How to Stay Union Free By Supporting Work-Life Balance

union free work life balanceMillennials prize work-life balance above all other employment-related goals. They’re also more likely to have a spouse or partner in the workforce than any other generation, so flexibility is key to keeping them engaged in their work. Therefore, many unions that seek to recruit younger workforces will emphasize their ability to obtain generationally-important benefits from employers. However, savvy businesses know that they can provide the specific benefits their employees desire, benefits that both engender loyalty and demonstrate responsiveness to its workers’ needs.

Tip #1: Consider Offering a Blanket Paid Time Off Policy

Instead of dividing paid leave into sick time and vacation days, employers can transition into a paid time off policy that places all time off in one PTO “bucket.” This time off policy allows employees to take time off when they need it without having to account for how they’re spending their time off. On the flip side, today’s workers, those that are highly engaged and inspired by their work, can have a tendency not to take that time off.  To make sure that your most dedicated employees don’t experience burnout, allow a very limited amount PTO to carry over to the next calendar year.

Tip #2: Allow for True Time Off During Vacations

Most employees carry smartphones during vacations and time off, but your manager and leaders should avoid contacting them unless it’s a genuine emergency. Support a work culture that allows employees not to check or answer their emails during their off-hours. Businesses who encourage employees to take a true vacation are rewarded with more productive and loyal employees.

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Tip #3: Offer Telecommuting and Flexible Work Schedules

Over three-quarters of married Millennials also have a spouse that works full-time. So companies that can provide flexible schedules, partial telecommuting, four 10-hour shifts per week or other attractive options can attract better talent and cultivate loyalty among employees.

Tip #4: Support Generous Family Leave Policies

Even if your company does not fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, you will want to offer leave options to new parents. Research indicates that paid maternity leave had no adverse effect or even a positive effective on businesses 91 percent of the time. Offering paid leave also increased the chance that an employee would return to work after the birth or adoption of a child. Top tech companies who compete for talent know the benefits of offering paid parental leave: They already offer some of the most generous packages in the United States. Remember that even your employees without children may need time off to care for a family member, parent, or spouse.

Tip #5: Insist That Management Sets a Good Work-Life Balance Example

Sometimes companies that offer work-life-affirming benefits find that few workers regularly use them. It’s natural that some businesses have busy periods where employees really can’t take time off. But workers should balance these busy times by taking more time off during the year. To demonstrate that the company supports this balance, your managers and leaders should exemplify work-life balance in their lives. Not only will regular time off increase productivity, in management but it should also assuage worker fears that they’ll experience retribution if they take regular time off. Having regular discussions about taking time off conveys that the company cares about team members, making them less likely to become disgruntled during busy periods.

Tip #6: Enact Family-Friendly Work Initiatives and Policies

On-site daycare, flexible telecommuting, and other benefits allow employees a chance to balance their work lives while focusing on their personal well-being. Because so many parents are part of two-income households, companies can’t expect that a stay-at-home spouse will be responsible for covering minor family emergencies. Companies such as American Express have seen success by offering their workers even more flexibility to handle minor family problems, coupled with providing backup care services that employees can use.

Already there are more Millennials in the workforce than Generation X, and within the next few years, they’ll overtake Boomers as well. For this reason, businesses should consider now how they can support their younger workforce and demonstrate that a union-free company is better for everyone. Companies who ignore workplace flexibility and work-life balance risk creating an inviting environment for union organizing. Any employer working to build a union-proof culture knows that it’s far more cost-effective to retain the best workers, rather than having to recruit, hire and train repeatedly.

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Directing the Narrative: Employee Communications During a Union Action

union organizing communicationsWhen a union has you — and your employees — in its sight, you need to be ready to respond. Union leadership had months to prepare, to start engaging your employees, and to lay the groundwork for a unionization drive. Your business can’t afford to cobble together a strategy once a representation vote is imminent; you need to have a well-thought-out communications game plan. Here are a few tips to help craft your message:

Do Your Research

Your labor team needs to communicate with employees during an organizing drive. But before they do, it’s vital to understand that the laws are explicit about what kind of communication is permissible. The team of people working to help keep your company union-free will be in charge of overseeing the message, understanding what is said, to whom and when. Beyond that, the labor team (even if it’s a group of leaders who normally have other primary responsibilities) must know what resources are available to them to help them communicate well. This includes attorneys, persuaders & consultants and those that provide video, web, and eLearning tools dedicated to keeping your company union-free.

