Category Archives for Labor Relations

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.

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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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.

5 Innovative Ways to Connect with Employees Outside of Social Media

Connect with EmployeesFor a little more than a decade, Human Resources and Employee & Labor Relations departments across the country have been on a mission to figure out how to connect with employees on social media — and it’s proven to be a very difficult task. Employees sometimes aren’t as open to corporate communications on Facebook and Twitter. Even on LinkedIn, reaching employees can be challenging, and sometimes even fruitless. Nevertheless, employee engagement is key to union avoidance, as well as a healthy and happy workplace culture.

Luckily, there are other more powerful ways to connect with employees that don’t involve social media and can help with limiting vulnerability to union organizing. Here are a few innovative ways to engage employees and foster meaningful connections.

1. Learn to Love Online Video

Online video is quickly becoming the most popular and most consumed form of media. It’s even been estimated that video traffic will account for 82 percent of internet traffic by 2020. And it’s easy to see why — video is both incredibly popular and highly affordable. Plus, the possibilities with video content are endless. Host a live Q&A session, create a mini-series of training videos or share interviews with executive leadership to keep employees tuned in and motivation turned up.

2. Send Out Surveys

With plenty of free services like Survey Gizmo, Google Forms and Survey Monkey, it’s never been easier to create employee surveys and analyze the feedback. This can be a powerful tool when you’re looking to craft positive relationships with your employees. Keeping a pulse on how your employees feel about your workplace can help you overcome culture challenges and anticipate potential problems. But be aware of anonymous feedback when giving surveys, as they could encourage unproductive conversations and skew the facts.

3. Take a Walk Around!

Sometimes the best way to create positive employee relations is to unplug. Walking through the office to chat with employees a couple times a week is the most simple yet most powerful way to connect. Personal, face-to-face interactions remind employees that you’re a resource to them and create a bond that can’t be made over SnapChat. Taking five minutes to check in once in awhile might be just what your employees need to feel supported and connected to your company. Plus, you’ll be able to gauge the energy in the room, something digital platforms can’t measure.

4. Host Tandem Training Courses

Ask managers and supervisors to take the same online training classes so they’re reviewing identical material at the same time. The process of learning collaboratively will give them an opportunity to connect among themselves, online and off. Follow up a week of training with a group discussion to reinforce the lessons. It will reinforce your company’s values of continual learning, foster a culture that supports growth and remind your teams that you care about their professional development.

5. Schedule Regular Social Events

After the end-of-the-year seasonal parties, employees are usually feeling connected and energized, having just made new memories together. This is why you shouldn’t limit the fun to just once a year. Host quarterly or bi-annual parties that bring people together to do nothing but have fun and bond as a team. The relationships developed over a hamburger at a cookout in the summer will translate to stronger relationships in the office. And stronger relationships in the office will translate to happier, more motivated and more fulfilled employees.

Make your company an employer of choice by driving meaningful connections in person, not just on social media. When you’re looking to improve your employee engagement practices, remember that there are plenty of innovative ways to connect offline as well as on. However, one size does not fit all. What works best for one company might not work at another, so it’s important to find the most effective methods of reaching your employees. Try one, two or all five of these tips to see which work best for you, your team and your culture.

11 Positive Employee Relations Strategies that Haven’t Jumped the Shark

JumpedTheShark_billboardCompanies are realizing the critical connection between employee engagement and factors like retention rates, productivity and profits. As employees seek out work-life balance, many major companies are making unconventional cultural changes. Smaller business owners might feel constricted in their ability to keep up and offer competitive, quirky employee benefits; however, there are ways to transform those over-the-top perks into affordable, effective employee benefits and remain an employer of choice in your industry.

1. Work When You Please

Netflix reportedly keeps little watch over their employees’ work hours, with no 9-5 schedule. For small business owners, how do you ensure employees are available during periods of high volume? This extreme approach can be made more practical by creating flexibility outside of “core hours.” In this case, employees would have a set of mandatory hours in their week, while the rest could be altered to fit, thus providing a guilt-free option for employees who need to leave early or arrive late.

