Changing Corporate Culture, Increasing Productivity

MANY CORPORATE CLIENTS HAVE told us that too many of their employees are not sufficiently well motivated. Though such employees are often fired, their replacements frequently descend to the same level as those whom they replaced. "What's happening?" they ask. "Are we always destined to have employees who are under-motivated, who are clock watchers, and complainers?"

To increase employee morale and corporate productivity, you must dramatically alter corporate culture. Corporate culture comprises the values, ethos, and behaviors of a company. It affects how business is conducted, one's level of profitability, the time it takes to reach goals, and the responses of customers among various other important elements. To have a wellrun company that hums along smoothly and productively and employs dedicated and hard-working employees, you must design a corporate culture that nourishes such behaviors through a strategically implemented action plan.

Here's an example of a problem brought to us by one of our clients. The CEO had complained that a number of his employees were not highly motivated and were not reaching established benchmarks of productivity. In addition, they were a drag on their colleagues; by their complaints and overall negativity, they tended to sap the drive and ambition out of those with whom they worked. They never volunteered solutions, but always found fault with the way the company operated. Our client, of course, could and did fire such employees based upon their performance, but he was never really successful in replacing them with the kind of employees that would be ideal workers.

To determine what the CEO should do, we first conducted a survey of his workforce. Not surprisingly, it revealed a high level of discontent in about 32 percent of his workers. Many of them were perpetual fault finders, always looking for what was negative about the company and then complaining to their colleagues about what they discerned.

By contrast, within that same company, as in many other companies that we had also surveyed, were groups of individuals who were highly motivated, who enjoyed their work and took pride in their accomplishments.

Our client wanted us to help him clear out dead wood and put together a hiring and selection program that would result in his having highly motivated, positive minded employees who would significantly raise his level of productivity and so add to the company's bottom line. In other words, he wanted us to help him change his corporate culture.

NO MORE DEAD WOOD

Once the dead wood was cleared, we initiated a program for hiring productive workers. We hired employees based upon certain key attitudes as well as aptitudes and skills that conform to the sought-after work environment. In other words, prospective employees must have the type of positive attitude that will not only be reflected in their job performance, but will also be contagious to others within the workforce itself. Their aptitudes must also be appropriate for the jobs they will have to do. Aptitude and attitude must be complementary, for one without the other will only accomplish half the goal. And in many cases, if an employee has an appropriate aptitude for a specific job, but has a negative attitude, the company will not be well served. When the right combination of aptitude and attitude has been found, then one should also make sure that such a worker has the necessary skills to perform at a high level of efficiency and productivity. In addition to those qualities, we wanted employees who would feel as if they were part of a corporate family, who would take pride in being stakeholders in helping a company to reach its goals.

To further maintain a productive and satisfied workforce, we put in place a program of mentoring workers. Mentors coach workers to excel. They are thoughtful, helpful individuals who help workers to reach benchmarks of productivity. The coach-mentor is also there to make sure that there are no obstacles to a worker achieving success.

After our client implemented all of the above, levels of productivity dramatically increased and that went directly to the company's bottom line. The corporate culture had been refashioned and the workers thought the company a great place to work.

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Racial Code Words

It is no secret that many of today's bank tellers are women and people of color. Unfortunately, many of them are being terminated because of downsizing that has resulted from mergers, while still others are being replaced by the marvels of technology.

Terminated employees, unable to find new jobs, may seek judicial means of remuneration. Many are tempted to bring law suits charging age discrimination, sexual harassment and racial discrimination. In the past, the rules governing such suits have been quite clear. But now the rules are rapidly changing, and unwary employers may soon be the targets of highly expensive litigation. The reason is that a recent U.S. Court of Appeals ruling has dramatically changed the legal landscape, lowering the barriers for contemporary litigants so they can more easily sue their employers for racial discrimination than in earlier times.

For many years, it had been the law that the workplace be free of explicit racial epithets; however, that is no longer sufficient compliance. Employers, managers and supervisors must now make sure that they refrain from any words that can be cons1d as racial code words, even if one considers such words, on their face, to be benign.

Now, employers no longer have to express explicit racial comments to be the targets of actions brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Instead of voicing ugly racial epithets, one need only use such expressions as you people, poor people like you or one of them. All those expressions can now be considered racially charged code words that can land any bank, its managers and executives in legal hot water.

According to a federal case known as Aman v. Cort Furniture Rental, which has strong implications for the banking industry and was recently decided by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, racially implicit code words can create a workplace environment that violates the civil rights of employees. The court found that racial code words can be used to establish an environment of racial discrimination.

Guarding the Workplace

The Court of Appeals stated that "while Title Ⅶ does not prohibit racist thought, the law does require that employers prevent such views from affecting the work environment....Title VII tolerates no racial discrimination, subtle or otherwise."

"While legislators have not written new laws about expressions that can be cons1d as racial code words, the Court of Appeals has made it clear that such expressions as you people, poor people like you, and one of them are indeed evidence of racial code words. It is, unfortunately, yet another example of the judiciary usurping the role of the legislative branch of government. In making that decision, it has put banks and others on notice that they must institute programs to prevent the expression of such words. Neither ignorance nor a lack of malice will be mitigating circumstances. If the words cited above (as well as others) can be interpreted as racial code words, then employers can be the targets of highly expensive litigation.

The rules of the workplace have not only changed, they have become slippery and open to individual judiciary interpretations. In order to avoid being targets of law suits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, all employers will have to formulate an employee handbook policy on the use of code words, give examples of code words that must be avoided, make supervisory personnel sensitive to possible interpretations of subtle code words, train them to correct such situations promptly, set up seminars or other means of communication for teaching employees about how to avoid the use of code words, and further, let employees know that any violations of such rules may result in termination or other sanctions.

As our civil rights laws evolve through judicial interpretation, it is essential that all preventive measures be taken not just to demonstrate one's good faith efforts, but also to maintain a strong defensive position. If one does not, then surely this will expose the industry to a stream of plaintiffs whose legal bounty will have negative effects on profitability.

A racially charged and hostile work environment can not only significantly reduce productivity by .diminishing worker morale, but it can also cost a bank large sums of money in litigation and subsequent settlements.

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When Words Mask Discrimination

A supervisor criticizes an employee, referring to the female clerical worker as "another foolish person whom we shouldn't have hired." The employee, in turn, feels that the supervisor's criticism is, in effect, a form of racial harassment.

I don't know what the supervisor meant by his unfortunate choice of words; however, his criticisms should have referred only to the employee's.

