The perception exists that it is difficult to create and sustain labor programs. In fact, it is not more difficult in unionized companies than in non-unionized ones. In both instances, management must make an ongoing commitment to proactive, preventive programs.
To begin, management must create an action plan. Most companies have a business plan; but, unfortunately, most companies do not have a corollary labor relations plan, regardless if they are union or non-union.
The action plan must recognize that, in order to minimize the possibility of labor relations problems, new leadership roles must be instituted that create dynamic workplace relationships. For example, too often management focuses on what it says, not on how it is said. Management must treat employees as it treats those with whom it has personal relationships. If employees perceive management as intimidating, an adversarial relationship will develop, along with concurrent resentments.
All in the perception
It is far better for management to engage employees in an ongoing dialogue rather than in a one-sided monologue of directives. Employee perceptions also are extremely important, for positive perceptions will significantly enhance employee relationships with management. There are seven essential perceptions that strongly influence the way employees will feel about their workplace and management:
Employees must perceive that there is effective communication between management and employees, and effective communication includes management asking, not telling;
Employees must perceive that the companys policies and practices meet the needs of the workplace and, in particular, satisfy the individual needs of employees;
Employees must perceive that they like where they work, that they enjoy going to work, it is what produces positive morale;
Employees must perceive that everyone is working to achieve shared goals, that there is an effective commitment to teamwork;
Employees must perceive that management can be trusted to honor its promises;
Employees must perceive that ages and benefits are comparable for similar work in the area;
Employees must perceive that the company provides training for employees not just to do their jobs, but also to do their jobs well and to facilitate the opportunities for advancement.
Employee surveys not only demonstrate that management is listening, but also provides an effective opportunity to build consensus.
In most employee surveys, anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of employees express a variety of negative feelings, which are often cries for help. Among the most common concerns: confusion about work assignments, frustration about certain working conditions, feeling oppressed by management, feeling that management does not listen, and feeling that management pays only lip service to my concerns.
To achieve acceptance, management needs to have a critical understanding of employees. It requires compromise, coalescence, and consensus.
Without a consensus between management and employees, there will always be the prospect for a heated adversarial relationship blowing up the most carefully laid tracks that had been constructed to reach corporate goals.
Once management and employees come to a mutual understanding about how to create better efficiencies and increase productivity, they will share a clear understanding of the drivers that increase success. They will, in other words, be part of the same team.
One thing that makes teamwork successful is recognition. It is essential that management recognize employees, repeat that recognition, and reinforce that recognition.
Equally important is an Employee Advocate Representative (EAR) program. A designated employee, one mutually agreed upon by management and employees, becomes the EAR. This peer person would be available to assist employees with problems. In establishing the program, management demonstrates its commitment to addressing its employees concerns. The initiative has greatly improved workplace environments, and it isnt expensive. The return on such an investment, in fact, has been tremendous.
Being part of a team also makes employees feel that they are stakeholders in a company. Stakeholders believe that their economic well-being is directly tied to overall company performance. Stakeholders are excellent team players who enjoy the benefits of increased profitability and accept responsibility for increased costs.
By fostering a culture of effective communication and a consensus of shared goals, everyone becomes integrated into a successful corporate culture. From this will come a sense of teamwork, of everyone being in this together, of the elimination of the Us versus Them paradigm. Such an atmosphere will ensure increased productivity and profitability as a result of significantly reducing the likelihood of labor unrest not just in the coming months, but for many years as well.