Welch gives GE a Work-Out for improvement
After laying off over a third of the workforce at General Electric and jettisoning companies that, by tradition, were considered core to the company, Welch knew that he had to figure out a way to rally the survivors of his groundbreaking downsizing. He came up with the idea of the Work-Out program.
He figured that the greatest resource that GE had was its people, and that the boundaries that were in between bosses and employees were hurting GE’s ability to act like a small company, even at its size.
The Work-Out program was aimed at raising productivity and morale.The idea behind the Work-Out program was that the business would be able to be much more responsive if employees could talk to their supervisors without fear of reprisal. The kind of business culture that Welch was shooting for was one of “boundarylessness.”
Employees and the union were concerned that Work-Out was a code word for eliminating employees, so Welch proceeded slowly with the program. He started by sending out invitations to the employees that he wanted to see at Work-Out sessions, and he wanted to see everyone in the company take part in at least one session.
To help employees overcome the fear of their bosses and losing their jobs, Welch told the supervisors to dress casually. The meetings were held off-site, which had the additional benefit of keeping people from being distracted by phones or emails. Often times, the boss didn’t face the group until the last day of the Work-Out. At that point, the employees told the supervisors their ideas for business improvement.
It took time for people to understand the program, but it eventually led to savings in the millions of dollars for GE.
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