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Rebuilding America: Should US Companies Follow Germans' Lead?

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American Direction
ksaldutti   2/26/2012 12:39:01 PM
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We became bloated and without compromise. The auto industry is one very prevalent example. Too big to fail will fail. The industry will need and sooner then we may believe more tax money infusion. The Government stepped in and has ruined investors actual bond holders to give the companies to the unions and foreign invertors. They still owe the tax payer and the tax payer will never recoup from the Government deals. GM had to pull their commercials as it was clear that what they tried to report was not true. They did not pay back their loans in full. As the fuel cries raises it ugly head yet once again vehicle sale will plummet. Big tick items will not sell and folks will pull back their purchasing causing yet another recession on top of the one we really are not out of by a long shot. Bailouts are a Government stop gap that will not work as we will see in not to distant future as the worldly lenders will come a calling as they have in the EU. Obama will go on with his Keynesian economy of band aids and he will be shamed into submission at some point as the country goes into his planed world economic equality recourse. There will be few companies hanging on that will be hoping to save their precious few employees in hopes for a rekindle. Even Germany will find the unsustainable limits as no one will afford the fruits of their labors.

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Loyalty? Schmoyalty!
alpha60   2/25/2012 4:47:37 AM

I question the whole idea of viewing loyalty (to & from business enterprises at least) as a virtue.

Loyalty, to me, means "inertia". It means you were probably happy being comfortable instead of challenged.

Why should we worker bees seek that? Why should companies reward it?

Employees would be better served by being a little closer to vagabonds (instead of "bedrocks of the community"): moving around more among companies (including different cities), not letting them take us for granted, getting them to compete for us, etc.,

Employers, too, would be better served by a workforce that has seen a greater breadth of industry & hasn't settled into the paternalistic view that the company is there to care & nurture them.

Of course, this advice also requires a whole re-thinking of the importance of family, that family's mobility, whether buying a big box-of-boxes (house) is ever really in your best interest, and just what's so good about "putting down roots" . . . . . but that's beyond the scope of this topic, as is the requisite mobility of pensions & healthcare.

William K.
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Should we experiment with short weeks?
William K.   2/24/2012 10:44:53 PM
The workweek reduction is certainly a much more merciful means of cutting labor expenses, and if the managers believe that an experienced workforce is a valuable asset, it is the only reasonable approach. But my previous employer, Methode, a German parented firm, had a much different attitude: "We will lay off a lot of people, including engineers, and then if we find we need more we will jsy hire more", and the rest of the comments asserted that they believed that all engineers were interchangeable, like lockwashers or accountants. But one other employer, many years back, did do the workweek reduction, which was good. MY solution to the loss of income was to take on another job one day a week, at another company. Eventually that company offered me a lot more than the full pay from the four-day employer, so I changed jobs. The 30% increase was an attention getter, no doubt.

I do not know just what business Methode is in presently, but I hyave seen a lot of those co-workers listed on Linkedin as being employed elsewhere. MY guess is that it is possible to demoralize a staff through repeated layoffs, to the point that all those who can leave do leave. The guilty parties know who they are.

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Layoff's or furlough's
BobGroh   2/24/2012 6:41:38 PM
Comment #1: The technique of using furlough's rather than layoff's was practiced by HP way back in the day (and may still be).  I always thought it made a lot of sense and, from the standpoint of a working guy who sweated making the paycheck stretch to keep the family going, I would certainly have preferred it to the always dreaded layoff. 

But, in today's world, companies use layoff's as a convenient tool for 'right sizing' and for getting rid of dead wood.  I remember working at Allied Signal back in the late 90's and early 2000's (prior to the merger with Honeywell) and I swear we had layoff's every 3 months!  Now that, guys, would rattle anyone!

Bottom line: yes, I would prefer to have furlough's.  As a manager, I would prefer it also although it makes the work flow more difficult.  As an owner, I certainly would prefer it as it leaves me with a lot of flexibility.

Of course, if the furlough's got too deep (i.e. too many days off per week) then some more drastic measure's might have to be taken.



Charles Murray
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Re: Kurzabeit makes plain sense
Charles Murray   2/24/2012 6:23:33 PM
You're right, Tom, this isn't a new idea. What's so baffling to me is why it isn't an (unwritten) standard practice. Seems like a reasonable way to keep good employees.

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Re: Can work -- up to a point
RICKZ28   2/24/2012 4:48:58 PM
My brother works in the shop for a high-end cabinet maker supplying to buildings such as new or remodeled restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, etc.  When things got slow due to the economy, employees started getting furlough days off without pay.  A day or two per month was not big deal, but sometimes getting three or four furlough days a week made it very tough on his family finances.  As a result, the company retained most of its skilled shop workers.

I seem to recall the most engineering and manufacturing companies in Germany are unionized.  I worked with a German company during the 1990's that was doing the same sort of products as my job (company), visited them for a week in Germany.  The union agreement called for a set number of employees for the agreement's term, and employees couldn't just be fired or laid-off. 


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Germany Vs America
grtbluyonder   2/24/2012 2:28:24 PM
So long as Americans think their's is the best system in the world and that there are no lessons to be learned from others, the US will continue to treat it's workers as if they were toilet brushes. Mitt Romney's "I like firing people" pretty well sums it up. 

Americans clearly are happy with their system and it's results otherwise they would make changes. Dogma, mindless labels such as "European Socialism"  and fantasy rule rather than pragmatism and socially desirable results. As Einstein famously quoted "to keep doing the same things over and over and expecting different results, is just crazy". Need I say more? 




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Re: What we really need is....
rickgtoc   2/24/2012 1:41:40 PM
"Management always does what is easy..."

And I think layoffs in Germany are not nearly as easy as they are in the U.S., thus some incentive to find a less painful (to mamangement) way to reduce expenses in troubled times.  German companies are not necessarily altruistic.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Can work -- up to a point
Alexander Wolfe   2/24/2012 1:35:50 PM
I don't think this approach resonates with American culture. As well, with the meme of U.S. manufacturing on the rise (or, we want it to rise; more investment so the U.S. remains competitive), I think what we want to do is use tax incentives and reduced regulation to encourage hiring, rather than to enable cutting of hours.

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Deutschland is no Panacea
riverboat   2/24/2012 1:13:27 PM
Don't get me wrong, Germans have very admirable qualities.

Their ineptitude at corruption compared to their Latin neighbors stands out amongst these; however, in general Germany has more to learn from America than we do from them.  They have an excellent technical apprenticeship program.  We did too, and we pretty much destroyed it.  We need to rebuild that.  Captains of industry whine continuously about the incompetent product released by America's educational system.  Then proceed to do nothing about.  By "do" I mean spend money, mostly.  The David Packards and such 'used' to get involved in supporting education, no longer. 


Now, in terms of immolating German or any other country in terms of labor policy, I would say forget it.  Capitalism can be cruel, but as Churchill said of democracy, "it is a horrible system and only has one thing in its favor no one has or will be able to come up with a better system."  Of course I paraphrase but that was the jist of it.  It is too bad that time after time people waste time, resources, and even lives trying fruitlessly to find that better system.  The Germans are perfect examples of this.  Their recent history stands as a stark reminder of the fallacy of this pursuit.


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