The 3,000 Cleveland-area employees of Lincoln Electric never worry about keeping their jobs. That's because full-time employees who have worked at least three years for the $1 billion maker of arc-welding equipment are guaranteed employment. Through good times and bad, the firm will not mess with its 50-year no-layoff policy — a factor contributing to eight straight years of robust earnings. It also has intrigued visiting Fortune 500 executives and inspired a book and an ongoing Harvard Business School case study.

To maintain that policy, Lincoln Electric has slashed overtime and cut temps. It also cuts costs by moving employees around, often to lower-paying positions. Workers get no sick days or holidays and pay their own health insurance.

“If you have a labor force that's highly productive and skilled, you want to do what you can to keep them,” says Roy Morrow, company spokesman.