Obviously upset by those words, the employee consulted a lawyer who subsequently informed her that she had been victimized by racially charged code words. The lawyer said he would be happy to sue the woman's supervisor and his employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

A crazy scenario? Not really. For many years the law has required that the workplace be free of explicit racial epithets; however, meeting those minimum requirements is no longer sufficient. Employers, human resources executives and supervisors must now make sure that the workplace is free of any words that can be cons1d as racial code words.

The Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit clearly spells this out in Aman v. Court Furniture Rental. The court stated that racially implicit code words can indeed create a workplace environment that violates the civil rights of employees.

The court further stated that "while Title VII does not prohibit racist thought, the law does require that employers prevent such views from affecting the work environment....Title VII tolerates no racial discrimination, subtle or otherwise."

DONT BE A TARGET

What can employers and human resources executives do to avoid being the targets of such suits?

To begin, racial epithets, implied or explicit, have no place in the workplace and should be extirpated by all responsible employers. While no employers had been informed, by either legislatures or judiciaries, that such expressions as "you people," "poor people like you" and "one of them" are racial code words, the Court of Appeals stated that those specific words can be evidence of a pattern of conduct that indicates a hostile work environment. Therefore, it is up to individual organizations to be proactive in preventing such expressions.

The rules of the workplace have certainly changed, and human resources executives have a new responsibility to make sure that all new hires, especially supervisory personnel, understand what constitutes racial code words.

In order to avoid being targets of lawsuits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, every company should formulate an employee policy on the use of code words. The policy should give examples of code words to be avoided, such as those noted in the box to the left, and establish a complaint procedure in the event that such words are uttered. In addition, each company should make all supervisory personnel sensitive to possible interpretations of subtle code words and train them to "nip such problems in the bud" so they can correct potentially inflammatory situations before they give rise to legal issues. Furthermore, each company should be prepared to conduct seminars or initiate other means of communication (written or verbal) for teaching employees about how to avoid the use of offensive words. Finally, each company must regularly communicate to all of its employees that any violations of code-word rules will result in termination or other sanctions.

Altogether, employees and employers should avoid racial code words in the workplace, not only because such expressions will result in a racially charged and hostile work environment that will significantly reduce productivity by diminishing worker morale, but because the utterance of such words will probably result in expensive and time-consuming litigation as well as enormous judgments.

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Labor Unions and Their Supporters Are Trying to Turn Back the Clock

From the end of World War II until the Reagan administration, powerful American labor unions regularly demanded wage and fringe-benefit increases that were regularly granted.

Increased labor costs were simply passed on to consumers. However, the spiral eventually spun out of control, and consumers turned to cheaper foreign products such as cars, electronics, and cameras.

Some companies closed their domestic factories and moved to countries that had no unions and low labor costs. Banks, as might be expected, suffered from a loss of business.

Unrealistic Demands

Ultimately, unions proved to be their own worst enemies, pricing themselves out of the marketplace. Their demands had grown increasingly unrealistic, their strikes and slowdowns the last gasps of self-destructiveness.

During the 1980s, union membership decreased, more and more companies opened factories either in other countries or nonunion ones in the United States, and consumers benefited from high-quality, low-priced products. The unionized worker had been made superfluous by selfish and overzealous unions.

Now there is an effort to turn the clock back and repeat the mistakes of the past, to tilt the playing field to the benefit of organized labor as Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has stated he would like to do.

To affect that tilt, President Clinton, Secretary Reich, and the AFL-CIO are all pushing Congress to pass a ban on permanent replacement workers.

Harmful to Recovery

As one who regularly negotiates the settlement of management-labor disputes and contracts on behalf of banks and others. I believe that the legislation would significantly undermine the nation's economic recovery and ability to compete in a global economy.

The new legislation, in fact, will give labor a powerful new weapon to be used against employers in collective bargaining.

Workers will rightly feel that they can strike at will and bring banks to their knees, because they can go on strike and feel that their jobs will not be replaced by permanent new workers.

In addition, banks will find it more difficult to operate during a strike, because temporary workers will be unwilling to cross picket lines for jobs that will end when the strike ends.

Finding it difficult to operate during strikes, banks will have to capitulate to union demands. Knowing that, striking workers will have an even greater incentive to strike again and again for more and more money.

Spur to Strikes

Richard Lesher, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned that the adoption of the permanent striker replacement ban "would guarantee this country would experience many more strikes in the future." The bill will "tilt the current level playing field in favor of organized labor."

I BELIVER
That we will see a return 
to the blood-in-the-streets
activities that perverted
the labor movement
during the 1920s and 
1930s.
A BAN on replacing
strikers with permanent
replacement workers 
would undermine the 
nation's recovery and 
ability to compete in a global economy.

Not only will labor strife increase, but the intensity and destructiveness of that strife will wreak havoc on the financial well-being of management and labor alike: indeed, I believe that we will see a new era of labor-related violence, a return to the blood-in-the-streets activities that perverted the labor movement during the 1920s and 1930s.

In addition, the passage of the ban will be a body blow to America's ability to respond competitively to German, Japanese, and other country's companies. And that will have a negative effect on the entire banking industry.

Exodus to the Third World

Rather than benefiting from an economic resurgence of American business, we will be helpless spectators to the exodus of American corporations into Third World countries. Those countries will welcome investments that will drain out of American banks, while they provide an affordable labor pool.

The products those workers will manufacture will be affordable to American consumers, but of no help to their economic well-being.

The alternative, of course, would be for American companies to go along with union demands, pay ever-increasing wages and benefits, pass the costs on to consumers who will refuse to buy those high-priced goods, and then go out of business.

One need only look at the vast number of American companies that were thriving in the 1950s and then went out of business during the 1970s.

A Delicate Balance

Edwin L.Harper, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads, said that a ban on the use of permanent striker replacements "would upset the carefully crafted and long-standing balance" that exists in collective bargaining.

"Just as the law permits workers to withhold their labor in an effort to secure favorable results," added Mr. Harper, "employers are permitted to keep their business going during such work stoppages by offering permanent positions to workers hired to replace strikers."

Mr. Harper further pointed out that the scales are already tipped disproportionately in labor's favor, since the Supreme Court's 1987 decision(Burlington Northern Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees) to uphold the legality of secondary boycotts against railroads and airlines.

Incentive to Relocate

In effect, this bill is not only a company buster, but it provides a unique incentive to American companies to locate within the borders of countries that are known for being favorable to the interests of business. If American manufactures choose to operate on foreign soil, the banking industry will shrink as a natural consequence.

American companies need all of the help they can get to compete successfully. The ban on permanent worker replacements is an economic kick in the teeth.