So, do your research and know what’s legal as well as what’s recommended for your unique company and workforce ahead of time. Then, when you do have to manage a campaign to keep your company union-free, you’ll be well-prepared.

Train Your First Line of Defense

Next, remember that your supervisors are out every day interacting with employees… making them your best source of information about what’s going on with your workforce. Empower those in supervisory positions and promote positive employee relations by providing confidence-boosting training that helps them understand not only what cannot be said to employees – but what CAN and SHOULD be said during an organizing drive. Supervisors can state that the company is opposed to unionization, highlight the disadvantages of union membership, and point to misleading statements in union propaganda. Supervisors cannot prohibit employees from wearing union buttons or demand to know if they’ve signed a union authorization card. Provide them with the skills they need to conduct meetings with employees, recognize distribution of authorization cards, and implement other targeted communications.

Any team member that is expected to lead and to communicate with employees needs powerful leadership training to avoid mistakes – and Unfair Labor Practice charges – that could lead to fines and penalties for your company, and stress for your management team. This gives you time to prepare your response and make your case to your employees.

Create Internal Processes to Address Employee Grievances

Why are your employees even considering joining a union in the first place? If you can answer that question, maybe you can prevent this problem altogether. In a union-free environment, one option is to empower your supervisors to engage employees directly and solicit feedback. If there are consistent grievances, you may have your answer. A more involved option is to organize a “town hall” with executives to speak to employees and even the families of employees directly. This is a slightly more risky idea, but if your leadership is prepared and willing, this can put a more human face on your company.

Finally, your internal processes can include regularly conducted employee engagement or union vulnerability assessments and surveys. When conducted by an outside company, these processes can help upper management gain insight, understanding, and the ability to take action on the right things.

Have Prepared Communications Ready

The time to plan your communications strategy is before an organizing drive – not during. Whoever makes up your labor team – be it staff dedicated to this area or communications teams and senior management  – needs to sit down and create templates for several key publications: a response to an organizing drive so employees immediately understand that the company is aware and listening, educational information about the effects of unionization and why the company wants to remain union-free, and what to say once an organizing drive has ended (and what it means for the business going forward).

This pre-prepped communications plan applies to company emails and press releases, but if your labor team wants to directly engage and refute union messaging, the best medium can be a website, dedicated to the organizing drive – and addressing only that topic. This kind of site can be created and kept in a “dark” state until it’s needed.

Keep Your Message Positive

This is where your labor & communications teams earns their keep. Your internal and public communications need to be clear, consistent and positive. Your leadership needs to have the authority to control all management interactions with the media and ensure that no company leaders “wing it” and go off-message. That message needs to state the facts and avoid painting the dispute as bitter or unpleasant. Remember, all you need to communicate is where the company stands and that events are ongoing. Anything else is just noise.

Your message needs to be thoughtful, consistent and constructive. Every communication you release will be picked over by your employees, the union and, depending on the level of coverage, the media. What you say, and how you say it, will reveal a lot about how your organization is weathering the storm and how soon you can get back to business.

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Posted in Employee Video, Employee Websites, Labor Relations, Positive Employee Relations, Projections, Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Want to Be Union Free? Do This Now!

alternate dispute resolution union freeHow An Alternative Dispute Resolution Program Can Keep Your Company Union Free

Once a labor-relations issue arises, or a campaign to unionize your workplace begins, nothing looks as bad as a quickly re-drawn grievance procedure. At best, you will have weakened your employee’s trust in you; at worst, you might be guilty of an unfair labor practice.

Making sure employees feel like they’re a part of things plays a major role in creating a union proof culture. Implementing a pro-worker alternative dispute resolution (ADR) policy now will go a long way towards securing this end.