2. Vacation Anytime!

Netflix has also gone above and beyond with vacation time, offering employees free rein over their days off. Management simply doesn’t track or control how often or when employees take time off, trusting them to make reasonable decisions. While you may trust your employees, you know a “vacation anytime” approach could lead to short-staffed situations. Instead, employers can close for the day or reduce holiday hours of operation, eliminating the resentment that often comes with working on holidays.

3. Onsite Healthcare

Google provides its staff with onsite doctors, chiropractors and therapists. Undoubtedly, most businesses cannot afford this pricey endeavor, but any company can invite simple programs that benefit employee health. For example, midweek, half-hour office yoga sessions, taught by an affordable instructor, would help break up the week and refresh employees.

4. Fresh Flowers

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition employees receive fresh flowers on their desk each morning. What can regular companies do to boost the mood and atmosphere with a simple touch? Give your staff free rein to decorate their personal spaces or rearrange furniture to suit their work needs. Dedicating one day to this project each year can strengthen employee communication and serve as a fun break.

5. Paid Education

Every employee dreams of having college tuition paid for in full, which is just what Starbucks does for those staff members who want a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, education isn’t cheap and most young employees will change jobs several times in their early professional life. However, you can offer relevant employee training for leaders and supervisors through abetterleader.com.

6. Surfing Through the Workday

Taking advantage of its beautiful California location, Patagonia encourages its employees to take a surf break during the day. Retail Marketing Coordinator Danielle Egge says the luxurious break improves her daily productivity dramatically. While most businesses aren’t stationed by the beach, managers can coordinate running or cycling groups to encourage daily activity during or after lunch breaks.

7. Trips to Disney World

Education technology company 2U knows how to spoil its employees — with free trips to Disney World, of course. Coordinating and financing such a trip is a huge undertaking, especially for a larger staff, but simply inserting a bland employee picnic in its place won’t cut it. Instead, managers can poll the office to determine what local destinations employees want to visit. From outdoor parks to great local restaurants, employee trips will be appreciated for the time, money and effort involved in a fun day/night out.

8. Foreign Travel

What better way to inform your employees about different cultures and build stronger teams than by traveling abroad? Epic does just that, even offering paid sabbaticals to countries like New Zealand and Germany. Your employees may not have the time to skip off into the sunset, but you can bring other cultures into the workplace. Consider inviting unique speakers with topics that appeal to your employees, or even hiring caterers for an ethnic mini food festival. As you mix up their regular environment, your employees will feel as though they’re receiving mini vacations throughout the year.

9. Tech Cash

AnswerLab answers tech nerds’ dreams by offering a $400 allowance for employee devices or apps. Even with a small staff these allowances add up fast, but not all apps and software are expensive. Businesses can consider holding monthly meetings in which managers introduce a new tool that can help make employees’ jobs easier. These tools can be low cost or even free, provided directly to employees or offered as an option.

10. Vacation Cash

A step up from simple vacation time, Full Contact offers to pay $7500 toward its employees’ getaways, as long as they disconnect and actually travel somewhere. This perk, dubbed “Paid Paid Vacations,” is in addition to employees’ already paid 15-day vacation. Companies can mimic this perk by notifying employees of discount travel packages and programs throughout the year.

11. Bring Your Dog to Work

Real Estate software company BoomTown allows employees to bring their dogs to work, calling dogs an “important part of the workforce.” Depending on your business, you might not find it safe or practical for pups to roam the workspace. However, companies can arrange a day in which the space is opened to friends and family, allowing employees to proudly show what they do. This event can also generate employment interest and help identify potential candidates.

You don’t have to break the bank to connect with your employees and provide them with meaningful experiences they can appreciate. Ultimately, employees will recognize and value sincerity over flashy employee perks, and be more inclined to remain union-free — because it’s respect your staff truly desires.