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Cooperating Will Bring Better Job Protection

American workers have always sought better wages and job security. Years ago they were just "employees-at-will," subject to the whims of their employers. They toiled in difficult working conditions and feared the day when their employers might fire them.

Workers eventually turned to unions for job security and improved conditions. Bolstered by the National Labor Relations Act, which prevented discriminations against employees because of union activity, unions became the bargaining agents for millions of workers. By the end of the World War II, it looked as if we would become a nation of unionized employees.

But the promises of unionism were never fulfilled. In the name of job security, unions compelled employers 10 accept inflexible, unproductive work rules. Unions spoke angrily and carried a big "strike" stick. They drove employers to pay ever-higher wages and contributed to an adversarial management-labor relationship, but did not assist in improving productivity. Unions gradually became anachronistic institutions, preaching the same 1930s message while the nature of work and the work force changed. Unions came to be perceived as self-serving institutions tainted by criminal indictments and prosecutions.

Unions also became less relevant as an increasing number of state and federal laws were enacted to protect workers. Various laws now regulate minimum wages, overtime, pension plans, workplace safety, Social Security and the like. Many of these regulations contain provisions making it unlawful for employers to terminate employees who report violations.

While these laws made work safer and more secure, state court decisions have built a new bulwark around individual employees over the last 15 years. These courts have further limited the "at-will" concept of employment by allowing terminated employees to file suits against their former employers for "wrongful discharge."

Some employees have succeeded in these lawsuits by alleging that employees violated public policy because they fired them for serving on a jury, taking time off to vote, or "blowing the whistle" on a health violation. Many courts also have recognized implied contractual theories of wrongful discharge. In such cases employers were found to have made and subsequently broken binding, or oral "promises" of employment. Still, wrongful discharge actions, since they are undertaken by individuals, can give only the most limited job security to the masses of working people.

Indeed, neither union bullying, statutes nor state court actions will provide American workers the job security for which we all struggle. Such security will be achieved only after both employers and employees deal successfully with two of the most vital economic issues of our times: international competition and productivity.

We all know that international competition has put American industry on the spot. Our nation is swamped with imports in almost every field of production. Japan of our fiercest competitors, producing top quality products, while paying its employs lower wages than comparable American workers receive. Yet labor relations in Japan are excellent compared with those in America. Japanese workers have a high degree of company loyalty, and Japanese management regards its obligations to them as a top priority.

It is the very need to compete with Japan and other productive, energetic nations that ultimately will force American industry to protect employees and provide better job security. American industry will become a competitive leader in the international marketplace only when it builds cooperative partnerships of labor, supervisors and management. Employers who see the "writing on the wall" will realize that they have to treat their employees fairly and work with them to harness their energies to meet the competition.

American managers must re-examine their methods. Management must communicate effectively with employees, encourage suggestions and participation, adequately train supervisor in international relations and introduce problem-solving mechanisms in which employees have confidence. Under such circumstances, employees would find that their employers are eager to solve problems in the workplace.

The American-managed Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., is an example of a company that has built a working partnership of labor and management. The company trains its workers to do a number of jobs, involves them in decisions and gives them responsibility for the quality of the product at every level. The Nissan employees have shown no interest in unionizing and labor relations are harmonious.

The cooperative approach may have been born out of necessity, but it will be cooperation, rather than wrongful discharge actions, government regulations or union muscle, that will be the source of employee protections in the future.

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Motivating Employees

Empowerment and team management are buzzwords of the '90s. Those companies that practice them justify their use based on the motivational theories of the early 1960s. But the world of work has changed dramatically since the '60s. This is not to suggest that the Hierarchy of Needs or the Two-Factor Theory is no longer accurate. Rather, these theories have to be looked at from the perspective of the '90s.

Maslow argued that lower physiological, safety, and social needs had to be satisfied before individuals could focus on meeting their higher level needs. Herzberg contended that dissatisfiers had to be dealt with before motivational factors could stimulate performance When Maslow and Herzberg published their theories more than forty years ago this sequencing didn't represent a problem -- there were layoffs, but employees could expect soon to be rehired; companies were not going through the transition they are now, so dissatisfiers weren't a major problem, either. Bur today, due to downsizing and restructuring, the lower needs of Maslow's hierarchy and the hygiene factors in Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory are no longer givens. Just the opposite.

Remember that when Maslow and Herzberg shared their research findings, Maslow reported that U.S. workers were 85 percent satisfied in their physiological needs, 70 percent satisfied in their safety needs, and 50 percent satisfied in their social needs. Today, with downsizings announced almost daily, could we say the same?

It seems that our boundaryless organizations are seeking through concepts like teams and empowerment to meet self-actualization needs at the same time that many employees feel that their job security (that is, a safety need) is threatened, and still other employees feel that their contributions are not being recognized (esteem needs). Likewise, if we consider Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory in light of today's restructured organizations, we see broad acceptance of the idea of motivation factors but less consideration given to the dissatisfiers: Job expectations are unclear, workplaces have become literally sweatshops, with employees expected to do too much in too little time; in an effort to give employees freedom to use their initiative, supervisors and managers often don t give them sufficient direction; and there is lots of talk but not much communication.

Even if we discount Maslow's contention that lower-level needs have to be satisfied before loftier issues are of importance to employees, we still have Herzberg's contention that failure to address the dissatisfiers can demotivate employees. Consequently, if we're to get the benefits of allowing our employees to have a greater participation in decision making, we have to address these hygiene or maintenance factors. If we are to make our restructured, team-based organizations work successfully, we need to reexamine our own operating styles to see how they can support the basic needs and maintenance factors while also managerially and organizationally responding to people's higher needs and wants. Maybe this involves the application of plain old good supervision

Freeing Workers to Flourish

Translated into day-to-day actions, motivating employees and allowing them to thrive in the new environment means ensuring that, as they leave their plants or offices each day physically tired, they do not have their minds filled with questions like these:

  • Will I be able to keep my job? (Even knowing that the answer is not is better than not knowing at all.)
  • How have my organization's expectations of my performance changed? What can I do about it? Training?
  • Will my pay be affected? (If it will be, employees want to know so that they can act, not react.)
  • Will I be demoted? (So long as there are opportunities to learn the skills to help the employees eventually return to his or her current position, even a yes answer will be appreciated. Better to know than to spend sleepless nights worrying about it.)
  • What role will I play in this team? Am I fully contributing?
  • If you fail to provide answers to questions like these, you open the door to nagging doubts job security and expectations. You also contribute to budding cases of employee burnout when you:
  • Give your employee an unclear assignment.
  • Play favorites.
  • Provide unclear or constantly changing work requirements.
  • Withhold information so that, employees don't have a clear picture of a project or problem.
  • Fail to deliver on promises or agreements.
  • Fail to support an employee's efforts by providing necessary money, staff, equipment, or other support.
  • Nitpick about work performance during a tight time crunch.
  • Hog the credit for yourself when you could just as easily share it.
  • Demand that too much be done in too short a time.
  • Change any job requirements without letting the employee responsible for the work now.
  • Grant authority that is not commensurate with the responsibilities you've assigned an employee.
  • Give an illogical assignment to someone whose to-do list is two pages long.
  • Fail to trust your employees or credit them with intelligence or creativity; demean them.
  • Shirk from making decisions that are critical to employee's completion of their work on time.
  • All of these managerial misbehaviors are tied to the distressors and reflect satisfaction of hygiene needs.

