DETROIT -- You've heard about some of the pitfalls suppliers face when doing business in low-cost markets. Here's another: poaching of skilled workers.
A new study by the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan examines that and other work force issues facing suppliers globally. The study will be released this month.
"The study basically examines how global suppliers manage their capital investment and human resource needs," says Bruce Belzowski, assistant research scientist at the university.
The study counters reports that tout the plethora of skilled technical workers in low-cost countries. The study is based on interviews with 20 unnamed Tier 1 suppliers.
"They (suppliers) see a lot of poaching going on that's common in emerging markets," Belzowski says. "People can be very easily lured away by employers who are often competitors."
The magnitude of the problem is unclear. But experienced engineers and information technology workers are prime poaching targets.
Researchers say suppliers' offshore plans do not usually include a long-term human resource plan. Companies are just starting to look at global human resource issues, says Phil Ullom, management consultant at Watson Wyatt & Co., a Washington consultancy working with Belzowski's group.
Work force problems could hit U.S. suppliers hard as millions of baby boomers retire. They already are being felt as companies downsize.
"The human stress is extraordinary," says Dave Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "People in the industry are under enormous pressure. Experienced people are walking out the door - or are forced."