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International Differences in Lean Production, Productivity and Employee Attitudes

  • Susan Helper
  • Morris M. Kleiner

The study examines US-European productivity and worker attitude differences, focusing on changes in incentive structures. We analyze productivity and worker attitudes in five plants in the UK and US belonging to the same multinational producer of automotive sensors and actuators. We examine the firm's efforts to make complementary changes in product strategy and human-resource policies. In particular, we look at the impact of a Value-Added Gainsharing plan (VAG) that was introduced at different times among the four plants. Our analysis draws on multiple plant visits, surveys of almost all of the workforce, and confidential financial data. Our study offers a rare look inside a low-wage, non-union firm. We find that the VAG had an impact on productivity and profitability. We find that the UK plant's productivity and worker satisfaction was well below that of the US plants. However, neither our analysis nor interviews with managers suggest that differences in national institutions play a key role in explaining these results.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13015.

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Date of creation: Apr 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Shaw, Kathryn and Richard Freeman (eds.) International Differences in the Business Practices and Productivity of Firm, A National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13015
Note: IO LS PR
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  1. Wei Chi & Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner, 2007. "Adoption and Termination of Employee Involvement Programs," NBER Working Papers 12878, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Morris M. Kleiner & Jonathan S. Leonard & Adam M. Pilarski, 2002. "How Industrial Relations Affects Plant Performance: The Case of Commercial Aircraft Manufacturing," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(2), pages 195-218, January.
  3. Sandra E. Black & Lisa M. Lynch, 2003. "What's driving the new economy?: the benefits of workplace innovation," Working Paper Series 2003-23, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  4. Edward P. Lazear, 2000. "Performance Pay and Productivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1346-1361, December.
  5. Richard B. Freeman & Morris M. Kleiner & Cheri Ostroff, 2000. "The Anatomy of Employee Involvement and Its Effects on Firms and Workers," NBER Working Papers 8050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Sandra E. Black & Lisa M. Lynch & Anya Krivelyova, 2003. "How workers fare when employers innovate," Working Paper Series 2003-22, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  7. Martin J. Conyon & Richard Freeman, 2002. "Shared Modes of Compensation and Firm Performance: UK Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp0560, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  8. Peter Cappelli & David Neumark, 2001. "External Job Churning and Internal Job Flexibility," NBER Working Papers 8111, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Roger T. Kaufman, 1992. "The Effects of Improshare on Productivity," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 45(2), pages 311-322, January.
  10. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
  11. Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld, 1991. "The Impact on Economic Performance of a Transformation in Workplace Relations," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(2), pages 241-260, January.
  12. Helper, Susan & Levine, David I, 1992. "Long-Term Supplier Relations and Product-Market Structure," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(3), pages 561-81, October.
  13. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. repec:sae:ilrrev:v:43:y:1990:i:3:p:3-12 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. S. Baranzoni & P. Bianchi & L. Lambertini, 2000. "Multiproduct Firms, Product Differentiation, and Market Structure," Working Papers 368, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  16. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
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