5 Ways To Stay Union-Free That Don’t Involve Fighting Unions

Stay UnionFreeCreating a culture that produces happy, engaged and satisfied workers is essential for successful companies. In addition to the fact that workers in these categories are more productive and efficient than their counterparts, they’re also less likely to organize into unions, which can save employers time, money and stress. With this in mind, here are the top five ways to keep your employees happy and decrease the incentive to turn to a union.

1. Develop a pro-worker mindset

It’s better to be pro-worker than it is to be anti-union. By approaching staying union-free from a defensive position, you communicate that you’re “afraid” of the idea of unionization. A better approach sends a message that employees are part of the solution and that their opinions and feelings matter. With this in mind, the first and most effective step to staying union-free is to act in a way that builds up your employees and their role in creating a union-proof culture, in all facets of your business. This simple method will go a long way toward keeping your workplace union-free!

2. Educate employees (and managers) about the benefits of staying union-free

Believe it or not, many employees don’t fully understand what they’ll give up by unionizing. In your employee handbook and new hire orientation, make sure you educate employees on your union-free operating philosophy and the reasons to stay union-free. Better yet, hold regular training sessions for both employees and managers on the topic. Be open to questions, even the tough ones! Generally, non-unionized workplaces have fewer legal issues, a more cohesive feel, and greater flexibility than unionized ones. They’re also free of the substantial added cost unionization creates.

3. Make your communication more relevant

Communication is a critical protection against unionization. When communication is effective, it flows unrestricted from employees to managers and back. When it’s not, though, issues arise and employees consider unionization. Take a look at your company and consider how you can improve and modernize your communication.

Can you add more relevant forms of communication via online platforms or video? Should you be holding more regular meetings to listen to and resolve employee issues? By streamlining communication, you mitigate many issues that may eventually lead to unionization.

4. Explain unpopular decisions or hold “listening sessions”

Every company will occasionally need to make a decision that’s unpopular with employees. The ones that don’t explain these decisions, however, are at risk of unionization. Remember that employees all want to feel like they’re part of the solution, and leaving them out of critical decision making or thought processes doesn’t achieve this end.

Instead, take the time to explain unpopular decisions to your employees. Consider holding “listening sessions” where they can air their grievances. If the grievances are actionable, the company’s CEO or HR department can work to resolve them. This simple step helps ensure employee happiness and discourages the formation of unions.

5. Manage Complaints Swiftly

A company’s supervisory and managerial staff are some of its most critical. In addition to collaborating closely with workers, these staff members also field complaints and negative feedback. To prevent unionization and ensure cohesion throughout the company, it’s critical that these complaints be dealt with effectively and completely from within the company. This helps prevent employees feeling the need to form a union to ensure their own protection.

Avoiding Unionization Made Easy

While unionization is a complex process for companies and their workers, these five simple tips can help prevent it from becoming a reality. At the end of the day, employee satisfaction is based on the feeling that they are an integral part of the company’s success, and that their opinions and concerns are valued by upper management. By taking steps to foster this mindset in your workplace, you create a cooperative environment that resists unions naturally, rather than a strict and fragile one that is forcing employees to stay union-free.

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2017: Changes Coming to HR

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The Human Resources field is changing, and the role of an HR Manager isn’t what it was 20 – or even 10 – years ago. Today’s HR professionals face many challenges that are unique to our ever-changing times. Take a look at the following list

IT Integration

Many hiring managers must work closely with a company’s IT department, in particular when it comes to recruiting and screening potential employees. Technology such as automatic resume review and analytics are playing an increasingly prominent role in today’s HR world.

Employee Engagement

Those entering the workforce today are, in general, far more engaged than those of previous generations. Many view their workplace as an extension of themselves, and not just somewhere to earn a paycheck. While this can be very beneficial to an employer, it means that the HR department may also have to wear many hats and take on tasks like party planning and seeking out employee volunteer opportunities.

Social Media

Employee grievances are far less likely to stay behind closed doors in these social media-saturated times. It’s never been more important for Human Resources managers to deal with any unresolved issues before employees take their complaints to social media – potentially damaging a company’s reputation along the way.

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Remote Work

Increasing numbers of companies are allowing at least some employees to work from home. While this arrangement can provide benefits to both the employee and employer, managing remote workers can bring up some new challenges for the HR department. This may include ensuring the lines of communication stay open and working with department managers to develop a culture of trust and accountability that fits within the flexible work arrangements.

RELATED: How to Build A Successful Remote Workforce

Labor Relations

Unions are nothing new – but the current proliferation of social media and other online activity can affect employees’ potential attempts to organize in major ways. It’s easier than ever for union reps to contact non-unionized employees via electronic means such as email, instant messages and chat forums. Human resources professionals must be aware of any potential employee interest in unionizing so they can take the appropriate actions. Fair or not, the human resources manager is often the first line of defense in communicating the benefits of remaining union-free.

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Smooth Operator: New Ways To Look At Onboarding New Employees

New Employee OrientationThe best way to make the onboarding process enjoyable and informative is to welcome new members of your team firsthand. Too many new faces can be overwhelming. Videos, e-learnings and online resources are an important part of orientation and further training. A good strategy for orientations and training sessions is to have few members of your staff on hand. You should mix the talks with interesting and upbeat digital introductions and walk-throughs.

Recall What Worked for You at Orientation and Beyond

Even if your orientation was not memorable, you probably experienced some amazing moments in your first week and month. Think of what moments and techniques you could use to familiarize your new employees with the company’s culture. By bringing your new employees to the boardroom in the headquarters office, even if you have to do it over video, you give them “tribal knowledge.” The talks and digital resources reveal the consistent standards, expectations and attitude that your workforce shares.

BuildNewHireChecklist_BillboardShow Them How to Solve Problems

New employees are under extreme pressure to perform well. They often have little knowledge of industry standards and company practices. Orientation and personalized follow-up trainings are good moments to explain that people are not expected to be perfect. Documenting how experienced staff handle a problem makes new employees feel relieved. Watching such videos also lets them know who they can ask for help. Think of pairing digital resources with a few in-person appearances, a Q&A session and a mentor relationship.

Change the Onboarding Process As Needed With Help From Recent Hires

It’s important that your company’s onboarding experience remain consistent and effective. Yet you need to allow for the integration of new standards and information. Use your Human Resources staff to explain the legal and technical aspects of job features like benefits, the company wellness plan and health insurance. Talk to your most recent hires about how they think these changes could best be presented.

Since new employees just went through the onboarding process, they understand where certain information would best be inserted. In addition, being given an important question to answer helps them feel recognized. When you are able to make changes using their suggestions, that shows them they have been accepted by the company and their presence is valued.

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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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