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A micro-organization is a registered small enterprise or a small business that in most cases has only twenty employees or even less. In some places, the term micro-organization is used to refer to a business that is individually owned with up to 20 employees. According to European Union, a micro-organization is a small business that has met certain criteria in a period of not less than three years; that is, has less than 20 employees with a Balance Sheet total of 800,000 US dollars and 800,000 US dollars turnover or lower. Since the organizations are just small enterprises and have very limited access to commercial banking sector, their main source of finance is micro-loans or micro-credit. These organizations form the smallest end of the business sector in developed countries, and a complete different case in developing countries where they constitute the vast majority of the small business.
It has been proven that micro-organizations help to boost a country’s economy by creating jobs to the citizens, enhancing income, strengthening and stabilizing purchasing power and increasing business convenience. For instance, in USA many of these organizations are individually owned and, generally, require less than 35,000 US dollars in loan capital for their establishment. This is a typical example of how micro- organizations are viewed in developed countries. Ideally, micro-enterprise is the most common form of business in developing countries. In most cases micro-entrepreneurs would take a factory job at a reasonable wage if it was available, which implies that they are not micro-entrepreneurs by choice.
In order to achieve maximum returns and cut payroll costs in micro-organizations, some of the entrepreneurs have “adopted computerized means of operation both individually and with employees work schedule” (Edwards 4). For instance, Ann Taylor Stores corporation, one of these micro-organizations, has adopted the use of Atlas it has nick named “Ann Taylor Labor Allocation system” (Edwards 4).
Atlas, the “Ann Taylor Labor Allocation System” at Ann Taylors Stores
Before the introduction and adoption of Atlas, Ann Taylors Stores was using a weakly designed system for a simple control to evaluate its performance and that of its employees. In this system, an employee’s wages partially depended first on how he/she works. Employees earned a guaranteed base wage and a piece rate bonus which meant that the more an employee worked the more he/she earned. Apart from the wage issue in this system, work was controlled by store managers. These managers designed weekly schedules manually for the employees. In other words, employees and working schedule were human controlled and a worker could be dismissed on the spot by a manager. They would decide which workers to hire, the ones to lay off and those to maintain. This conformed to the idea of simple control within an organization introduced by Edwards. The system created shorter shifts in its attempt to align staffing levels with customer traffic. In result of this act, many stores were registering too many people beginning 9 a.m., and very few on peak hours. Due to these shortfalls, Taylors Stores adopted the use of Atlas (The Wall Street Journal).
Atlas is a system used by some micro-organizations such as Ann Taylors Stores to evaluate the performance of its employees using a computerized work plan. At Ann Taylors Stores, the system had greatly assisted in improving the company’s performance. When a saleswoman at any of the outlets of Taylors stores types her code number into a cash register, his/her performance metrics is easily displayed. That is, his/her average sales per hour, units sold, and dollars received in every transaction. Fortunately, the system was designed to schedule the most productive sellers to work the busiest times; unlike the older system, in Atlas “the after sales per-hour figures was used to determine work schedule” (Edwards 6-7). It also wiped out the employees’ mischief of stealing sales from one another
Atlas Effects on Technical Control and the essence of being a Sales Person
In the former system, as mentioned in Edwards’s text, salespersons would be ranked by the stores’ managers without following any merit (4). This meant that a salesperson was literally assessed on the basis of interest hat the manager had on him/her. At the same time, the wages varied widely from one week to another as portrayed in the situation of Ms. Houser, one of the salespersons of Taylors Stores. For example, Ms. Houser’s pay would vary drastically from time to time. She remembers a time when she would only receive about 300 US dollars for 34 hours of work or receive just eight working hours in a week (Edwards 4). Because of this, she quits Taylor and takes a job in which she is certain of 30 hours a week. This move shows that in the pre-Atlas times there was no certainty in minimum hours and wages one were entitled to. It also means that an organization could lose a worker at any time. Even though, this system was disadvantageous, it was a little beneficial to salespeople because of the flexibility it had. An employee determined the time he/she works depending on his/her availability at that particular time. This eliminated incidences of having to put a note on a manager’s door on one’s next schedule.