Proper employee communication is vitally important in all aspects of your approach to human resource management. As part of your company’s continuing dialogue, it is crucial to ensure that employees feel they have a voice in the workplace arena, and that this voice is listened to by managerial staff and those in decision-making positions.

Maintaining a union-free workspace means ensuring that your employees feel valued. So, let’s look in some detail at a few ways in which you can develop a good pro-worker ADR policy, and how best to implement those policies to ensure your company stays union-free:

Begin Communicating Right Away

Even if you’re only just beginning to create your ADR policy, or you have just begun to make substantial changes to a pre-existing one, let your workers know this as soon as possible. Communicate in the way most familiar to your employees, so that while the issue may be new, the mode of communication is trusted. If you do regular video updates and distribute them via an email link, don’t suddenly start using social media to talk about your dispute resolution process – – even if you plan to use that new channel to educate employees on the program going forward.

Know Your Workplace

It might seem a trivial point, but do you know what issues in the day-to-day running of your business are the most likely to make your employees concerned?

Survey your workforce. Find out if there’s a health and safety issue that they are particularly worried about, and identify any areas that might make your staff feel insecure or anxious.

Conducting an employee survey may also help shape your Dispute Resolution policy. You’ll definitely get an idea of the issues that might be addressed by your ADR program, and how engaged your employees might be in that process.

Have Employees Sit as Peer Reviewers on ADR Committees

Fully integrating your workforce into the actual dispute resolution process itself is a great way to signal to your employees that you are willing to take their input seriously and give them a role in the things that matter to them.

Furthermore, employees are often the best-positioned people in your business to tell you about the specifics of an internal workplace dispute. Rather than being overly lenient, they are usually the most incentivized members of your company when it comes to grading their colleague’s work performance.

Have a Swift and Fair Appeals Process in Place

As an employer, you are not going to get every decision right. But appearing arbitrary with the application of your decision-making principles is a surefire way to bring about employee-relation breakdown.

A good insurance against this perceived arbitrariness is to have a fair and robust appeals policy. This way, bad decisions can be swiftly rectified, and it provides another outlet for employee grievance other than turning to a union.

Be Consistent

This should be fairly obvious, yet it does require diligence from your managerial team. Consistency is the visible byproduct of integrity, and employees can spot a lack of integrity from a mile away!

Inconsistency, even in the smallest of workplace matters, can have profound implications for workforce morale. Train your managers and supervisors to understand this, and educate them on the need to apply workplace rules fairly across the board.

And Finally

Listen to your employees as you create your ADR process, and take action based on what they are saying. In order to be inspired, employees must feel that they are making a worthwhile contribution to the organization – and that their contribution is valued by you, their employer. With an effective channel to have their voices heard, it won’t be a union they turn to when problems arise.

You may find The United States Office of Personnel Management’s guide to creating an Alternative Dispute Resolution process helpful.

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Boosting Your Employer Brand Through Social Media: 4 Great Tips

Employer Branding RecruitmentHow do companies get a reputation for being a great place to work? In the past, it was all word of mouth. Employees would share stories with their friends, and your company slowly would build a reputation. Hopefully, a positive one.

These days, it’s possible to manage your own brand as an employer, and social media can be the driving force behind it. But how does a company leverage social media to demonstrate that it’s an attractive place to work? Here are a few things to consider:

1. Build Engagement By Offering Great Content

If you have an account that just posts details of vacancies, you will only attract job-seekers. If you post content that’s interesting, informative and entertaining, you will attract everybody. This is the real aim of employer branding: to build a positive reputation on a large scale and to passively recruit people who may not be actively seeking a job. Video is an excellent way to catch the attention of passersby on social media, as are catchy viral articles. If you create something great, people will share it, increasing your reach by orders of magnitude.

2. Get the Experts Involved (Your Employees)

Who knows more about your values as an employer than the people who work for you? They can provide you with stories, anecdotes, photos, cases studies and details of the social side of working life in your organization. They can help you give your company a personality, which is a key element of all branding. Talk to your people about your social media plans and see how they can help.

