Good story on NPR’s “Morning Edition” this a.m. about manufacturers that eschew layoffs when the economy slows and orders fall, “Battered Company Says ‘No’ To Job Cuts.” The piece profiles the New Hampshire-based Hypertherm, a world leader in plasma-cutting tools.
Hypertherm saves money by doing everything in-house that it possibly can. Plus, it puts workers into training or assigns them to teams to rejigger the production line. The goal is to emerge from recession in a better position to compete.
Dick Couch, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, sees no tension between looking after the interests of employees and keeping the company afloat.
“Once you have a highly skilled workforce, the last thing you want to do is lay them off,” he says. “This isn’t altruism. It’s good business.”
Couch says that if he were making T-shirts, this strategy would fail. High-end products and experienced workers go hand in hand.
That’s right. The policy works for some companies and not for others, and is also dependent on management both the authority and flexibility that comes with good employer-employee relations to adopt this creative strategy. As a labor writer notes in the story, the unions don’t like this no-layoff approach.
The story also cites Lincoln Electric in Cleveland, a global manufacturer of welding systems.
Lincoln Electric CEO John Stropki says people considering this model need to go into it with their eyes wide open.
“This doesn’t come without additional pressures and challenges for management, and I would say, equally, it doesn’t come without additional pressures and challenges for the workforce,” he says.
Stropki is on the board of directors of the National Association of Members.
UPDATE (9 a.m.): Hypertherm won the NAM’s Sandy Trowbridge Award in 2008 honoring the company for its numerous community activities and generosity. A great company all the way around.
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