Weighing Company Health Against Employee Pain
From the "it's going to get worse before it gets better" department comes a Quad/Graphics capacity reduction that sees 550 people lose their jobs this week. Another 72 jobs are gone as Courier Corp. shuts down short-run Book-mart of North Bergen, NJ, while 62 Multi-Color Corp. positions are eliminated as its Framingham, MA, operations are folded into other facilities. That's nearly 700 jobs in under a week. It's a safe bet that more than 1,000 people industry-wide will be cut loose this week.
I want to speak to two things today. One is excess capacity, the other is the human toll taken on the good folks of our industry.
For quite some time now, printers, in the course of casual chatting during interviews, have expressed the opinion that there's far too much capacity in printing, capacity that needs to go away. This sentiment almost predates the headache associated with finding skilled employees. In recent years, the talk has become much more intense. There just isn't enough work going around to keep the machines rolling, even when the rising tide is lifting all of those boats.
Well, be careful what you wish for, kind readers. The bleak economy is like a plague, killing off the weak and infirm; or a shaking of the printing tree, with the rotting fruit falling to the ground. The assumption is that once the clouds part and prosperity returns, the industry emerges both leaner and tougher.
On the flip side of the coin are the people who run those machines...the faces behind the statistics. There's nothing worse than the feeling of being powerless and, as a husband, wife, mother and father, you strive to shield your loved ones from pain whenever possible. The realities of business have hit close to home, and now when I read the press releases and see the mounting numbers, the multiplication of uncertainty stands upon my chest like a tangling of heavy, iron chains. There are 700 families left to wonder about their futures, how long their money will last, how will they will provide for their families, and how difficult it will be to find suitable work in a dismal job market.
Joel Quadracci, president and CEO of Quad/Graphics, called his move a strategic one, made from a position of financial and industry strength. What is the litmus test for your company when it comes to deciding to reduce staff? The large public and privately held companies operate on a different plane, obviously. But what about smaller printers with far less people? Do you absorb some pain first, or make the move in the course of standard operating procedures? Is there a formula for determining when a cutback must be made?
How do you strike a balance between making tough decisions that can benefit the company's long-term health while keeping roster reductions at a minimum? We'd like to hear from you.