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by Robyn Blumner
"Job security" is such a quaint expression. America's 21st century workplaces operate more like sweepstakes. You either live Instagram's dream, landing in the money before the training wheels come off your company's idea, or you live Katniss Everdeen's nightmare in "The Hunger Games," trying to stay alive while those around you are slowly picked off. A few win big; a majority get downsized; everyone is scared.
This isn't good for the American psyche. A work environment where relatively few people do astoundingly well while everyone else worries that their economic lifeline could be pulled away at the next downturn is not a solid foundation for long-term, broadly shared prosperity or human fulfillment. We can do better than that by returning to some old-fashioned corporate values and norms.
I cringe when mass layoff announcements are accompanied by CEO claims that their people are their most important asset. Clearly, they're not. But there is still one company in America that says it and means it. The Ohio-based
This corporate story is so remarkable that it inspired the book Spark: How Old-Fashioned Values Drive a Twenty-First-Century Corporation: Lessons from Lincoln Electric's Unique Guaranteed Employment Program.
Author Frank Koller, an economics journalist, describes how
The company was founded by innovator John Lincoln in 1895 and managed by his brother James, who, Koller writes, had immense respect for average, hard-working people. James Lincoln sought to allay what he saw as every worker's greatest fear, that "when business was slack, he was tossed out on the street, often with no more thought for his future than was given to any other worthless scrap." James' philosophy was to save for economic crises and to never sacrifice your employees.
In 1958, the company's board formally adopted the promise of guaranteed employment. And so far, it's held. During inevitable recessions and slow-downs, the company will cut workers' hours up to eight a week and retrain employees for different jobs, but it won't resort to layoffs.
The story is astounding: Nonunion industrial workers making good wages without having to worry about their jobs being shipped overseas to fatten executive bonuses and investor dividends in the short-term; managers who actually view worker job security as good for business.
But there is not much appetite for this
Worker-First Philosophy All Too Rare