Some Managerial Do's

Besides these don'ts, there are a number of do's that can minimize the feeling of stress your employees are experiencing. The following guidelines recognize the need to satisfy lower-level motivational needs as well as higher ones, hygiene factors as well as motivational ones. They reflect the new partnership between employees and their organizations in which employees are responsible for taking the initiative to develop and enhance skills and are expected to actively seek ways to help sustain and grow the business. Managers' responsibility, in turn, is to:

Provide regular feedback. With constant but informal feedback, you can keep your employees from worrying unnecessarily about their job performance. You can also keep them from taking the wrong tack with a particular project and not becoming aware of this until after the project is completed.

Learn to say "thank you" regularly. In doing so, be specific about The behavior you are acknowledging compared to a "thanks for all you've done" will mean nothing compared to a very specific "thank you for putting in those extra hours yesterday evening to ensure that the potential customer received the project in time. It enabled me to the prepare a better presentation, so we got the account," note how this comment not only states exactly how the employee contributed but describes the impact of the employee's actions on your actions and the organization's objective.

Distribute rewards fairly. Employees want to be sure that they are as eligible for the rewards as the next person; that is, that there is no favoritism about whose work gets acknowledged and rewarded.

See that employees get the resources they need to do their work. They need not only the right equipment (they don't necessarily need the most up-to-date; they need the equipment that is best suited to the work they will be doing) but access to people who can lend a hand.

Look at job assignment as a means of increasing employability and promote it as such. While you can't promise job security -- who can, in these days of downsizing -- you can provide opportunities to increase an employee's value to your organization or, at worst, improve his ability to find another job should he lose the current one.

This may sound like management basics, and it is. But team management and empowerment need the foundation pf these basics for them to work.

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Reducing the threat of Labor Problems

As a labor-relations attorney with more than 35 years of experience representing management in all facets of labor relations, I have emphasized to my long-term care clients that a written strategic communications action plan can be one of the most important steps to ending adversarial relationships with employees and reducing the threat of labor problems. Although the importance of open communication is well understood and sounds simple and easy, few long-term care facilities implement a communications plan that specifies responsibilities and imposes a schedule.

A successful communications plan must have an "asking" strategy, based upon listening, responding, and acting, so that employees become stakeholders. (Often a management team does not have an "asking" strategy because its members believe they have all the answers.) To get practical answers, the plan must contain critical questions. The most important questions are: What? When? Where? How? Unless these questions are answered specifically, the action plan will not be implemented properly--or it might not be implemented at all because other priorities may take precedence.

If management does not have a scheduled, ongoing action plan addressing these questions, it will be perceived by employees as being insular, secretive, and uncaring. Therefore, the employees will feel alienated, and management will have succeeded in maintaining and furthering an adversarial relationship that ultimately will take its toll on the bottom line.

In contrast, a scenario in which management and employees talk and listen to one another and resolve problems together will increase employees' trust in management. If employees are to believe management's words, there must be open and ongoing communication, both verbal and written, based upon a specific strategic action plan. Employee award programs will also bolster employees' positive perceptions of their employer's concern and appreciation.

Timing Is Everything

One of the biggest mistakes administrators and managers make is failing to open the doors of communication before a labor problem arises. Faced with negotiating a new union contract or dealing with a union-organizing effort or difficult operational issues, management may suddenly decide it's time to talk with workers. By then it's too late. At this point, workers naturally will suspect management's motives and regard everything managers say with cynical disbelief. It is essential that open communication be ongoing, not something that is initiated at the first threat of labor problems.

Building Trust by Building Credibility

An ongoing strategic communications plan will demonstrate management's credibility; it will be built upon a foundation of asking, listening, talking, and acting in response to employees' needs and issues. Managers cannot sincerely ask, listen, and talk if they do not know anything about those with whom they are having a conversation. Therefore, they should know each worker's name, job description, and family background, and be familiar with each worker's performance record. Such basic knowledge implies a level of care and concern.

The employer's concern for employees' welfare goes a long way toward establishing trust, and there are many ways to communicate that concern. Each is a necessary ingredient for a successful communications action plan. I have helped management communicate concern for employees not only by creating an asking program, but also by creating a variety of cost-effective benefits. One example is providing small, short-term, interest-free loans to employees in case of emergencies. I have also helped organizations implement regularly scheduled actions that communicate goodwill and have a positive impact on morale, such as sending employees anniversary and birthday cards, paying for birthday and/or anniversary dinners for them and their spouses, and facilitating child-care arrangements.

Other ways to communicate concern include providing financial information about retirement investments, offering fitness and stress-reduction classes, and having a guidance counselor available to advise parents about college admissions and costs. In addition to showing management's interest and concern, these extra benefits make employees feel like valued stakeholders in the company.

Having successfully communicated its concern for its employees, management can open more direct channels of communication, knowing that its credibility is secure.

Communication Takes Many Forms

Nothing is more effective than one-on-one discussions in which management asks, listens, and talks, encouraging employees to do the same. The chats may take only seconds or minutes, but they should be a requirement of the strategic communications action plan. During these discussions, managers can ask such basic questions as, "How are you?" and "Can I help you?" This gives employees multifaceted opportunities to address issues in an open and friendly environment.

More structured meetings also can keep the doors of communication open. Among the various kinds of meetings where management and employees can engage in direct and forthright communication are group meetings, compliance sessions, quality circles, and meetings for senior employees.

Group meetings can occur biannually, quarterly, or even monthly. At such meetings, managers can explain what they are doing and why. They can answer workers' questions, thus diminishing the opportunities for misunderstandings which, if left to metastasize, can grow into major labor-relations problems.

