Effective Employee Communication During A Union Campaign

It wasn’t that long ago the only options for any form of effective employee communication was holding an in-house meeting, sending staff members to corporate seminars or sending a memo or email.

Today, there are numerous options for communicating with employees on the topic of unions, including online video, employee-focused websites and interactive eLearning. Even better, today’s effective employee communication is often two-way and offers learning and development (L&D) opportunities.

The wealth of options is nice, but can be overwhelming when it comes time to decide what works best for your workforce. During a union campaign, it’s a critical decision. Effective employee communication – including how it’s delivered – is vital.

And providing employees with education about unions (before an organizer ever appears) may be more important than you think. Research by Josh Bersin found that employees who learn at work are 39 percent more likely to feel successful and productive and 23 percent more ready to assume additional responsibilities.

Effective Communication On Employee Terms

To better understand behavior, Microsoft recently did a study on the average human attention span. The finding was that we can only pay attention for an astonishing eight (8) seconds, down from 12 seconds in a prior study. A Google study found that 90 percent of the people who own more than one tech device will switch between them an average of three (3) times a day.

A 2019 Pew Research Center found that 28 percent of U.S. adults are online “almost constantly” which is an increase from 21 percent in 2015.

What does this have to do with keeping employees from turning to a union? Everything. Technology is a constant companion, and has contributed to the shaping of a workforce that wants efficient technologies that deliver content in an easy-to-absorb manner.

Union Organizing Mobile Devices

Employees need autonomy as to when and how they can take advantage of your employee communication. Additionally, they need a variety of content because the constant barrage of information means they can easily become bored or sidetracked. 

Culture Is Key

Effective employee communication requires meeting these needs plus taking into consideration the characteristics of your workforce. Is your workforce:

  • Multigenerational?
  • Located in one building or dispersed?
  • Interested in being challenged to utilize capabilities?
  • Needing regular feedback from leaders ?
  • Accepting of new technologies?
  • Needing to feel more valued as team members?
  • Experiencing high or low engagement?

Companies tend to put mid and lower level leaders into leadership positions without opportunities to develop appropriate people skills. According to JPMorgan Chase’s Vice President of Recruiting Wendy Duarte Duckrey, and David Stevens, EVP of Corporate Relations at Valor Global, managers must be people-oriented, and know how to engage talent, have effective listening and feedback skills and be able to develop committed teams. 

leadership for union avoidance

Unique Employees, Unique Employee Communication Tools

Today’s employee communication tools serve multiple purposes, including supporting your company’s reputation as an employer of choice. Specific employee communication opportunities you may want to take advantage of include:

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Policies and procedures, including your union-free operating philosophy
  • Employee Benefits
  • Employee Job-specific training
  • Career development
  • Leadership development
  • Motivation & retention
  • Culture and values
  • Employee feedback
  • Employee engagement

But once you’ve decided what you want to communicate, it’s time to decide which tools are right for your message, and your workforce.

Video: When You Need To Meet Employees Where They Already Are

People like watching videos. In the workplace, they can present information in the preferred format in an entertaining and engaging manner. Videos are more than entertaining, though – they can increase viewer retention of the information, initiate conversations about sensitive topic like unionization, offer compliance training, share consistent information on an enterprise-wide basis, provide senior management a way to increase transparency and present information in the most appealing way in terms of length and content. 

If you’re ready for custom-produced video, you have an opportunity to meet employee needs in a powerful way. Your custom employee communication videos can be long or short, and can address single or multiple topics. You can make your employee videos accessible to them at work or at home. You can also incorporate your culture and your corporate brand and values for reinforcement. Customization makes videos a powerful communication tool.

Employee-Focused Websites: When You Need To Get Specific

Of course, every company has a public-facing site for customers, but focused and dedicated sites can be just as useful for employees – particularly during union organizing campaigns. Your employee-focused website can include union-specific information, interactive calculators, video and social media elements, even the ability to anonymously ask questions of management.

Employees and even their families can access the website at work, at home and on mobile. You can post and regularly update news items, offer educational videos, present worksheets for calculating the true employee cost of unionization, solicit and share feedback and meet other informational and learning needs of employees. The tools and information included on a custom-built website depend on your workforce needs. 

eLearning: When Engaging Employees Is Key

Interactive eLearning gets employees engaged in their own learning. The learning and training opportunities are internet or intranet based and cost effective. Skilled eLearning developers can include elements such as gamification, videos, audio, graphics, job simulations or tests, and progressive levels of training. Your eLearning can even include feedback, making your employee education even more powerful.

