As a human resources or labor relations professional, you probably see your fair share of employee complaints. Issues that need resolution… and those that just seem like the employee is “overreacting.” How can you tell the difference? How can you address employee concerns and maintain high engagement levels?
Complaints range from an immensely irritating colleague to what seems to be an unbearable supervisor. You’ve likely heard about workplace behaviors that disregarded basic decency or courtesy or even went against rules, policies, and norms.
This is exactly what the new tool called Warble was designed to do – help companies identify and address employee concerns, before those employees turn to an outside third party.
First, we need to understand what happens when employees don’t feel heard.
Terrible managers can cause a lot of damage to employees and the company culture. Bullying co-workers cause their share of trouble, too. These workplace villains create unnecessary tension in the workplace and affect job performance. Worse, that bad behavior can be contagious and have a negative impact long-term on company culture, leading to unionization.
This creates is what experts call a toxic work environment. Stress levels and attrition rates increase; employee well-being, productivity, and retention rates decrease; and eventually the company’s reputation becomes tarnished, making it difficult to hire the best people.
Unfortunately, fear of retribution, bullying or isolation can keep your employees from feeling like they can report such incidents. When team members feel helpless, they either leave – or look to outside, third parties (attorneys, unions, government agencies) to try to solve their problems, costing the company money and time.
Feelings of mistreatment often lead to employees looking to a union to solve their problems. Similarly, employees who feel they’ve been discriminated against but have no outlet to express their challenges may file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) leading to increased cost and time commitment, in order for the Company to solve the issue.
This kind of helpless feeling is what Carolyn Holliday experienced, and it is why Warble came into existence.
Holliday founded Warble Inc. to help companies detect and manage employee problems before they become detrimental to work culture and revenue. Warble is an online tool that provides employees with a direct channel to report bad or illegal behavior.
Employees submit warbles regarding issues they may have with managers or co-workers. Similar to (but often more accessible than) an Alternative Dispute Resolution program, Warble then alerts those who are responsible for taking care of employees and addressing harassment (including bullying) or discrimination claims.
Because they can be submitted at any time (not just during employee surveys), Warbles provide important feedback about the health of the company. But unless you respond by addressing employee concerns with additional leader training or other appropriate action, employees won’t trust the Warble system any more than any other measurement or reporting tool. Employees will feel reassured and appreciated when they see appropriate responses to their warbles.
Now more than ever, your employees are highly sensitive to harassment and discrimination.
Putting in place the tools of a UnionProof culture, such as Warble for ADR, means that you’re fostering an environment of open communication and employee engagement. That culture means that issues can be identified and addressed before they negatively impact your organization. Providing an outlet like Warble for alternative dispute resolution means creating a reputation as an employer of choice – a powerful thing in today’s tight labor market.
In the past, monitoring the reputation of your company was more of a word-of-mouth process. In addition, you could look at your BBB rating, scan the newspapers, and, more recently, run a Google search for the company name. However, none of these actions can give you an accurate picture of how the public and other business owners perceive your company. You need to actively use technology to keep an eye on your business’s reputation. Here are three simple but highly effective strategies you can implement today.
Subscribing to an RSS (Rich Site Summary), rather than checking individual websites on your own can save you hours of investigation. First, you will need to choose an RSS Reader such as Newsgator, Amphetadesk and My Yahoo. Then, when you visit a favorite Web page, you can choose the RSS icon. In the future, the site’s content will be delivered to your reader automatically, saving you time and serving as a constant reminder to read pertinent articles about your company.
Setting up Google alerts for your company is another simple and effective way to monitor your company’s online presence. Google will send you an email each time the keywords you choose show up in Google content. For instance, you can simply put a name in quotation marks (“Your Business”) and that exact phrase will trigger a Google alert. However, you need to do more than set a Google alert for the company name. You should also set Google alerts for the names of your company’s leaders, top customers, and any products you manufacture.
Unfortunately, websites are hacked daily. Google Alerts can help you guard against unpleasant public fallout if you set certain keywords. You can set up a string of words like “sex” followed by your website name. If improper content shows up on the site, you will be instantly alerted and can take steps to correct the situation.
Glassdoor.com is a website that promotes transparency in the workplace. Employees, current and potential, can sign up for the website to look for jobs, find proper salary ranges, and check employer reviews. If you want to recruit the best employees, staying abreast of your company’s reviews is particularly important.
Employers need to know how their employees perceive them and to take corrective action if company morale is low. You are unlikely to get the full truth by interviewing your own staff, but employees will be blunt when they can voice their opinions anonymously. Remember to check Glassdoor once a week and keep an open mind about what you find there. Truthful feedback is the best way to cultivate positive employee relations.
When you are union-free, staying abreast of your employees’ feelings is crucial. If you want to be UnionProof, your company must provide a healthy, happy workplace with high employee satisfaction. In addition, you must be fully aware of public perception of your company to stay competitive. Monitoring your company’s online reputation protects the business and employees by enabling you to adjust your practices and do damage control by advancing good press relations.
Your human resources department can save the company much grief by being alert to the online content out there, both positive and negative. These simple actions can give you the information you need to protect your company’s online presence and stay ahead of both competitors and union organizers.
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.
For 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.