What a bargain. 

We Want it All!

After all, if it is cheap, America needs ALL of it. So just as food that is so cheap it should be tossed in the waste bin, so too are there so many cheap resources who are not qualified to be in companies yet they are hired due to Americans’ obsession with cheap. Processes that have no business being continued are not fixed or remediated, but rather kept on in order that the US company might get some strange feel good trophy about being able to “offshore” tasks. You see, if you get rid of the useless process all together then you don’t get recognized for moving  X, Y and Z processes/tasks offshore. 

Junk is Junk period!

Junk food is bankrupt energy for the human body, junk products is stuff devoid of any usefulness, and cheap labor (onshore or offshore) amounts to just one more thing Americans can buy in bulk that serves no overall purpose. Yes you can feed (fill up) a family of 4 with a bucket of KFC chicken, but that does not mean that you have done any sort of good deed for the day since you are causing them ore harm than good.  Using unqualified, half baked resources to run companies is just more of the same. 
If the goal for the stewards of American companies is to feel good about the joy of buying cheap labor just as the joy of  buying and eating junk food, then it is quite clear that American companies will be quite successful at loading up.  Americans know clearly that the skills are not there. This resource pool breathes, walks and talks but it is after all cheap. And there is not an American alive that does not know how to recite the old adage “You get what you pay for”. 
Gartner research has shown that if you own an application for 15 years, the cost of the initial project will be, on average, 8% of the 15 year “total cost of ownership.” In other words, 92% of the cost of an average application occurs after the project has finished as “maintenance.” (  

Rule Change?

Oh wait, did that rule change? Is the new rule that you get great stuff for almost nothing whether you buy onshore or offshore? Americans know that they should not be buying all that sh!t on Black Friday, Americans know that they should not be eating all that junk food and Americans know that buying cheap labor is just one more cheap thing to load up on.
And yes, just as is the case that you are hungry again almost immediately after eating junk food (so you eat more of it), cheap labor is the same thing, it is not so great so you need to buy more of it. How many cheap resources does it take to replace a single historically qualified resource? The answer? Loads, heaps. 

Where’s Steve?

Every IT Dept used to have a guy named Steve, who was a bit awkward, but whatever you asked him to do he grumbled about then sorted it out in no time. Now Steve has been replaced by cheap labor and loads of it. Nice pleasant, friendly, not awkward, and sugar coated low cost labor who doesn’t have a single member among them that can do a quarter of what Steve could do.  We all remember Steve. In the grand scheme of things Steve was cheaper to keep in the long run. Steve was grass fed beef. Now we have cows eating corn something they were never supposed to ever eat.

Shareholders Unite!

However, it is high time shareholders start asking these same stewards to move away from cheap labor for the sake of feeling good and start focusing on REAL process improvement (which means getting rid of about 40% of the current steps in the processes held over from the 1950s that add no value.)   When companies implement RPA the first thing that goes is the fat that is built into 70 year old processes. Why replicate dumb in software/AI?

We Scammed Ourselves

We Americans were not scammed, we did not have the wool pulled over our heads. We lied to ourselves about how great it will be to get something for next to nothing. We KNOW junk food is bad for us. Yet we can’t seem to get enough of it. There is no bargain in this cheap labor construct and it is doing much more damage to companies than any good yet I wonder if shareholders can find a way to get the stewards back on a healthy diet of good value hires.  You can reduce costs to ZERO, you are just out of business. Good costs are good for business. Junk food is not.

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