In my experience the workload at most places is carried by a small number of people. The problem is that during economic fat-times the mediocre work themselves into the higher echelons and it becomes politically difficult during lean-times to admit that it is the incompetent who are the central cause of monetary insolvency. Firings are then conducted along the fiscal/political lines and talented people who make too much or make obvious the uncomfortable truth are often jettisoned randomly with the chaff with the ultimate result of nothing being learned.
I've always wondered why so many businesses would prefer to employ fools because they can pay them less. This eye to the bottom-line always overlooks the tremendous cost incurred by such a policy. In the field of manufacturing (my field), the amount of rework needed to cover the fuckups of these fuckups is astonishing and the quality of the end product results in a significant amount of warranty work and replacement. Its always been my policy to hire one talented young guy for $18-$20/hr than two or three retards for $9/hr. If you make the right personnel decisions you not only get high-quality production, you also get an excellent candidate for possible management positions after 5-10 years of experience in the trenches. This person will have absorbed the company culture and have a personal stake in the company and if he earns consideration for promotion to a position of responsibility, will not feel entitled to the same monetary compensation that some useless asshole with a new MBA would (although obviously he would still be compensated more than fairly). You have happier workers because you are paying them for what the job is actually worth, and while production volume is smaller in the short run, with less time wasted on fixing fuckups you have a much larger long-term production capacity and can generate better brand-loyalty by making superior products.
There are problems with this model because of the structure of our economy: such a large part of it is cheap consumer goods and services. Because the money being made on most of this shit is the money of the proles, poor service and poor products are the rule. Proles usually get jobs working for other proles. That is why I've always tried to find employment with companies that make products for socially useful activities: weapons manufacturing, high-end musical instruments, etc.