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Prevent Union Organizing
Strategy refers to carefully designing and planning for a particular purpose to gain an advantage. Labor communications refer to communication to stay union-free or address union activities like a union organizing campaign. Combine strategic and labor communications, and you have a coordinated planning process for enhancing labor relations, developing and implementing leadership initiatives, promoting effective internal communications, and protecting the organization’s reputation. The strategic labor communications plan reaches and engages the right audience internally and externally. A well-developed plan incorporates various communication tools and leadership messaging to ensure the communication plan reaches a variety of constituencies in the most effective way.
Labor relations is the relationship between an organization’s leadership and the workforce. This makes it sound simple, but any manager can attest that it’s not. Many elements impact labor relations and determine employee engagement, the quality of employee relations, union vulnerability, and corporate reputation in the local community and the general public’s eye. What are employees thinking? What influence are labor unions having on the workforce? What is the public’s perspective of the company? What is being said online by employees and community members? Do employees trust management and what leaders communicate?
Labor communications should start before there is a union organizing campaign. The strategic labor communications plan is important to developing a strong culture of communications and regular outreach to employees and key stakeholders. Many union organizing campaigns begin because employees believe they have a lack of voice due to the communication system being inadequate and the employee experience not being considered. Establishing the communication culture before there is union activity ensures your organization is always ready to quickly prepare for, respond to, and manage a union organizing campaign.
Without planning for strategic labor communications, the communications system is at risk of experiencing gaps. For example, it may exclude certain groups of employees or fail to address community members and customers. It may also risk poor alignment with the company mission and values and not performing as needed through execution failure and selection of the wrong communication tools. Lack of planning may also lead to failure to communicate with constituencies with necessary regularity. Critically, an ineffective communication system may also not give employees opportunities for feedback, one of the labor union’s arguments for unionizing.
In Deloitte’s Global 2021 Human Capital Trends report, there is a lengthy discussion on how the worker-employer relationship is being disrupted, and one way is “purpose unleashed.” The author writes about the signals that the employee-employer future is headed towards “purpose unleashed,” saying,
“Workers, customers, regulators, and interest groups are requesting or mandating new purpose-aligned measures from employers.
Purpose shows up in job descriptions, hiring practices, and performance metrics.
Organizations are taking stances, internally and externally, on issues they otherwise may have stayed silent about in response to growing demands from workers and customers.”
Strategic labor communications planning is a key process for reinforcing shared purpose internally, a powerful approach to engagement and sharing stances on issues externally. This holds true before, during, and after union activity. Shared purpose drives consistent messaging.
Rick Schell at Rice University teaches leadership communication and points out that the word “strategic” has a specific meaning. It is strategic when it:
Strategic labor communication planning develops a strong message that engages internal and external constituencies. An effective labor communication strategy will:
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Everyone in the organization has a communication role, but there are external people and organizations that also have input and need feedback. Communication support and services include materials geared to and tailored by and for key stakeholders, which, depending on the circumstances, may include:
Your strategic labor communications plan will include formal policies and procedures for communicating with internal and external constituencies. Each business will need a customized strategic plan that fits the business model, workforce structure, and communities of operation. It is a proactive effort to manage labor relations through effective communication.
The Board of Directors and C-suite leaders should now ask whether the company is fully prepared for potential union activity at any time. A key element of preparedness is the strategic labor communications plan. Given the importance of the plan, many companies obtain the assistance of corporate communication consultants who can provide the information and guidance developed through experience with a variety of companies across industries.
With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.