How to Avoid a Layoff
"At pre-school recently when the children were asked to say what their fathers did, [Harrison] Ford's young son, Malcolm, replied, 'My daddy is a movie actor, and sometimes he plays the good guy, and sometimes he plays the lawyer."
-- From "The Fugitive Star" by David Halberstam, in the July 1993 issue of Vanity Fair
The airline business is hazardous enough these days without the additional burden of a no-layoff policy. So when Richard Branson of Virgin Air was in town recently, we asked him how he could keep his promise not to lay people off in a slack market. "That's exactly what I asked my people last year," he said. "We realized we were overstaffed by about 280 people, out of 3,000 full-time. I wrote a letter to everyone explaining the problem and soliciting ideas. One person suggested voluntary unpaid leaves of absence for three or four months. When we asked for volunteers, some 400 people elected to take time off. With that, we solved our overhead problem for 1993." The plan has proved so popular, in fact, that 600 Virgin employees have indicated they want time off next year. So the airline is hiring more people to maintain adequate staffing.
"Of course, we have a unique situation at Virgin Air," says Branson, "with a very young group of people who can afford to take time off. But we actually think something like this could help our problems in Europe, where we have thousands of young people who can't find work."* * *