Archive for February, 2010

Wall Street Journal recommends Spark

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal has just reviewed Spark, describing Lincoln Electric’s “unusual approach to managing its employees” as an “approach that is all the more striking today against the backdrop of the layoff mania that has claimed more than eight million American jobs since late 2007.”

The Journal’s review ends with former-Xilinx VP Peg Wynn ‘s lament that most CEO’s order layoffs because it’s just easier to do “what everybody else does.” Sad. Too true.

Harvard Business Review Raves about SPARK

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The March 2010 issue of Harvard Business Review has just published  a rave review of SPARK.

In its feature book review for March, HBR calls SPARK  “a fascinating depiction of a rare human resource practice in a company with a long and hearty track record—food for thought for the rest of us.”

That’s why I wrote Spark – not to convince others to copy how Lincoln Electric operates, but to convince them that it is possible to successfully run a modern business in a a fiercely competitive economic environment – while ensuring that employees  don’t bear all the risks. In other words, it pays  over the long run to reject the all-too-easy option of pulling the layoff lever whenever times get tough.

Back at Lincoln Electric – with Spark

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Today was my first opportunity to visit Lincoln Electric since the North American publication of Spark. It was a chance to meet again with many of the employees who had spent so much time with me over the past couple of years and many more who kindly lined up to buy copies of the book.

Spark wasn’t written for Lincoln Electric, nor did the firm have any say in how the book turned out. But it was nonetheless extremely gratifying to find that most employees  seem to feel I fairly captured the important elements of their company’s powerful incentive management system.

My hand, however, is sore after signing more than 500 copies of Spark in the tunnel which runs under the factory. It was a great day, from start to finish

SPARK is now on sale

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Well,  fourteen years after I first heard about Lincoln Electric, Spark is now available through Borders,, Chapters, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers across North America.

I’ll be in Cleveland this week for the US launch of Spark at the Western Reserve Historical Society. Many of the original papers of John and James Lincoln from the early years of the last century are housed here, and I spent many hours reading through them. If you’re in the area, please drop by this Saturday, February 27th, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Over the next few months, I’ll be back and forth between the United States and Canada to talk about the ideas in the book and my belief that we need to support more employers – and employees – who want to develop more secure work environments.

A Small Step to Creating Jobs that Last

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

February 22nd is a long way off – at least in Washington. That’s when the Senate is scheduled to vote on its latest proposed jobs bill.

Pared down to $15 billion from an original $85 billion, this Senate bill hopes to create new jobs or refill positions that had been emptied over the past couple of years. With 8.4 million people unemployed, that’s no small task.

But one part of the proposed legislation also gives hope to those of us who believe that government can play a role in encouraging private sector employers to work harder to keep people at work for as long as possible, not lay them off as soon as financial trouble looms.

The Senate bill offers businesses a $1,000 tax credit for each new worker hired who stays on the job for at least one year. The money would only be paid out to employers after 52 weeks of steady work.

That’s a good start.

It’s true that much of the stimulus money is targeted on building infrastructure, where construction jobs are traditionally short-term. Critics are quick to argue that this incentive can’t help make those kinds of jobs last longer because it’s a seasonal industry, by nature.

Yet this is the time to challenge what has become the default position for too many senior executives across the economy: in tough times, cutting workers is a quick way to help the bottom line.  Government needs to help change that attitude.

This idea is not new – or radical. In the depths of the Great Depression, Washington and 40 state governments offered tax breaks and other financial incentives to employers who promised – and lived up to the promises – of steady work.

Another possible incentive would be for governments at all levels to grant public contracts only after comparing – all other things being equal – which bidder has the lowest rate of layoffs or the longest average employee tenure.

Spark is a book about Lincoln Electric’s amazing commitment to its workers – which has resulted in many employees with 30 and 40 years of steady work.

Sadly, too many American see 52 weeks on-the-job as a long time. But this small proposal from the Senate should be supported as one way to change that.