All companies dread a unionization drive. An organizing drive can create tension between management and employees and often become an unwelcome distraction from pressing strategic issues. Even if the outcome is favorable, companies anticipate lower earnings and lingering productivity issues. The best strategy is to prevent a union from organizing employees in the first place. Here are some proactive strategies to make sure unions don’t take advantage of your employees:
1. Train New Supervisors On Positive Employee Relations
There’s a saying that employees don’t quit companies, they quit bosses. A poor supervisor can sour the employee experience even at the best companies. That discontent can manifest itself when union organizers start showing up at the front gate. You need to ensure that new supervisors start their jobs ready to lead and inspire their subordinates. New supervisors need rigorous management training that emphasizes soft skills. They need to know how to communicate with employees, manage interpersonal issues, and encourage a respectful work culture. Setting a broader goal of being an employer of choice can be the best defense against unions.
2. Educate New Employees About The Benefits Of A Union-Free Workforce
While you’re educating your supervisors, you should also be educating your employees. One of the most significant challenges when you’re looking to prevent a union from organizing is countering misinformation. Often, your employees don’t understand the implications of unionization. You need to arm them with the facts to deter a unionization drive before it starts. New employee orientation should include a segment on the benefits of a union-free workforce. This training should be tailored to your company.
Highlighted benefits will likely include:
- A direct relationship with management
- Performance-based compensation
- Greater career growth potential
- No requirement to pay union dues
- No requirement to strike without pay
Instructors can use real-world examples to illustrate these points. A great example is the current General Motors strike. Workers were forced to participate in a strike and are losing income in the process. New employees should understand that union membership comes at their own expense.
3. Actively Monitor Union Activities
Sometimes unionization drives occur despite your best efforts at taking care of employees. Unions target successful companies, so staving off union activity requires proactive research and intelligence. Fortunately, it’s easier to collect information than ever before.
Unionization drives may have Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, or other social media platforms. Posts that are time-stamped or geotagged make it easier to track union efforts in real-time. Comparing the number of followers to previous campaign accounts can help you infer whether your workforce supports the union. You can also review posts and infer employee sentiment towards management. Even if your company is not the target of a current unionization effort, you can still collect actionable intelligence. Union tactics against peer companies could be used against your company in the near future.
4. Prepare Your Communications Strategy
Your company needs to be ready if a union targets your employees. The union will likely argue that your employees are being treated unfairly and need protection. Be prepared to refute the union messaging line-by-line, preferably with data. If the union argues employees are underpaid, illustrate how your wages compare to competitors in your industry. You can also clarify the financial value of the benefits you offer. If the union states that employees are unhappy, publish testimonials proving otherwise. You need to communicate well and often to counter a unionization drive.
A good communications strategy should:
- Be timely and organized
- Clearly refute union arguments
- Be memorable and easy to understand
- Rely on third-party data
Don’t let unions control the conversation. You need an organized, consistent communications game plan. Preparing your game plan in advance can help you more quickly respond to a unionization drive.
Prevent a Union from Organizing
Union-free companies are proactive when it comes to countering unions. They don’t wait for union representatives to show up and then devise a strategy. Educating supervisors and employees can make it more difficult for unions to find pain points to exploit. Proactive intelligence and a clear communication game plan are critical when a union has your company in its sights. In the end, your company needs to win hearts and minds. Make it your mission to be an employer of choice and encourage unions to pick an easier target.