2 sides of the no-layoff policy

Listen to the statistics coming out of Washington and state capitals and you'll hear about the large numbers of unemployed and underemployed people. Many are having a hard time making a choice between eating and paying for utilities and housing. Some already are at, or below, rock bottom. To this last category, the American Dream is a joke.

Sure, one could argue that out-of-work citizens lack the skills needed for success in what is evolving into a high-tech global economy. One could argue that corporate management is way too heartless in its pursuit of increased value for the shareholders. I don’t think either viewpoint can possibly be universally true.

Take, for instance, one well-known industrial name – Lincoln. The ABC News Web site has a piece dated July 17, 2010, titled “At Lincoln Electric, a Leading Maker of Welding Machines, Jobs Are Guaranteed.” The company has a long-standing no-layoff policy. Sometimes there’s not enough backlog to justify having workers do the usual 40-hour week routine. Other times, overtime is mandatory. Paychecks are a function of the piecework approach to manufacturing. It’s not an easy way to run a company, but the advantages for the plant-floor worker seem obvious.

Presumably, there’s loyalty on both sides. Workers know a good thing when they see it and the company has a long-term, trained and skilled workforce. There are no worries about staffing up for the next bull market.

We all know that not every worker is suited for every company in the country. With a no-layoff policy in place, how does one weed out the less than stellar workers? Wouldn’t the really good workers find themselves in demand elsewhere and be likely to jump ship in pursuit of the American Dream? Wouldn’t the real bad workers stick around because it’s comforting to know one can’t get whacked? Wouldn’t the average demographics trend toward the mediocre?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’d sure be interested in know what experiences you might have had with companies and coworkers, both good and bad.