We’ve written a lot about layoffs lately: "Of layoffs and leaks," "Layoffs: Do you want the good news first?" "The pink-slip blues," and "Monday, Bloody Monday." But here’s one company that took a daring and innovative approach: instead of laying people off at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, CEO Paul Levy gathered employees in an auditorium and asked for their help. The extraordinary meeting was chronicled in Kevin Cullen’s Boston Globe column, “A head with a heart”:
"I want to run an idea by you that I think is important, and I'd like to get your reaction to it," Levy began. "I'd like to do what we can to protect the lower-wage earners — the transporters, the housekeepers, the food service people. A lot of these people work really hard, and I don't want to put an additional burden on them.
"Now, if we protect these workers, it means the rest of us will have to make a bigger sacrifice," he continued. "It means that others will have to give up more of their salary or benefits."
He had barely gotten the words out of his mouth when Sherman Auditorium erupted in applause. Thunderous, heartfelt, sustained applause.
Cullen goes on to report that the workers began flooding Levy’s inbox with suggestions on how to avoid mass layoffs:
The consensus was that the workers don't want anyone to get laid off and are willing to give up pay and benefits to make sure no one does. A nurse said her floor voted unanimously to forgo a 3 percent raise. A guy in finance who got laid off from his last job at a hospital in Rhode Island suggested working one less day a week. Another nurse said she was willing to give up some vacation and sick time. A respiratory therapist suggested eliminating bonuses.
Maybe it will work, and maybe it won’t. But Levy and Beth Israel deserve credit for considering alternatives before dropping the layoff hammer.
By the way, Paul — who's no stranger to innovation — was recently listed as a CEO who twitters (@paulflevy), and he writes an excellent blog called “Running a hospital.” He (reluctantly) posts about some of the feedback he’s received since Kevin’s column appeared ("Pay it forward").
Good work, Paul.
[Full disclosure: My firm has done a small amount of work for Beth Israel, but I have never met Paul.]