Human resources professionals know that union organizing presents a variety of complex challenges, and many dread their labor relations responsibilities. After all, the process of educating employees on the drawbacks of voting in a union can be taxing, and participating in contract negotiations is nearly always stressful.
However, there’s another way to look at labor relations: as a unique opportunity to develop strong skills in leadership, decision-making, communication, and collaboration through experience that can’t be gained any other way. In fact, some C-suite HR leaders credit their labor relations work as their most important development opportunity, giving them the extra boost in skills they needed to reach the top of their career ladders.
Increased Understanding of Business Strategies
The cost of labor is one of the highest expenses in any organization, and maximizing the use of people to produce the company’s goods and services is a core function of human resources. However, many HR professionals find themselves bogged down in the details of the HR function: managing payroll, performance, and interpersonal conflicts, for example.
For unionized companies, collective bargaining agreements bring focus back to the purpose of HR, as these contracts essentially boil down to an exchange of quality labor for specific compensation and working conditions. Experience with contract negotiations gives HR staff special insight into their larger role, as well as an improved understanding of business strategies that will optimize the company’s success.
When word gets around that there’s interest in unionizing, HR personnel often limit their union avoidance activities to correcting issues that have cropped up with managers’ behavior, application of policies, and similar matters. However, to be truly effective in keeping an organization union-free, smart HR professionals examine all aspects of the business. From basic operations to compensation rates for skilled workers, they look into every available possibility for improving the work environment. This offers an entirely new set of skills to HR staff. Instead of restricting their work to issues directly in their span of control, they learn to develop larger, more integrated solutions that benefit the business as a whole.
Working in HR means you’re regularly dropped in the middle of intense, highly emotional situations. The best HR professionals can handle the stress of these encounters calmly, keeping their own feelings in check while de-escalating tension between others. When labor issues crop up, they tend to be some of the most intense that any HR staff member faces. Greater exposure to labor relations means more practice with this sort of intensity. Before long, you’ll discover that staying composed is second nature for you – an important trait in any executive.
The foundation of any union avoidance strategy is increased communication, and when a union is already present, collaboration is key to maintaining a productive working environment. Working on labor relations issues is an opportunity to become more effective in both communication and collaboration – skills that are very much on display in leaders.
Of course, not every position has exposure to unions and their related concerns, but you can still work toward improving your skills. Participating in high-quality training such as the Union Proof Certification is an excellent first step in taking your career to the next level.
Crisis is a part of growth, and could even be said to drive the world of commerce and business, as a crisis most often represents opportunity. Effective communication is essential to keep crisis manageable and prevent the escalation of crisis into conflict. Conflict, on the other hand, is bad for business, can be damaging to employees and can contribute to what human resources professionals refer to as a “toxic” working environment.
When teams work through a crisis and negotiate meaning and progress together in the workplace, they can accomplish goals, and promote the type of creative thinking and action that lead to innovation, prevent workplace injury, and create greater productivity.
Working with crisis models and communication protocols ahead of time, or on a regular basis, is business and workplace best practice.
Learning successful negotiation in the workplace means beginning to communicate in ways that are effective in achieving shared corporate goals. We negotiate within our companies every day — when we speak in meetings, when we write or respond to memos, when we “talk shop” on our breaks, and when we write or distribute written materials in the workplace.
Successful negotiation shows itself in action that demonstrates immediate corrective action that creates positive change. Establish what a properly managed crisis looks like for your company. This measure of success can take many forms – the number of team members involved, the length of time it takes to resolve the crisis… even the finanical impact of the crisis.
Successful crisis resolution protocols require sincere acknowledgment of the perspectives and unique voices of everyone affected by the workplace crisis. When sending out newsletters, briefs, tweets, e-mails, letters or press releases, consider as many perspectives as possible:
Please note: Within a company with no union employees, similar crisis, negotiation and conflicts occur over work conditions, expectations and misunderstandings of communications. All of the strategies discussed here are effective for workplaces that are either unionized and union-free.
“The medium is the message,” declared media guru Marshall McLuhan in 1977. His cryptic message is still a topic of animated discussion, but the truth is, every successful company and corporation must have a strong “mixed medium” communication system — a system of human intelligence and human resources, combined with a video, online and hard copy communications.
Demonstrating in a crisis that the company is prepared to use a variety of mediums to connect with key players can be a powerful way to de-escalate a crisis situation.
