The reading passage:
A.O. Smith Corporation is a company that produces car frames and then sells them to major car manufacturers to use in producing cars. In the early 1980s, A.O. Smith wanted to increase the company’s productivity, so it decided to introduce a new wage system.
The new wage system introduced in the early 1980s to increase productivity was a piecework wage system. In a piecework wage system, each worker is paid based upon the number of pieces produced. A worker who produces a lot of pieces will receive a higher paycheck, and a worker who produces a lower number of pieces will receive a lower paycheck.
One outcome that the company expected from this new system was that productivity would increase. It was believed that, if pay was based on the number of pieces a worker produced, then each worker would work hard to produce a lot of pieces. It seemed logical to expect that productivity would increase when a worker’s pay was based on the number of pieces produced.
The company also expected morale to increase when the new system was introduced. The company was not interested in increasing productivity if the workers’ morale suffered as a result. However, under a system where workers were able to increase their pay by increasing their productivity, company managment expected morale to improve. It seemed equally logical to the company that morale would be really high among workers who were able to increase their pay by producing at a higher rate.
Soon after implementing the new piecework wage system, A.O. Smith was initially quite pleased with the results. The immediate results were that both productivity and morale increased. Workers produced more car frames than they had previously produced because of the way pay was determined, and workers were more satisfied with their jobs because their pay was increasing. These results were logically expected outcomes of the implementation of such a system.
The listening passage:
Now, do you think that, overall, the results of this system were positive? Do you think that the A.O. Smith Corporation was satisfied with the results of the wage piece system it had instituted? I mean, after all, the company had expected workers to increase the number of pieces they produced, and this did happen: workers did increase the number of car frames they produced. In addition, the company had expected workers to be satisfied with the program because they were producing more pieces and were therefore receiving increased pay, and this did happen, too: when workers received additional pay, they could only be happy with higher paychecks.
Well, in reality, A.O. Smith ended up being completely dissatisfied with the results of the piecework wage system. The reason for this dissatisfaction with the system had to do with the quality of the car frames that were being turned out. When workers were being paid based on the number of car frames they produced, they tended to produce the frames too quickly, and the quality of the frames suffered. Overall, under this system, the number of frames produced increased, but the quality of the frames decreased considerably. In the neighborhood of 20 percent of the frames had to be repaired before they could be shipped to car manufacturers. The end result was that the piecework wage system that had been instituted in the early 1980s was replaced with a different system in the late 1980s. Under the system that replaced the piecework wage system, defective car frames, the ones that needed to be repaired before they could be sent to car manufacturers, were reduced from 20 percent to only 3 percent.
The question: How does the information in the listening passage challenge the system described in the reading passage?
In this set of materials, the reading passage talks about a company’s new wage system and the results expected from its implementation. While on the other hand, the listening passage gives information about the unsatisfying long-term results of its implementation.
In the reading passage, the author talks about A.O. Smith which is a company that produces car frames and sells them to car manufacturers. A.O. Smith wanted to increase its productivity by introducing a new wage system. This system was based on the idea that each worker will be paid for the number of frames he/she produces. Thus, the productivity of the company will increase as well as workers’ morale.
In the listening passage, the speaker explains that the expected results of the new wage system were obtained. That means the productivity of the company and workers’ morale were high, but a problem arose when there was a considerable decrease in the quality of the frames in which 20% of the frames had to be repaired. This problem happened due to the fact that workers started to work rapidly to produce as many frames as they can in order to raise their pay. Hence, the company replaced the new wage system with another that decreases the required repairs to 3%.
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