5 Things Dragging Down Your Positive Employee Relations Strategy

Right now, most employers are working to develop a positive employee-relations strategy that will resonate with a multi-generational, tech-savvy workforce. However, by taking a business-as-usual approach to employee relations, many of these organizations are leaving room for unions to access their workforce. In contrast, successful companies regularly evaluate how they manage their employee communication and engagement practices, and are unafraid to embrace new strategies if they prove more effective. In so doing, they are helping eliminate the threats that unions pose. By being aware of how easy it is to become complacent, you can do the same.

The following are five major mistakes employers often make in their efforts to develop positive employee relations and keep their company union-proof.

Mistake 1: Lack of Response

Employees expect feedback when they complete employer surveys, submit suggestions to employers or even just inform managers of issues in face-to-face conversations. A Gallup study found that four out of 10 employees become actively disengaged when managers give little or no feedback. Employers that ignore employee issues fuel employee resentment, making them feel like they have no voice. This can create the ideal conditions for unionization. The union simply steps in and promises a stronger voice in the workplace.

Mistake 2: Poor Communication System

Staying in contact with employees is critical in order to discourage union organizing attempts. An interactive communication system is one that thoughtfully reaches out to employees in an open, transparent manner. Technology has made it much easier to stay in contact with large and/or dispersed groups of employees. Savvy employers take advantage of all options, such as maintaining a company website, using social media channels, emailing newsletters and offering online training videos.

Mistake 3: Attempting to Emulate Another Company’s Culture

Trying to emulate another company’s culture in order to keep employees engaged and the workplace union-proof is usually ineffective. Emulation, in effect, means the company is not building an authentic culture that aligns organizational and personal values, and that adheres to a set of beliefs and priorities. For example, many companies have tried to emulate Google’s culture, which is designed to promote creative thinking through unstructured schedules, fun events and a host of employee perks. While this is not a culture suitable for most companies, many can still learn a basic principle from Google: Developing a unique positive employee-relations strategy is the foundation of a successful company. Each company needs to ask itself how it can develop those positive relationships in an authentic manner.

Mistake 4: Adhering to Tried and True Communication Systems

Are you still using boring PowerPoint presentations at employee meetings and posting flyers on bulletin boards? The new generation of millennial workers are digital natives and are more likely to be checking social media on their smartphones or browsing the internet on laptops than watching your PowerPoint. One study found that 38 percent of millennials believe older business leaders are unable to relate to them because they continue using non-dynamic presentation tools.

Millennials already account for 25 percent of the workforce, and in less than a decade will be 75 percent of the workforce. They are used to instantly connecting with others, communication flexibility, mobility and customized communication. Rather than training via PowerPoint, they prefer training via interactive videos. Rather than getting information from a flyer, they want a message sent to their smartphone or posted on internal social media. Think of it like this: While you are posting fliers, the union is communicating via text messages with your employees.

Mistake 5: Doing Things That No Longer Work for Your Company

Companies must adapt as they grow. It is more challenging building relationships with 500 employees than it is with 50 employees. The advice of David Rittof, a management consultant, is for companies to make regular and honest self-assessments of vulnerabilities, prepare a website that touts the benefits of staying union-free, and to proactively over-communicate with employees. Policies and procedures need regular updating, employee communication and education processes need expansion, and company leaders need ongoing training on implementing a positive employee-relations strategy within their units.

As unions become more aggressive and the NLRB issues pro-union regulations, most companies need assistance with developing a strong employee communication system that helps the business stay union-free. Union Proof offers employers the information and tools they need for union avoidance.

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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is IRI's Director of Digital Solutions and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.

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