(Feb. 16, 2009) — How can managers maintain employee morale during a recession?
It's a tough question. Traditional downsizing laying off workers or closing plants is bound to take a nasty toll on morale.
But in this recession, we're seeing companies try some creative approaches to cutting costs. Some of the efforts are aimed at saving money while retaining key staffers. You have to like the concept companies clearly are thinking about the long term, and doing their best to keep their best workers. No more neutron-bomb layoffs where firms cut staff indiscriminately to satisfy bean counters who don't understand the business.
For example, we've seen plastics processors cut back workers' hours, force employees to take unpaid vacations, stop making matching contributions to 401(k) accounts, and freeze or roll back salaries. I know what you're thinking that's the good news? Unfortunately, yes. In this economic climate, anything companies do to stay in business and keep key workers has to be considered a plus.
I wonder how these moves will affect the workforce, now and in the years to come.
Maybe we've reached the point where workers are happy just to have jobs. My parents grew up during the Depression, and I remember their stories about how bad things were during the 1930s. The reminiscing always seemed to end with someone saying, At least my Dad had a job. A lot of people were a lot worse off than us.
U.S. employers eliminated 650,000 jobs last month, and 683,000 in December, bringing the total number of job cuts in the U.S. since September to 2.3 million. Based on what I've seen so far, the February total isn't looking much better. Some experts believe we'll see another 1 million to 2 million job cuts by this summer.
Right now, employees have little choice but to go along with whatever cost-cutting moves their current employers propose. Few companies are hiring, so alternatives are scarce. But what will happen when the recession is over? Will workers clamor to escape from situations where they feel they were mistreated? Or perhaps we'll see a return to the attitudes of our parents and grandparents, who clung to stable jobs for decades in part because they were grateful for the work, but also because they were afraid to make a move that might not work out.
Because of a space crunch, this week's ranking of North American thermoformers is limited to the Top 100 companies. But we still have information on 144 other companies, and it is available to all of our readers on the Web, at plasticsnews.com/rankings.
Click on the word Thermoformers and you'll find detailed information about all the companies. We include contact information, Web address, annual thermoforming-related sales, number of plants and thermoforming lines, resin throughput, materials processed and end-markets served.
Loepp is Plastics News managing editor and author of The Plastics Blog.