Daniel Eastman is CEO of Personalized Awards Inc., a small manufacturing company with headquarters in Mequon, Wis. The business, which was moving along robustly when Eastman bought it in 2005, has been suffering since the economy headed south several years ago.
It's still suffering. While some manufacturers have seen an uptick in business as the economy recovers, Eastman has not. At least not yet. Still, the CEO says he is determined to avoid laying off employees for as long as he can, hoping in the meanwhile that business starts to pick up.
"I see great value in keeping the team in place," says Eastman, whose firm makes awards. "It is very difficult and costly to have to re-assemble talent." Not to mention the ethical and moral considerations he says are additional factors in his decision not to invoke layoffs.
While he waits for business to improve, Eastman is reassigning and reshuffling his employees from their traditional roles. Some are converting paper records to digital files. Others are engaged in inventory management and developing new customer leads, tasks they typically would not perform. One assembly worker is quite astute with social media. He's promoting the company vigorously via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, according to Eastman.
These actions during a slow time position Personalized Awards to be better organized and prepared when business activity picks up, Eastman says.
His is a sentiment shared by other manufacturers who recognize that layoffs aren't necessarily the best -- or only -- strategy to address workplace lulls -- and that a drive to cut costs need not translate directly to cutting people. Toyota, for example, moved full-time workers to training or improvement tasks when it shut down production to address its well-publicized pedal issues. Others reduced work weeks, which shared the pain but spared the job. Even more found and removed costly hidden wastes.
Many of their actions present sound industry practices in any economy.