There are a number of advantages to using eLearning for employee training and leadership development. It is affordable, appeals to various learning styles, collaborative, adaptable to employee needs, provides immediate feedback, offers immediate reinforcing recognition for successes, repeatable, and self-paced. Like videos, eLearning in the workplace enables consistent training and messaging. 

Social Media: When You Want Two-Way Communication

Social Media for employees enables leaders and team members to regularly share, promoting a sense of community, regular feedback, sharing of innovative ideas and expression of concerns. You can also incorporate social media into your other forms of employee learning and development.

For example, social media messages sent by managers can share expectations for staff who participate in a particular training video or eLearning program. Messages sent during training can herald what employees are learning as they go through training, encouraging others to take advantage of the learning opportunities. After training, a congratulatory message from senior management lets the workforce know that participation is appreciated at the highest organizational level. Social media enables participants to share ideas, ask questions of each other, send questions to management and share feedback.

Podcasts: When You Want To Capture Them On The Move 

Podcasts (audio) are a growing phenomenon, particularly for employees who commute. All ages of employees are listening to them in their vehicles and at home while working or resting. Podcasts can make an excellent tool for employee training and development, since they are accessible on almost any mobile device, any where.

One of the important advantages is that a podcast maintains a person’s focus, critical considering the short attention span most people have today. Embed podcasts in your onboarding and eLearning programs, delivering encouraging messages from top management. The drawback to podcasts is that they are one-way so should be included in a larger communication plan.

Texting: When You Need Immediacy 

SMS, or text, messages are ideal for sending links to updates in policies and procedures and employee focused websites or links to new eLearning programs recently added. Employees can also access texts through Twitter on their computer, if mobile texting is not possible for some reason. 

Texting can be used to send congratulatory messages after an employee completes an eLearning module or to share information. These can become employee engagement messages when used to inspire and strengthen the organization’s culture and values. Texts reinforcing management’s accessibility and corporate values have become valuable communications in dynamic environments where ethics and transparency are crucial to business sustainability.

Webinars or Video Conferencing: When You Need To Reach A Large Group

Your webinars can be in the form of a presentation, workshop, speech, seminar, or training course. You can transmit it over the internet or intranet through video conferencing software. This is another way to hold affordable meetings and learning sessions that enables a dispersed group of employees to participate as an audience. Additionally, it provides the ability to ask questions, share documents and interact with coworkers they may never personally meet.

Online Discussion Forums: When You Want To Ramp Up Engagement

When feedback from coworkers and supervisors is a driving force in a collaborative workplace, internal forums and recognition and rewards programs enable people to share ideas, make suggestions and improve outcomes as a team. They can also be used to reaffirm the organization’s culture.

In-Person Workshops or Seminars: When It Needs to Be Personal

Human interaction will never be fully replaced. However, in the age of technology, most people today probably resent being called away from their work for hours to listen to someone give a speech or present. This is especially true of millennials and Gen Z. Sometimes, the face-to-face approach works, but it has less and less appeal due to cost, lost work time and an increasingly dispersed workforce. 

Better options are activities like posting videos on the intranet of senior managers offering culture enforcing messages or explaining policies; making recorded webinars accessible; and developing eLearning modules for content that would be delivered in seminars or workshops. 

Blending Messaging and Learning Tools for Effective Employee Communication

Most organizations will use more than one tool, of course. To choose the blend of communication approaches most suitable for your needs, be sure to evaluate employee needs. No matter which tools you’re using, remember to:

  • Invest the appropriate amount of resources in employee training (DIY communication can cost you more in the long run!)
  • Offer meaningful content 
  • Keep the content easily digestible
  • Prioritize great communication as part of your culture
  • Personalize training whenever possible
  • Measure outcomes and tweak content as often as necessary
  • Iterate and improve communication over time: repeat information, utilize different formats and distribute information across multiple channels 

Exponential Results for Effective Employee Communication

Each of these communication approaches are powerful employee engagement tools, so a blended employee communication approach can offer exponential results. Staying union-free, becoming an employer of choice, and retaining top talent are all much easier with an effective employee communication strategy that resonates within your culture.

LaborWise Leadership

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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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