Compliance sessions (in which management and employees attempt to reach a mutual consensus) are an effective means of maintaining a reasonable level of satisfaction among all types of workers. Such meetings are generally held on a monthly basis and are sometimes referred to as "coffee and doughnut meetings." Administrators and managers can provide updates on important subjects, and employees can be encouraged to discuss any aspect of company policy, including regulatory matters involving resident care. These meetings occur during the workday, and employees are paid for their time. Defused negative rumors, revised production methods, and increased understanding of new company policies are just a few of the benefits of such meetings.

Quality circles are also effective, and they work for both union and nonunion employees. Quality circles consist of small groups of employees, making these sessions more intimate than larger compliance sessions. The small number of employees permits management to tackle problems of workplace efficiency through a one-on-one dialogue. Together, management and employees examine productivity and make suggestions for improvement. Employees are left with an enhanced sense of their own competencies and efficiencies.

Meetings for senior employees have proven to be an effective means of communicating management's appreciation for employees' long-term commitments to the company. It is essential for management to demonstrate that such employees are held in special regard and are appreciated for their long-standing interest in the company's welfare. Senior employees may be given a pin to signify the company's appreciation; after all, "thank you" is one of the most important phrases in the English language, and it communicates not only appreciation, but also gratitude. Unfortunately, managers all too often take senior employees' efforts for granted and rarely say "thank you."

Get Employees Involved

At all meetings, an employee assistance representative (EAR) could be present. This person would work with the company's human resources (HR) representative to make sure that all issues are discussed. The EAR--who could be chosen by both employees and management, by management alone, or through a roster of volunteers--should serve on a rotating basis, so that most employees have an opportunity to serve in this position and to interact with the HR department.

The purpose of the EAR program is to have a peer available to communicate management's concern for employees by responding to and acting upon employees' concerns and by assisting employees with their problems. In establishing such a program, management further communicates and demonstrates its commitment to addressing employees' concerns. This type of initiative has greatly improved workplace environments, and it doesn't need to be expensive. The EAR might be paid with a modest cash bonus, a gift certificate, a nominal increase in hourly wages, or anything else that seems to be a reasonable incentive. The returns on such an initiative have, in fact, been tremendous. I have seen companies get more mileage from an EAR program than they likely would have gotten from a modest across-the-board pay increase.

In addition to personal contact, written communication can be helpful. This could include newsletters, personal letters, private memos, public notices, and self-appraisals. Newsletters, which can be mailed to each employee's home or distributed at work, not only serve to inform employees of company programs and news, but also might give family members who read them a favorable view of the company.

Another effective form of written communication involves the use of personal letters mailed to individual employees' homes, thanking them for their help or, perhaps, congratulating them for completing training or for other achievements. Similarly, management can convey important reminders, notes of appreciation, and acknowledgment of an employee's accomplishment of a goal in memos placed in employees' pay envelopes.

A bulletin board, which should be placed where all employees can view it, can serve as a community newspaper, providing an opportunity to reach all employees with important announcements. Among the kinds of information that should be displayed on a bulletin board are notices about company policies, work rules, employee events, and job openings and requirements.

Another effective way to give employees an opportunity to relate valuable written information about themselves, management, and their peers is the use of self-appraisals. These can be performed using a simple written form.

Giving Employees Their Due

Award programs provide management with another effective tool for communicating its appreciation for employees. One such program is a service award program, which helps the company retain the best employees by recognizing their contributions to the overall success of the company. Service award programs build employee self-esteem, reinforce desired behaviors, and help to create and maintain an atmosphere of appreciation and trust. Although most such programs recognize length of service, they should also acknowledge quality of service.

Awards for length of service should be given at the conclusion of an employee's initial probationary period and after his or her first, third, fifth, tenth, and subsequent milestone anniversaries with the company. These awards may include small cash gifts, gift certificates, tickets to sporting events or theatrical performances, company merchandise, and jewelry. To maximize the positive impact of the awards, management should present them at company-sponsored events, such as annual holiday parties, summer picnics, etc. The presenter of the award should be a member of top management.

Numerous processes for selecting recipients of awards for quality of service exist. For example, management might form a committee of five to seven volunteers; in any event, hourly employees should comprise the majority of this committee's members. The committee should select employees from various departments and positions, and the awards should be based upon attendance, safety, team building, productivity, and other criteria deemed important within the corporate culture. Awards for quality of service should be of greater monetary value than those given for length of service.

Another category is the suggestion awards. On a monthly basis, management could select an important and topical issue about which to solicit employee suggestions. Management could ask, for example, how it and employees could work more effectively to reduce operating costs, reduce absenteeism, improve efficiency or productivity, or address other matters of mutual concern.

The suggestions would be reviewed by a committee of three to five people representing both management and hourly employees. Again, hourly employees should comprise the majority of this committee's members. Management representatives should be chosen by top management, but all the hourly employees should be volunteers. The committee should meet within seven days after the end of every month, or as immediately as possible, to review the month's suggestions. By majority vote, they should choose a winning suggestion. The author of the winning suggestion could receive a cash prize and a plaque with his or her name inscribed on it. At the end of the year, 1 of the 12 monthly suggestions could be chosen by management or a committee of management and employees as "suggestion of the year." The person who offered the suggestion should receive a larger cash prize and a special inscribed plaque, and have his or her photo placed in a special location where it could be seen by all employees.

Another part of a strategic communications action plan is the exit interview, which provides one of the best opportunities for management to gain candid appraisals of the company from departing employees. When an employee leaves a company, he or she is likely to feel free to voice candid concerns, opinions, and advice. During such interviews, management can learn a great deal about problems that an employee might have been hesitant to express while employed. One can garner valuable information about where a company must improve working conditions, where it needs to make changes in its corporate culture, and how to increase its own levels of trust and credibility. Such insights will ultimately serve to enhance levels of productivity and efficiency.

By not asking, not listening, not talking, not taking action, and not opening numerous channels of communication, companies will feed the adversarial relationships that lead to unionization and to slowdowns, walkouts, and strikes in companies where unions are already in place. A decreasing bottom line resulting from these actions will surely demonstrate the shortsightedness of not having a strategic communications action plan. Furthermore, that plan must be part of a company's overall business plan and, within that, its labor-relations plan. The communications plan should be audited every six to nine months or more often, if necessary.

The strategic communications action plan that I have described in this article is designed to break down adversarial relations and establish perceptions of management's goodwill. If followed, it will ensure years of increased productivity and profitability, with little or reduced labor strife. The positive results of this will go directly to the facility's profitability.

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Labor Days

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.

Consensus

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.

Teamwork

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.