In this era of Atlas, it is a totally different case from what is depicted in the simple control system. In Atlas, ranking of employees was majorly done on salesperson’s average sales-per-hour. That is, drop salary meant drop in rank and change in work schedule. Some of the drawbacks of Atlas system is inability to give priority to senior workers and does not reward style of selling. However, the system recognizes long serving employees and at times offers them scheduled as little as 10 hours per week. It also discourages spending a lot of time with prospects who will never buy in a particular visit. In Atlas system, the following week’s schedule is generated early enough to enable employees prepare adequately. A good salesperson should develop a good style of selling by developing relationships with as many shoppers as possible, even if they might not buy in a particular visit. This contradicts Taylor’s stores management where a good salesperson should take 3 seconds to greet a shopper, 3 minutes to help one try on clothing, 32 seconds to fold a sweater and at most five minutes to close a sale. In short, “the management required a good salesperson to clinch many sales in a shorter time” (The Wall Street Journal).
Hardships Caused by Atlas Systems on Workers
Even though, Atlas is more beneficial to the management of Taylors Stores and the employees, there are some major hardships that the salespeople face such as shorter shifts and unpredictable schedules. The problem of shorter shifts occurs when a salesperson in the Taylors Stores is accorded a shift of a shorter duration, like a 3-hour shift, and he/she has people coming on public transportation from far away. The salespeople, however, found a way to cope with this hardship. They came to realize that it was not a serious problem as such; sometimes a salesperson would be given a longer shift depending on his/her sales per hour. Therefore, in the long run, the salesperson would compensate for the time loss in the shorter shift. The other problem, the unpredictable schedules, is no longer a serious challenge, since these schedules are prepared and made known to employees in advance. For instance, the following week’s work schedule is generated on every Wednesday in this new system (Atlas). This enables employees to make appropriate plans and adjustments thereby finding the shift appropriate.
Comparison between the Contested Terrain and Work behind the Counter
In this micro-organization mentioned in Behind the Counter, the main products sold in this franchise industry are burgers, fries, canines and coffee. This is a totally different scenario that we see in the Edward’s work. In Edward’s, the Taylor’s Stores, the major commodity sold is clothes. In the latter, the new system (Atlas) is majorly used to rank employees using a salesperson’s sales-per-hour volume. This, in turn, helps the management of Taylor’s Stores, since the employees are motivated to work harder. Surprisingly, the organization that is talked about in the work Behind the Counter is tiny, but has reached great success. For instance, in 2009 its sales shot up by 70% and have been endorsed by the US president Obama; there are lots of hopes of doing even better. This organization does not have so many branches as Taylor’s Stores that Edwards talks about. It appears that most of its operations are “centralized leading to better management” (Behind the Counter).
Unlike Taylor’s Stores where the salespeople are never included in the schedule making, in the business described in the Behind the Counter the employees are involved in deciding when each one of them should work. It is true to say that this organization in Behind the Counter allows maximum flexibility to its workers. Full adoption of Atlas, as done in Taylors Stores, has deprived the chance of flexing schedules for its workers.
How Atlas Causes Conflicts between the Employees
According to Edwards, this new system has caused political and social conflicts amongst the employees in Ann Taylor’s Stores. In Taylors Stores, Atlas is designed in such a way that it schedules the most productive sellers to work during the busiest hours. It is during these hours that a salesperson has the highest chances of making more sales per hour. This has brought uncertainty to a seller’s weekly minimum pay. The Atlas, being a computerized form of work scheduling, it is not very forgiving when it comes to human life. The employees got upset with Atlases way to schedule since it never considered people’s predicament or any other itches such transportation ampere. This caused constant conflict within the store.
In Taylor’s Stores, we also see the workers working hard to defend and extend democracy in order to meet their economic and social needs. It is true that workers are treated fairly by Atlas, but they do not participate in making the rules. It has established a harsh relationship between the managers and the salespeople. In short, Atlas has categorized salespeople into classes and this has greatly caused social disaster for these employees (Behind the Counter).
Micro-organizations have positive impacts on a country’s economy. The only way to enhance the performance of these small organizations is through the adoption of modern technologies, like the Atlas. Prior to Atlas period, salesperson had no control on length of their work and wedges on the work done. However, Atlas evaluation technique has envisioned flexible work schedule which will help eliminate unnecessary production cost and, thereby, increase profit margin it adopted by small enterprises. By setting these organizations, the serious problem of unemployment in developing countries can be solved amicably. Establishment of these micro-organizations should, therefore, be encouraged in all countries.