3. Celebrate Your Values

Social media places a huge emphasis on authenticity. To build a successful employer brand on social media, you have to talk honestly about who you are, where you’re going and how you intend to get there. Most of all, you need to talk about the values at the core of your company. Never try to advertise yourself as something you’re not. Instead, be proud of what your company stands for and let the world know about it.

employee engagement

4. Have Real Conversations With People

Social media is not a broadcast. It is two-way conversation. Everything you post is an opportunity to start a dialogue, which shows that you are responsive, dynamic and approachable. It’s also important on a one-to-one level in terms of passive recruitment, as even minor conversations can help to form a relationship that may lead to that person applying for a job.

It can take time and effort to build an effective employer brand on social media, but can you afford to leave it to word of mouth?

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How To Make the Most of Your Employee Engagement Survey

Employee Engagement SurveyConducting an engagement survey is a proven method of gathering actionable feedback. Hiring a professional to assist is always a good move, but if that’s cost-prohibitive for your company, you shouldn’t avoid it altogether. Instead, start small with a DIY survey and use the insight you gain to justify more in-depth data gathering in the future. When your data is used effectively, engagement and employee satisfaction increase dramatically, reducing the likelihood that team members will seek alternative means of resolving their concerns – unionizing, for example.

Far too many HR professionals begin the engagement survey process with the best of intentions, then find their strategy backfires because no meaningful change results from employee feedback. Remember: failure to take action is more discouraging for employees than passing on the engagement survey altogether.

Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting an Employee Engagement Survey

The first step in the engagement survey process is developing your strategy. Based on your population, does it make sense to conduct short, frequent surveys or to develop a comprehensive questionnaire that is administered quarterly, semi-annually or annually? In many cases, a combination of the two strategies is an effective option, if your budget allows.

Next, consider how you can best pinpoint specific, actionable engagement information. While general questions like “Do you expect to be with the company in one year?” are helpful on a longer form, right now it is better to know, “If you could change one thing about your work environment, what would it be?”

Once you know what you want to ask and how often you want to conduct surveys, select your survey application. This can be overwhelming as there are an extraordinary number of applications on the market.

Determine which software will best meet your needs by keeping an eye on your budget, the number of questions you plan to ask, the number of employees you will survey, and the type of analytics you want to see in your results display. Some of the most popular options include the following:

  • TINYpulse is specifically designed for short, frequent anonymous surveys, so you can compare results over time.
  • Culture Amp offers a larger suite of survey options, as well as comprehensive analytics and benchmarking reports.
  • Qualtrics has all of the survey features you expect, and if you need additional support, take advantage of Qualtrics’ consulting and support teams.
  • 15five has pulse surveys and weekly check-ins, which are helpful in monitoring employee engagement in real-time. In addition, recognition tools are incorporated into the application, making it easier than ever for management to provide real-time feedback.

Finally, communicate with staff members to ensure they understand the purpose of the survey. Emphasize that their identity will remain anonymous and encourage honest participation.

Creating Meaningful Change Based on Engagement Survey Results

While your first impulse may be to focus your limited resources on items that received the most attention in the survey results, this isn’t always the best philosophy. A single individual might mention a policy or compliance violation that could – if not addressed – lead to serious legal and regulatory issues down the road.

In some cases, a small number of individuals offer feedback on a particular concern, and it can appear that the problem isn’t pressing. However, this group may represent an entire team that is poorly managed, or it could be a few folks who are feeling powerless and disenfranchised within the organization. In both cases, these individuals are very likely next in line for jumping ship.

employer branding
Take specific action in response to survey results, and communicate the action and the feedback that prompted it. The communication is your opportunity to assure employees their voices are heard and valued, leading them to stick around through tough times.

High levels of employee engagement cement your status as an employer of choice. The positive impacts of a strong reputation are hard to measure. From increased productivity and employee retention to an ability to attract top talent for vacant positions, you can be sure that an engaged workforce will improve your bottom line.

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