Category Archives for Labor Relations

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

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.

Making the Most of the CUE Spring Conference

Twice a year, CUE holds a major conference for Human Resources professionals, managers and labor-relations specialists, and it is almost time for the CUE Spring 2016 Conference. The “Making Magical Moments in Employee Relations” CUE conference will be held May 15-17, 2016 in Orlando, Florida and is an opportunity to hear and interact with experts from North America and across the globe. You also get an opportunity to do plenty of networking and will leave the conference with invaluable tools and suggestions for developing positive employee relations.

Quick Tips for Getting Maximum Benefits

To get the most out of the conference, follow these tips:

  • Make use of the app – This year there is a conference app that will allow you to check your schedule, connect with fellow attendees and interact with speakers.
  • Attend the Day One General Session – The first general session at 8:15 a.m., titled “2016 State of the State in Labor Relations,” summarizes the labor challenges employers are facing in 2016. It provides an excellent overview of the topics covered in the breakout sessions on Monday and Tuesday.
  • Make a plan for attending the concurrent sessions – The first three concurrent sessions on Monday and Tuesday afternoons are held at 1:15 p.m. and are repeated at 2:30 p.m. That means you can choose two different topics of interest each day for the afternoon. After the concurrent sessions end at 3:30 p.m., you can choose one more topic on Monday to attend from 3:45-4:45 p.m. All morning sessions are non-concurrent. Be sure to look for “Effective Online Response: Making Confident Decisions Around Organizing and Technology” with Brett Ulrich of Verizon and Projections’ own CEO, Walter Orechwa!  This session with help companies understand how to build trust with employees online and cover strategies for dealing with the use of social media and other technology during union campaigns.  Walter and Brett will offer strategies and practical tips for responding to corporate campaign websites, texting and online authorization cards; along with best practices from companies who are already meeting this challenge head-on.
  • Attend the Grand Finale – Attending the Grand Finale on Tuesday at 3:40 p.m. is important because expert speakers review the top takeaways from the many sessions held Monday and Tuesday. This session provides actionable information for application in the office.
  • Claim your credits – You can earn 12.75 credits for SHRM Competencies and HR Certification Institute certification at the CUE Spring 2016 Conference.
  • Take advantage of all networking opportunities – There are numerous chances to network, and especially if you’re new, you should take advantage of every one! You can mingle with attendees and speakers during breaks, lunch, the CUE Unplugged sessions and dinner at Epcot, and by using the conference app!
  • Learn more at the post-conference workshop ­– A post conference workshop titled “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” is offered on Wednesday morning from 8-11 a.m. It extends the information introduced in the hour-long Tuesday morning general session with the same name. It is an interactive workshop that gives attendees practical tools for team building.

Developing positive employee relations is challenging in a multicultural and multi-generational workforce. The CUE conferences provide an excellent opportunity to gain the information you need to develop and manage a consistently productive and engaged workforce. See you there!


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5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Employee Handbook

employee handbook mistakesEmployee handbook mistakes can range from the seemingly silly to the outright illegal, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) came down hard on many handbook practices in the last year. Positive employee relations best practices dictate careful consideration of the contents of your handbook and regular employee communication as that handbook is reviewed annually. Here are five common mistakes that human resources personnel and handbook developers make when they create the handbooks; be sure to contact a labor attorney to ask specific questions or to review your handbook.

1. Copying from Other Handbooks

When you copy from an Internet template or take another company’s handbook to use as your own with some search-and-replace work thrown in, you tread in dangerous territory. By all means, you should use other handbooks and handbook examples to guide your work. Just do not copy them, especially policies. Even if policies and handbook sections are written in precise language that applies to your business, they might not pass the legal sniff test in your state or city. Plus, your business and your approach to positive employee relations are unique. Make your handbook unique as well, and do not plagiarize.

2. Cluttering It with Jargon

The point of a handbook is to explain and clarify your company’s policies and procedures. A handbook must be readable and clearly communicate with employees, yet many are cluttered with jargon. In some cases, the jargon is there to protect the company against potential future legal action, but do not go down this route. Instead, protect your company by aiming for positive employee relations and crafting an accessible and legally compliant document.

3. Being Unequivocal

Your employee handbook needs to leave a lot of room for flexibility and to avoid verbs such as “will” and “shall.” Instead, use verbs such as “may,” especially when discussing policies and possible disciplinary actions. An employee handbook is not supposed to be a contract, but using rigid language positions it in terms of a contract, and can even be a negative instead of a positive.


4. Restricting Employee Behaviors

Many employers do not want their employees to participate in behaviors such as, say, posting complaints about their salaries on Facebook or holding meetings to improve their working conditions. Therefore, quite a few handbooks try to restrict confidentiality and what employees can do, but this is illegal. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act allows employees the freedom to participate in many behaviors for mutual aid and protection.

Be sure to communicate with employees regularly and clearly regarding your company’s expectations. Employee communication need not be difficult or cumbersome process. Consider video or a website to enhance and explain the information in your company handbook and make the information accessible to every employee.