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A Strategic Communications Plan for Ending Adversarial Relationships

A written strategic communications action plan can be one of the most important steps to reducing the threat of labor problems. While the importance of open communications is well understood and sounds simple and easy, few manufacturing companies implement a strategic communications action plan that imposes responsibilities and a timetable. A successful communications plan must have an asking strategy, based upon listening, responding, and acting, so that employees become stakeholders. The plan must contain critical questions in order to get effective results and the most important questions that management can ask are: What? When? Where? How? Unless there are specific answers to those questions, the action plan will not be properly implemented or may not be implemented at all because other priorities may take precedence. Without the implementation of a scheduled and ongoing action plan, management will be perceived by employees as being insular, secretive and not caring; employees will thus feel alienated, and management will have succeeded in maintaining and furthering an adversarial relationship that ultimately takes its toll on the bottom line.

However, a scenario in which management and employees talk and listen to one another and resolve problems together will result in increased trust by employees of management. If employees are to believe what management says, are to believe in the credibility of managements words, there must be open and ongoing communications based upon a specific strategic action plan. In addition to timetables, there must be chosen individuals who will bear specific responsibilities.

Management must not wait until problems arise before initiating such a plan. One of the biggest mistakes made by management is to wait until a labor problem arises and then open the doors of communication. Faced with negotiating a new union contract or dealing with a union organizing effort or operational issues, management may suddenly decide its time to talk with their workers. Its too late. Workers will naturally suspect managements motives and regard everything it says with cynical disbelief.

It is essential that open communications be ongoing, not something that one initiates at the first threat of labor problems. An ongoing strategic communications plan will ensure managements credibility, and that credibility will be built upon a foundation of asking, of listening, of talking, and acting in response to employee needs and issues. Management cannot sincerely ask, listen, and talk if it does not know anything about those with whom it is having a conversation. Therefore, management should know each workers name, each workers job description, family background, and have a familiarity with each workers performance record. Such basic knowledge implies a level of care and concern.

And the concern of employers for the welfare of employees will go a long way to establishing trust. There are many ways of communicating concern and building trust, and each is a necessary ingredient for a successful communications action plan. Among other means of communicating concern are providing financial information about retirement investments, offering fitness and stress reduction classes, and having a guidance counselor offer advice to parents about college admissions and costs.

Having successfully communicated its concern for its employees, management can open more direct channels of communication, knowing that its credibility is secure.

There is nothing more effective that one-on-one discussion where management asks, listens and talks, encouraging employees to do the same. It may take only seconds or minutes, but it should be a requirement of the communications strategic action plan. It permits employees multifaceted opportunities to address issues in an open and friendly environment. In addition, longer meetings can keep the doors of communication open.

Group meetings can occur bi-annually, quarterly, or even monthly. At such meetings, management can explain what it is doing and why. It can answer workers questions. Thus diminishing the opportunities for misunderstandings, which-if left to metastasize-can grow into major labor relations problems.

Compliant sessions are an effective means for maintaining a reasonable level of satisfaction among all types of workers. Such meetings are generally held on a monthly basis, and are sometimes referred to as coffee and donut meetings. Management can provide updates on important subject, and employees are encouraged to discuss any aspect of company policy, sales, expansions, etc. These meeting occur during the workday and employees are paid for their time. Defused negative rumors, revised production methods, and increased understanding of new company policies are just some of the positive results of such meetings.

Quality circles are another effective form of meeting, and they work for both union and non-union employees. Quality circles consist of small numbers of employees; the circles are more intimate than compliant sessions. The small number of employees permits management to tackle problems of workplace efficiency through a one-on-one give and take. Together, management and employees examine productivity, and make suggestions for improvement. Employees are left with an enhanced sense of their own competencies and efficiencies.

Meeting just for senior employees have proven to be an effective means for communicating managements appreciation for their long-term commitment to the company. It is essential that management demonstrate that such employees are held in a special position and are appreciated for their long- standing interest in the companys welfare.

At all meetings and at other times as well, there could be present an Employee Assistance Representative (an EAR), who will interact with an HR representative, making sure that all issues are discussed. The purpose of the program is to have a peer person available to communicate that management cares by responding to and acting upon employee concerns and to assist employees with their problem. In establishing the program, management further communicates and 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.

In addition to personal contact, there are written means for communicating with ones employees. Among those forms of communications are newsletters, personalized letters, private memos, public notices, and self-appraisals.

A bulletin board, which can serve as a community newspaper, provides an opportunity to reach all employees with important announcements; a bulletin board should be placed where all employees can view it.

Self-appraisals are an effective means for having employees relate valuable information about themselves, management, and their peers. It can all be performed using simple written forms.

Award programs further provide management with another effective tool for communicating its appreciation for employees. One such program is a Service Award Program, which permits companies to retain their best employees by recognizing their contributions to a companys overall success.

The second type of service award is one that recognizes the quality of an individual employees performance over a period of time.

Another category is the Suggestion Awards Program. On a monthly basis, management could select an important and topical issue about which they solicit employee suggestions. Management may, for example, ask how they and employees can work more effectively to reduce production costs, reduce absenteeism, improve efficiency, productivity, and other matters of mutual concern.

Another part of a strategic communications action plan is the exit interview. It provides management with one of its best opportunities to gain candid appraisals from departing employees about the company. When an employee leaves a company, that employee is likely to feel free to voice candid concerns, opinions, and advice. During such interviews management can learn a great deal about problems that an employee may have been hesitant to express while being employed. One can garner valuable information about where a company must improve working conditions, where it needs to make changes in its corporate culture, and how to increase its own levels of trust and credibility. Such insights will ultimately serve to enhance levels of productivity and efficiencies.

All of the above are some of the necessary ingredients for an effective strategic communications action plan. The implementation of each ingredient, of course, depends upon a companys culture, time frame, and other variables, which will determine whether the action plan will be expanded or reduced.

It is only when management and employees are talking and listening to one another, when they are discussing issues of immediate concern, that both sides will be on the road to mutual understanding that can lead to agreement. By not asking, by not listening, by not talking, by not taking action, and by not opening numerous channels of communication, companies will feed adversarial relationships that will lead to unions where none had existed and to slowdowns, walkouts, and strikers where unions are already in place. A decreasing bottom line will surely demonstrate the shortsightedness of not having a strategic communications action plan. And that plan must be part of a companys overall business plan and its labor-relations plan which is incorporated in the business plan; it should be audited every six to nine months or more regularly, if needed.

The strategic action plan of open communications is designed to break down adversarial relations and establish perceptions of managements good will; if followed, it will ensure years of increased productivity and profitability with little or materially reduced labor strife. The positive results will go directly to a manufacturing companys bottom line.

