How to Engage Your Employees, Know What They're Thinking and Get Them to Support your UnionProof Culture
After our first “employee centric” website went online in 1999, it was clear that being able to connect with employees - and their families - in this way was a fantastic leap forward. Since that time, we’ve had over a million employee views on our websites and helped thousands of companies improve their relationship with their teams, making third party involvement unnecessary.
Today, we’re often asked about the “perfect online communication formula.” That strategy begins with understanding the 7 Stages of the Employee Engagement Journey. These 7 stages guide the best labor relations and human resources professionals, allowing them to anticipate and address employee needs, knowing what and when to communicate.
These stages include the Pre-Hire/Awareness stage, Orientation/Engagement, Honeymoon stage, Comfort, Discomfort, Resolution and finally, the Advocate stage, where the company is regarded as an employer of choice.
There used to be an old saying that, “companies get the union they deserve.” Now, I don’t necessarily believe that to be true… but there is a LOT to be said for keeping your employees engaged at every step of their journey.
Every stage of the Employee Engagement Journey is important, but in building a UnionProof culture, the discomfort / resolution stage is where it’s vital to engage that employee. One of the biggest questions in the quest for positive employee relations centers around the DISCOMFORT stage: How can we make sure that even the most reluctant employee feels like they can speak up?
It’s hard, right? We must create a safe space for that conversation to happen, whether it’s directly with a supervisor or manager, via suggestion boxes, or even online.
But it gets even MORE difficult when there’s card signing or organizing drive going on. Tensions are high, drama can get high, and having open conversations that lead to practical and satisfactory solutions can actually be difficult.
So the UnionProof team developed a proven method – a formula for turning what looks like disaster (unhappy employees and a union organizing drive) into a success, creating Advocates for your company.
Step One: Empathize and Humanize the Company
STEP ONE is to empathize and humanize the company’s message by aligning it with the discomfort your employees are already expressing.
Crafting a campaign-ready “dark” website allows you make this connection quickly, which is vital. When you’ve already developed the majority of your site with the “hard facts” to educate employees on union membership, finances, dues calculators, calculators to demonstrate the cost of a strike – it’s then much easier to address the ISSUES quickly.
But how can you know what employees are thinking so you CAN align your message with that? While you cannot monitor individual employee activity, when that activity is taken as an aggregate, your web analytics can provide a great deal of information. Your web developer should be able to help you understand things like:
- What pages or topics are being visited most often?
- On what pages do employees spend the most time?
- Where do visitors go next when they leave the site? (union site? News articles?)
- What time of day are employees visiting the site?
This kind of data can inform your decisions as to what your employees want and need to hear. So having a dark site ready to communicate provides you with the opportunity to focus your energies on connecting with your employees, engaging them in the process of improving the situation.
Step Two: Create A Way for Resolution to Occur
STEP TWO is to create a way for resolution to occur - a 2-way conversation where employees can share their concerns, and receive a response from the company. This isn’t always pretty, and you CAN and SHOULD moderate it - but to create trust, authenticity, and transparency, it’s vital to share even the things you’re not comfortable with.
Let’s take a look at what that looks like.
First, you’ll want to set up your online form to be 100% anonymous, and let employees know that, right there on the page.
Second, you need to fill the role of Reviewer – someone needs to be available to sort through questions and comments as they come in – slow response is no response!
Third, you need to answer those questions and concerns publicly. You need someone who can craft tactical and honest responses for publication.
I mentioned transparency a minute ago – this is particularly important to younger workers. They can smell a “PR campaign” from a mile away and if they see it on your site, they won’t engage with another word you say, online or off.
Step Three: Sustain Employee Engagement
STEP THREE of this formula is to KEEP engaging that employee throughout the campaign. That means that, once it goes live, you must keep your site current. Current with what the union might be saying, current with employee concerns. Being timely is also paramount to success. Make sure you have someone who’s able to post your updates quickly and accurately. What does that mean? That means if the union mails a letter to all the employees’ homes that arrives on Tuesday, by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, you’ve addressed it.
That means that if any news story comes out that paints the company in an unflattering way, you’ve communicated with employees and their families that same day. That means that if the union is organizing a boycott or leafleting or doing anything disruptive, your employees already know that the situation is under control, because you’ve established your site as a trusted resource for the truth.
Sustaining engagement means you've got to be proactive at every stage of the Employee Engagement Journey. Before you ever hire someone new, make a point of explaining your company’s culture, and setting that person’s expectations
Once they’re on board, make sure every employee is provided with a proper orientation, including an explanation of the company’s union-free operating philosophy
During the Honeymoon and Comfort stages, use short, informative meetings on a variety of topics to keep that employee engaged in the company’s success and their role in it.
When an employee reaches a phase of discomfort, be sure your systems are in place and your leaders are well-trained and can address concerns and find solutions. If employees turn to a union, be prepared for a 2-way conversation that is honest and transparent - preferably online - to provide everyone access to that conversation.
Once employees reach the resolution phase, continue monitoring - this is a great time to train your leaders!
In working to become an employer of choice, you’ll have created employee advocates who will express loyalty and promote the company.