The “war” on wage gaps is raging and for good reason: Large wage gaps have historically existed in the United States based on gender and race, specifically when it comes to women and minorities. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, black men have earned 73 percent of white men’s hourly earnings since 1980, while Hispanic men’s earnings increased from 69 percent to 71 percent of white men’s earnings since 1980. Moreover, women — regardless of their ethnicity or race — have historically lagged behind men, whether in their own race or not. Today, women across the nation still make 76 cents for every $1 men earn.
As a result of statistics like these, pay secrecy has become a significant issue with serious ramifications for violations. That’s why it’s vital to practice effective methods of training management and staff on maintaining professional behavior with regard to keeping pay information confidential, while still abiding by the requirements of the NLRA. Here’s how:
Before communicating what your pay secrecy policies are, make sure you have it in writing. It’s vital to give your management team and staff something solid and concrete to reference should there be any questions. Additionally, ensure that your content is up-to-date. By having clear rules written and current, staff and management can have a better understanding of the company’s stance on pay secrecy and how to act accordingly so that information is kept in a professional manner.
It’s vital that management and staff understand the law to avoid any pay secrecy violations. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 protects employees against pay secrecy and penalizes businesses that violate the law. While it may not cost much to violate the NLRA, a violation (and a history of it) can potentially push employees into organizing into a union and take up union card signing. Union avoidance is possible by communicating the appropriate behavior to have regarding pay secrecy and what the law covers.
Educate your staff that acting irrationally, such as terminating an employee, without getting the facts or going through a defined disciplinary process, especially based on pay secrecy, is not the appropriate behavior. It’s important that they listen to what the situation is first. Businesses can be forced to give employees that were wrongfully terminated the option to get their jobs back, and they also may be required to give them back pay for the entire time they were without the job under the NLRA. Therefore, it’s significant that your staff and managers understand the ramifications of violating the NLRA and what constitutes a violation. Certain states also have their own laws pertaining to pay secrecy, including Colorado, Maine and California, so it’s important to clarify state and local laws regarding pay secrecy as well.
Training your staff and management team to avoid pay secrecy involves communicating the correct information and having a plan in place. By taking these steps, you can be proactive and prevent your employees from being pushed away into union organizing.
When 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Webinars are still considered a winning tactic for countless companies. In fact, recent polls have shown that two-thirds of B2B marketers in the United States consider webinars effective marketing tools. Whether for brand promotion, product introduction or real-time presentations, webinars are only second to videos when it comes to effective content marketing. With this in mind, are these online tutorials still essential for training new employees or engaging with clients? Recent polls and studies say absolutely yes, and e-learning platforms such as Projections continue to soar in global popularity.
According to Percolate, 20 percent of U.S. marketing executives stated that their companies created webinars the previous year. While these video presentations were mainly based on product integration and client fulfillment, a number of webinars were dedicated to training in-house and remote employees across the globe.
According to industry experts, the advent of Internet technologies has made it easier to connect employers and staff for timely and optimal training sessions, through the use of tools such as the following:
Training webinars also incorporate lectures, workshops and e-learning tools that help employees understand a company’s directives and goals. Similarly, client webinars are designed to showcase new products and services, as well as discuss annual reports with existing and potential investors. These interactive services also serve as crucial networking platforms for clients and employees. In fact, webinars can even be used for team-building events that foster greater collaboration between departments.
There are several benefits to using webinars and virtual seminars for training staff. First, companies can save money on face-to-face training sessions for employees. Second, employees are able to freely communicate with all departments, as well as fellow workers. They can ask questions about policies, and share ideas and suggestions to increase productivity and performance. Third, webinars allow in-house and remote employees to access all training materials and documents anytime, and anywhere. Other benefits of employee training webinars include the following:
Companies 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve all been there. Business is good, the work is flowing, the team is collaborating and then you hear it: an employee complaint. Maybe they feel the workload isn’t fair. Maybe they’re frustrated with the communication, or feel a lack thereof. Whatever it is, your first instinct may be to put on the boxing gloves and come back on the defensive. However, what if you can turn that complaint into what it likely is: an employee’s desire to make the company truly great? By doing this, you just may begin to see those complaints as opportunities instead.
Let’s clear this up right off the bat: complaints are good, because they mean that employee engagement is good. A complaint is a sign that your employees are so actively engaged in their jobs that they want their company to equal their passions and their contribution. They want to make a suggestion for improvement and see that they have a voice in how they spend those 40 hours every week. If your business doesn’t have a clear and effective avenue for these suggestions, they may just turn into complaints.
To prevent suggestions from turning into complaints, your company needs to have a way for employees to communicate their desires. The first and easiest way is to advertise an open-door policy. Include language in your employee handbook that you welcome feedback as a tool to constantly improve your program for all those involved. Schedule open office hours for employees to express any concerns or share new ideas. Foster positive employee relations by demonstrating that not only are you open to the contributions of your team, but that you will actively try to make changes within your power when they fit with your mission and your company’s needs.
Of course, no amount of open doors and feedback-based policies will prevent the occasional complaint from squeezing between the cracks. When this happens, don’t be disheartened. Nobody is perfect, and every company can find room for improvement. To handle complaints constructively, start the conversation by giving your employee the power to find a solution. For example, if your employee is complaining about a lack of opportunity for professional growth, ask them what areas they would like to develop and what suggestions they have for fostering these skills. If they complain about a long commute, have them propose a plan that outlines how they can get the job done from home occasionally — and be willing to give it a trial. If an employee has a suggestion to make, don’t feel it is all on your shoulders to make those changes. Rely on the strength of your team and the skills of your employees — you hired them for a reason, of course — to come up with constructive solutions as well.
Whether your employees have been with the company for decades or — perhaps even more importantly — are millennials just out of college, having an open and transparent organizational culture will ensure that all workers don’t just feel heard, but are heard. In order to minimize employee unrest and complaints, you need to make a clear and obvious effort to communicate openly in an effective way about employee concerns — not just what they are, but how your company is going to address them. Show that you are willing to put yourself out there and make a mistake in order to improve employee engagement and satisfaction. In this way, your employees can work with more passion and more trust in the company they support.
Most important of all is for the company to communicate that employees are being heard. Whether that takes the form of live meetings, regular video messages, or even an online resource, regular communication fosters understanding. This is particularly true when feedback from employees involves something systemic that may take some time to address. Creating custom training resources to address employee concerns can go a long way toward addressing the opportunities employees present to you. By fostering an environment of feedback, action and communication, you can create a culture that rewards growth and provides job security for every team member.