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United We Stand

To win in the world economy, we must develop a new and productive entente with organized labor -- that historic adversarial relationship -- by doing eight things:

  • Business and labor must adopt new criteria in dealing with one another. The old adversarial relationships have produced distrust. Unions have competed with management and other unions in a game of bargaining one-upmanship, creating an endless inflationary cycle. Despite managements perennial position (We cant afford it!), the unions were almost always able to push their demands through. What emerged was a tradition of distrust. Negotiations often boiled down to a brutish animosity indulged by both parties. What is needed is a united front against the erosion of productivity and foreign competition.
  • Business must adopt new criteria and make new judgments. Management has generally refused to allow its workers any voice in making decisions of policy or strategy. Little wonder, then, that eroding worker motivation has contributed to lagging productivity and declining quality. The more indifferent managers are to employees, the more intransigent and resentful the employees become.

    Business seems to recognize its obligations to its workers only when a crisis develops, when a companys fortunes lag, when it is about to be struck. To improve its relationship with labor, business must adopt a new, enlightened attitude toward its workers and implement it in meaningful ways -- more candor, greater consideration, and a sensitivity to individual needs.

  • Labor must defuse its internal political problems. If unions are to deal with management realistically, they must first stop breeding adversarial attitudes within their own ranks, between local unions, and between industry-wide unions seeking to encroach upon each other. Internal strife prompts a militant stance toward management and results in unrealistic demands on business. Four other changes are worthy of organized labors attention: 1) a new era of democracy must begin with a move toward more useful dealings with management; 2) rank-and-file should be told of the 1 situation about employers ability to meet with new wage demands and whether they need concessions from the union; 3) politics within the local should not set those demands but should ensure that leadership, policy, enforcement, bargaining, solicitation, and general procedures represent the viewpoint of the majority; and 4) younger people, women, African American, and Hispanics on the union rolls need to be heard.
  • The challenge of job security must be attacked head-on. During recessions, jobs are eliminated, and many workers panic. Workers direct their disenchantment at both the employer and labor unions in equal measure. Many believe that both lead them down a double-dealing and double-talking path. The concessions granted by workers in the interest of job security, generally do not lead to that goal. Resentment and fear involving job security heighten the adversarial relationship. For decades, workers complained about their employers, but still believed that somehow the owner-manager would protect their jobs. Now, that assurance has disappeared, leaving millions of workers feeling helpless and angry. No company can guarantee job protection. The solution lies in training, preparation, reorientation, and communications. Both management and labor are obligated to develop training programs to deal with new automation, robotics, and retraining in the event of plant transfers.
  • Top priority: Re-education of employees. Why do we have to look at labor and management, at what they are doing and what they stand for, as either good or bad? The reality is somewhere in the middle, and we must reach that middle ground through an educational process.
  • Clearing the air with new semantics. Specific words or terms in management-labor dealings often raise red flags and create controversy. Both sides know it, yet both indulge in wars of words. Soft words only work if both sides use them. But will management or labor use the better expression for fear of seeming too conciliatory? If we expect a new semantics of harmony to replace the old, failed semantics of conflict, its use must be mutual.
  • Stop using the media for effect. The unions belabor management. Management strikes out at unions. The media jump on it all, responding to the hyperbole of the vituperative blasts. Both sides must stop using the media as a vehicle for adversarial activities. The results are harmful, often to both sides; posturing for the media arouses resentment and builds controversies.
  • Bargaining: honest and realistic or face-saving and hostile? When I talk with union leaders, I am told that labor may be amenable to some cooperation as long as the solution makes labor look good to its constituency. The heart of the collective bargaining process is an extension of this charade, spawning months of talks which inevitably look more like predictable set pieces than actual negotiation. It is nothing more than a face-saving gesture.

Joint management-labor committees charged with defining how business and unions can coexist more constructively may help to remove many, time-wasting steps by thrashing out issues in a closed advisory meeting and then influencing leadership on both sides for the resolution without resorting to animosity or charade.

What is needed is an entire change in the process and attitude as management sits with labor or resolve problems.

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The Labor Factor

By Stephen J. Cabot

Manufacturers often hire labor-relations attorneys to maintain their status as union-free companies. The first thing I say to clients when they hire me is, "I understand that your goal is to be union-free and that's fine. But if that's the only thing you want, you're not going to make it." Companies whose only goal is to keep unions out will find that they will be successful at it for a time; then, however, complacency sets in and they'll drop the ball. That's when a union comes in.

The difference between being a unionized manufacturer and a non-union company comes down to labor relations-not simply making an effort at labor relations, but elevating labor relations to the point in which it is part of the company's overall business plan. Most business plans are focused purely on the company's technical needs of producing more to be competitive. Until now, there has been an absolute, unadulterated failure by business to incorporate labor relations into their long-term plans. But a company's overall success depends on formally incorporating goals for the working environment into the business plan. The company needs to set labor-relations strategies for years down the road, as it does for its financial and marketing goals.

Mission Statement: Possible

To make the proper beginning for an effective human-resources plan, a company has to start with itself. What is its philosophy as a whole, its mission? The company must delineate its mission statement- and that statement has to distance itself from such archaic phrases as "employees are our biggest asset" First of all, this is a demeaning statement. Employees are not "assets;" they are nor bricks and mortar, or equipment that can be sold or depreciated on a tax return. They are people, and they have concerns and individual aspirations as other people do. Thus, the company's first goal in creating a strong labor-relations policy is respect for its employees-for their concerns and individual goals, in particular.

Many entrepreneurs have built business empires by first realizing how little they know, and by then realizing that their employees need to feel good about the company. Those business owners soon learned that ASK is the most powerful word in the English language. An employee-relations action plan must be built on the "asking" strategy. Ask every employee, top to bottom, how they feel about the company. Ask about their perceived issues and concerns. And ask them these same questions as often as possible. This is where respect for employees begins. Eventually, the asking strategy should include asking the company's employees what they feel the company's mission ought to be.

Asking in Action

My work with these companies includes creating questionnaires for their employees. These cover the following points:

  • How do employees perceive communication between themselves and management? Is it effective? Is it one-way or two-way?
  • How do they perceive morale in the work place?
  • How do they perceive supervisory practices, policies and procedures? Are these applied consistently?
  • Do the employees trust upper management? Do they feel that the executives keep their promises?
  • Do the employees feel that they and management work together as a team?
  • Do the employees perceive that the training they get meets their needs? Dose the training include the handling of personal and family problems?

The questions are phrased so that employees can circle their answers, showing whether they agree or disagree and to what extent. The weighted averages from these answers, when compared to other normative, statistical factors, are then used to show management the issues that employers should address in the labor-relations portion of the overall business plan. These averages can also determine the risk the company faces of a possible unionization.