There are a variety of “stage”-focused models of crisis development that illustrate levels of escalation and can help you guide effective response at each crisis stage. There are five stage models, seven stage models and a variety of other models recommended by academics and crisis prevention experts that are useful models for organizations to use to guide crisis intervention and communication protocols.
Knowing that there are various models to illustrate stages of crisis intervention can be an important factor in successful resolution of any type of workplace conflict. Learning new models allows you to craft a custom strategy that works for your workplace and your unique culture. Reviewing these differing approaches encourages innovative and creative approaches to crisis prevention.
When a strike is possible, a signal is sent by all parties involved that negotiations have “failed” and “communication is no longer effective.” Moving quickly past that very real situation is paramount to workplace success. All commercial enterprises, regardless of industry and size, thrive on effective ongoing communications.
Re-establishing communication as quickly as possible is essential. A strike in progress affects all key players, families and stakeholders, as well as the broader community.
Agent provocateurs and saboteurs are not storybook characters — they are titles for people involved in a workplace for the purpose of damaging the company. Whether they are people in an employee, executive or union role, they have can a destructive impact on negotiations, communication systems, and overall company success. A well-trained human resources team reduces the chances that these type of people are hired: They identify employees that are present for destructive purposes, and remove them strategically and immediately.
This kind of crisis can be avoided with attention to hiring practices. Communicating with the remaining members of a team when such an employee is removed is vital.
Managing the media should be an ongoing shared corporate goal and protocols for media communications should be in place before a workplace crisis degrades into conflict. This is true during union organizing, particularly when the union undertakes a “corporate campaign,” working to damage the company’s reputation or business. Crisis prevention should be a primary communications goal, and keeping in regular contact with local media is paramount. Regular press releases are essential. This regular contact facilitates communication during any type of workplace crisis, negotiation or conflict.
Managing crisis in the workplace often involves many people, players in many roles and stakeholders. It also involves families, friends, and neighbors. Creative approaches to establishing your unique “stage”-focused model as well as ongoing development of innovative strategies are keys to long-term crisis prevention and successful intervention in the workplace.
Forty-seven percent of American adults say they are unsure about or don’t know their employer’s core values — the beliefs and goals of an organization — according to Eagle Hill Consulting. Want more? 89 percent of workers who are aware of their employer’s values believe those values do influence their behavior and decisions within the workplace!
Having shared values guides decision-making, product development and even customer service. but many businesses struggle to communicate their objectives and standards to their workforce. It’s vital to recognize that effective communication fosters productivity and keeps employees engaged, something that could keep an organization union-free. Here’s how you can publicize your organization’s core values effectively.
A mission statement, which summarizes your company’s goals and values, is a powerful way to convey the management philosophy of your organization. This document compiles strategic decisions and forecasts future behaviors, and outlines a roadmap for how these can be achieved. How to write a corporate mission statement will depend on the scope of your business. However, you establish your organization’s most important projects and engage with your audience.
Mission statements used to consist of blocks of black-and-white text and were seldom read. However, new technology has made these documents more engaging for the customers, clients and employees who read them. You can articulate your core values through images and colorful graphics to boost employee engagement, for example. Email marketing brand Infusionsoft has incorporated various visual elements to illustrate the company’s values: “We believe in people and their dreams.”
Video is an effective way to get your message across. Fifty-nine percent of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text, while 50 percent of senior staff search for more information about a company after seeing a product or a service in a video. Plus, 65 percent of people remember a piece of information when it’s paired with a visual. This medium is a powerful platform for marketing and sales, but it can also be used to broadcast your core values.
Online marketing portal DigitalMarketer reveals its corporate mission in a short video. Viewers can find out what the organization believes, what it wants to achieve, and what its plans for the future are. This is something you could try for yourself. Video enhances communications between you and your staff and might prevent them from finding out more about your company from a third party.
Creating a mobile app with your core values is an innovative way to engage with a tech-savvy, young-skewing workforce. Mobile usage has skyrocketed in recent years, with American adults now spending more time on mobile devices than on desktops and laptops. Furthermore, 89 percent of time spent on mobile media is through an app.
Alternatively, you can optimize your website for mobile browsers so prospective and current employees can access your core values from their smartphone or tablet. This prevents website visitors from clicking on the “back” button if your values page doesn’t display properly or takes too long to load on a mobile device.
If staff are unaware of your organization’s core values, now’s the time to tell them. Writing a mission statement, creating a video or using mobile technology will convey your objectives in an exciting way and instill these values into employees. These methods alone won’t stop unionization, but they could result in happier, more engaged, productive employees who are conscious of your company’s ethos.
Creating 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.