Finding Equalibrium

Most major OEM studios suppliment their work force with some type of paid mercenary when the work load is greater than the permanent staff can handle but there comes a time when the percentage of contractors verses permanent staff can sometimes get out of wack. This type of situation not only jeopardizes the programs that are in progress but can also jeopardizes cadencing of future projects due to inconsistent manning levels.

You may be asking yourself, “What the hell is he talking about.” Just picture this situation where the logic behind the plan is to have just key personnel to manage the contract staff, a direct hire, be it a design director, model manager, workshop manager or personnel officer who receives a benefit package such as salary, health care, paid vacation etc, etc. As far as the company is concerned that equates to a reasonable compensation package and a safe seat, a person keeping reasonable contol of the day to day activities.

Now in this scenario the guys that are paid to do the work are employed contract staff, they become the employees of the agency, that is the company that they are vested in not the company that they are presently working for. Therefore at times when the work slackens off the hiring company can terminate contract staff by informing the agency that there is to be a staff reduction and X amount of workers will be let go on a certain date. This you may be saying is callous, unfeeling towards your work force but this doesn’t really come into it, contract workers are for the convenience of the hiring company, an easy way to control a work force without the additional headache of severance pay. That is why the extra premium is paid for a contract worker, mercenary or hired gun, call it what you will.

For the hiring company this is an ideal situation, control of the outgoing monies, flexible head count and the ability to shut an operation with minimal relocation issues. A few directs to pay severance to or offer relocation in the worst case and sell equipment for a penny on the dollar.

In lean times the best case scenario for the contract worker is for the hiring company to retain their services by offering reduced working hours, a retainer as such until a new program kicks in. There is control on hours worked and to a certain degree the amount of money offered for the service, proving to be a good situation for when there is a surplus of modelers and only a few jobs to choose from, allowing the hiring company to keep the more skilled and let go the lesser skilled.

Now this is all well and good when there is a surplus of modelers available but what if all the major OEM’s are jockeying for the more accomplished modelers, they all want the best guys, the ones with the reputation of getting the job done. These guys don’t want a direct job, they’ve been there, they want the best money available plus as many hours as they can get, afterall it’s a short contract and time is money. So now we have a revolving chain of sculptors who will work the short contracts knowing the rates will rise as the demand for skilled labor goes up.

The OEM’s are in a quandary, how will you stem the high turn over rate? Paying the top dollar only lasts until the next company raises the bar. Will program timing be extended or even cancelled, I don’t think so, not in todays climate.

So now this situation becomes a major headache for the person or persons who are responsible for keeping up the manning levels, programs move on regardless of the personnel count but burn out will occur if the manning levels remain too low for too long. Minimal staff puts added pressure on the remaining work force requiring them to work additional hours for the deficit in labor, a short term solution to say the least but bonus days for the contract staff, more hours equates to more money. What is not accounted for is the efficiency fall off as the hours mount up, productivity becomes a major issue.

So what is the answer to the nomadic nature of a contract employee? To be honest there isn’t any. The best case is to keep a balanced work force, where there is a core team of full time employees that are supplimented by a contract work force as the intensity of the program gains momentum. If the core team consists of trusted quality people who can get the job done then the supplimenting team can be a mixture of different skill levels, a diversity of talent allowing for a varying pay scale within that group. This means that the supporting group can be made up of various levels in skill not everyone has to be a “A Class” sculptor. Lessening the fixation in having only the best, someone who is willing to learn can be a better case scenario when there is a limited amount of proven people available. These are the people who if given the chance may just provide the impetus needed when pickings are tight.

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