Up to now, company executives have done a wonderful job of telling their employees how important they are to the company's success. A labor-relations plan gives the company an opportunity to put its money where its mouth is. Such a plan builds a work-force environment that is consistent with the company's business plan and, at same time, builds morale. In other words, such a plan would make unions unnecessary by reducing labor strife, minimizing unnecessary litigation and building a cohesive environment in which employees like coming to work -- and feel they are stakeholders in the company.

Companies need to both create a labor-relations plan, and then to put such a plan in practice. Until they do, labor lawyers like me will be busier and wealthier than we should be.

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Meet Craig Becker

If you're an employer, he just became your worst nightmare.

To my clients and friends,

Do you recognize the man pictured above? If not, you're not alone. The Obama-compliant media have been very effective in keeping Mr. Becker -- and his radical pro-union views -- suppressed, at least until the President decided to defy the Senatorial majority against his nomination to the NLRB and appoint him during the Congressional recess.

Why is this important information for you to know? It's pretty basic.

Like so many of President Obama's advisors, confidantes, and appointees, Craig Becker is a self-described Progressive, laser-focused on "transforming" America. He is an unashamed radical who, in the name of worker "fairness," wants to rob those same workers of their right to a secret ballot in union recognition elections. And because Congress has so far been reluctant to pass this "card check" provision, he has announced his intention to bypass the legislature entirely and achieve his goal through an internal regulatory process. So much for the will of the people.

But EFCA and "card check" are just the tip of the iceberg: ALL EMPLOYERS, whether union or nonunion, need to PREPARE IMMEDIATELY for the "changes" long sought by the Left and Mr. Becker's former associates at SEIU and the AFL-CIO.

Here at the Cabot Institute, we have been preparing for change for over two years. The press may have swooned over Mr. Obama, but I knew from his record, his writings, and the influences in his life that as President, he would have business and capitalism in his crosshairs. Sadly, I was correct.

Fortunately, we have developed an array of proven strategies to defend your rights as employers as well as the interests of your employees, even in the face of new, intrusive regulations. I will be sharing these at our upcoming Labor Strategy Survival Seminars in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati, and I urge you to attend. Seating will be limited, and given the undeniable threat to employers represented by Mr. Becker and the soon-to-be-radicalized NLRB, I encourage you to register immediately.

You may have already received our seminar brochure. If so, please review it carefully and contact me with any questions or concerns. As an alternative, you can simply visit our website and download a copy -- as well as register online.

I will be updating you on developments as Mr. Becker turns his philosophy into policy, and will continue to devise effective strategies for remaining union-free, working more productively with a union already in place, or even achieving the ideal of decertification.

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Obama's Big Labor Ethics Loophole

Written by Michelle Malkin

Everything you need to know about President Obama's fraudulent ethics pledge can be summed up in four words: SEIU lawyer Craig Becker.

Becker is the left-wing lawyer Obama sneakily installed on the National Labor Relations Board. The U.S. Senate rejected Becker's nomination on a 52-33 cloture vote in February. Obama responded by flipping the bird and ramming through his recess appointment during the congressional spring break. (The New York Times approvingly dubbed it a "muscular show of his executive authority." When that authority was exercised by GOP President George W. Bush, of course, the Times editorial board called it a "constitutional gimmick.")

Despite the White House's much-heralded policy of binding every executive appointee to strict conflict-of-interest guidelines, a defiant Becker now remains free to rule on cases involving his former Big Labor bosses. And the most ethical administration in U.S. history isn't doing a thing to stop him.

While serving as an associate general counsel for both the SEIU and AFL-CIO in 2009, Becker generously lent his legal expertise to the White House. He served as an Obama transition team member for labor issues and helped draft several union-backed executive orders.

These new rules essentially blackball non-union contractors targeted by labor organizers and blacklist non-union employees in the private sector from working on taxpayer-funded projects. Another union protectionist measure immediately adopted by Obama requires that when a government service contract runs out -- and there's a new contract to perform the same services at the same location -- the new contractor must retain the old workers. 

Such regulatory favoritism limits freedom in the workplace and raises the cost of doing business. This suits Becker and his White House champions (who reaped $60 million in SEIU campaign donations and support in 2008) just fine.

Becker's anti-business views date back to his days as a UCLA professor, when he argued that unions should not be subject to the same rules of democracy and fair elections as everyone else. He favors radical rewriting of union organizing rules and elimination of the secret ballot process by administrative fiat.

It's no surprise that Becker now refuses to hold himself accountable for the ethics pledge he himself signed in April. As the past two years have taught us, Team Obama's operational slogan is: Rules are for fools. The contractual ethics commitment states: "I will not for a period of two years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former 

employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts." Yet, Becker has participated in numerous NLRB cases involving the SEIU and its affiliates -- and is parsing the definition of "former employer" by arguing that local SEIU chapters are "separate and distinct legal entities" that don't fall under the ethics rules.

The National Right to Work Foundation, which has fought both national and local SEIU officials in court on behalf of rank-and-file workers' rights, eviscerates Becker's lawyerly blather. SEIU's own constitution considers local affiliates "constituent subordinate bodies" of the national union, the foundation notes. "Moreover, in 2009 over 85 percent of the SEIU's receipts came from a per capita tax on the locals' membership dues and fees. The national union even has the power to assume control over its locals if they do not conform to International policies."

In any case, Becker has also acknowledged playing a key role in providing "advice and counsel" to the powerful SEIU affiliate in Illinois "relating to proposed executive orders and proposed legislation giving homecare workers a right to organize and engage in collective bargaining under state law." Championed by Big Labor water-carrier and disgraced former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and current SEIU-endorsed Democratic Gov. Pat 

Quinn, such measures effectively bust into private homes for the Purple Shirts of the SEIU and other union competitors hungry for new dues-paying members.

Now, Becker is in the catbird seat -- adjudicating challenges to the power grab rules he helped author.

Little did America know that when candidate Obama promised the SEIU he would "open up the doors of government" to them, he'd give them the keys to our living rooms, too.

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If I'm anti-union, then so be it​

As union support continues to escalate among long-term care industry workers, managers are constantly looking for ways to halt organizing efforts. Eager to offer assistance is Stephen J. Cabot, an attorney and Chairman of The Cabot Institute for Labor Relations, Inc. Cabot, author of the book "Everybody Wins!" a labor relations manual for managers, is listed in the Who's Who directories for American Business and International Business. He recently shared some of his union-avoidance ideas with McKnight's Long-Term Care News.