Once upon a time, union organizing was based on “get out and meet the people.” Organizers would work to uncover what employees were dissatisfied with, and run with it, to get them to sign cards. Their strategies included meetings and home visits and one-on-one conversations. But today, it’s possible for all of that to happen electronically (and often “underground,” where employers don’t even know it’s happening). Organizers can text, email, communicate on social media, and of course, provide information on their own websites. Employees can even sign union authorization cards online.
But one of the undeniable side effects of communicating via modern technology is the loss of meaning conveyed by facial expressions and body language, both of which can communicate as much, if not more, as words. Skype and similar technologies make it possible to retain some of the subtle nuances of smiles, frowns and shoulder shrugs, but it’s still not possible to put a reassuring hand on someone’s shoulder via FaceTime. There’s nothing like physical proximity for building relationships – and that includes good workplace relationships.
And that’s where good employers like you have a distinct advantage. Despite technology’s many advantages, the most important element of employee satisfaction remains old-fashioned respect. In SHRM’s most recent Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: Revitalizing a Changing Workforce survey, 67 percent of respondents ranked respectful treatment of employees as the most important factor contributing to overall job satisfaction. Respectful treatment was ranked even more important than compensation or benefits, which came in at number two and number three on the survey results, respectively. Five of the top ten items were directly related to the quality of relationships with supervisors and co-workers.
When employees turn to a union, dissatisfaction is often ultimately responsible. Today’s labor unions have access to all the advantages that modern technology has to offer. They are able to attract new members by utilizing social media, organizing online petitions, and publishing reports of workplace violations. While it’s true that you need to be equally effective in using technology to communicate effectively with your employees, you need to take full advantage of your ability to provide a personal relationship with your employees – before a union organizer starts texting them.
Good management training is essential for creating a work environment that fosters the level of job satisfaction that will ensure that your company can remain free of the limitations imposed by unions. A Michigan State University study conducted in both the U.S. and China found that abusive managers create conflict among workers and can damage the productivity of a whole team. The toxic effects of abuse were documented, and researchers concluded that workers who were belittled or ridiculed by supervisors were more likely to behave in a hostile manner towards one another.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, your managers and supervisors have the ability to see an employee’s eyes light up when told they are doing a great job. They are also the ones who experience seeing the increased pride employees take in their work when they are given opportunities to develop their skills to the fullest extent possible. Want to truly create a connection? Combine your personal relationships with technology – feature employees in online video and websites that provide your employees with information vital to their professional development as well as your bottom line.
Wait, they Can Do What?
One thing to note: anyone with a smartphone can film or record a conversation or personal encounter in the workplace. That right is protected, and has been upheld by the NRLB. In 38 states, it isn’t even necessary to inform the second party they are being recorded. Rather than employees “catching” management doing or saying something cringe-worthy that will require you to play defense, provide ways to show them at their best.
Create Better Leaders
Most important in creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and a culture of understanding that supports the business’ objectives is well-trained leaders. Creating better leaders can be as simple as making managers and supervisors aware that the company values the development of outstanding leaders. And establishing a union-proof culture can be done with online training for supervisors that makes them aware of how their actions can lead to employee dissatisfaction. By following these tips, you CAN proactively create an atmosphere of mutual respect and, ultimately, a UnionProof culture.