The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer results hold bad news for employers around the world: Employee trust is stagnant. The U.S. led in the decline in average employee trust levels in institutions when comparing 2018 to 2017. Employees do not trust their leaders across organizations, starting at the highest executive levels. Lack of employee trust is a sign of a lack of employee engagement. If your employees don’t trust your managers, your business is ripe for unionization. Building trust is key to employee engagement, and developing transparent leadership is essential to employee engagement. If you want to create a UnionProof culture, think “open and honest communication.”
Silence Is Not Golden
Many non-unionized employers are afraid of talking about unions, believing it gives employees ideas. The reality is your disengaged employees will discuss unionization in secrecy, even if you don’t acknowledge the existence of unions. It’s much better to transparently communicate your company’s stance on unions and encourage employee feedback and questions. It’s a strategy that lets you know what your employees are thinking and discussing among themselves, helps you identify workplace issues that need addressing and increases employee engagement through the exchange of information.
Transparency is scary for some employers, yet it should be a core value of every organization. Fearful employers worry about getting negative feedback, inadvertently triggering a workforce problem, damaging the company’s reputation when employees share negativity through social media, and giving unions an opening. In truth, a failure to be transparent about unions, or to educate employees on the many negative impacts of unionization, will make unions more attractive.
Why? Your employees don’t have the information needed to make good decisions and will certainly be curious about union promises to improve their work lives. Lack of transparency lets employee problems fester, widens the gap between employees and management, and gives unions free reign to make false promises without a challenge from you. Silence is not golden. Silence tarnishes the workplace culture.
Transparency Each Day Keeps the Union Away
One way to increase transparency is to develop an employee information/training website page that explains the company’s policy on unions and points out the advantages of working for your company. Another critical strategy is developing a high-quality employee communication system that promotes open discussion and enables two-way communication between employees and management, and especially between employees and Human Resources professionals and Diversity & Inclusion directors.
You can create a system that allows employees to ask confidential questions, but all answers should be made public without revealing the source of the question. It’s almost always true that any question one employee has is a question that multiple employees have but were afraid to ask. Train new employees on the union policy and the communication system during onboarding and make sure your existing workforce is also trained.
Unions are always ready to pounce at the first whiff of a disengaged workforce. Should a union-organizing campaign start, transparency becomes even more critical. It’s not the time to retreat. It’s the time to respond to union claims and promises with a dedicated website to ensure your employees understand the many negative ways that unions will impact their lives, such as paying dues, dealing with a more complex grievance system, basing promotions on seniority rather than competency, and so forth.
A UnionFree.com website can also be used to respond to employee questions. Follow the T.I.P.S. and F.O.E. rules as a communication guide. It is always important to have access to a labor attorney to assist with answering employee questions or to provide advice on appropriate manager communication and behavior. The most effective UnionFree.com website will go viral, broadcasting the reasons the union is harmful to the business and employees.
Into the Light of Day
Some employers choose to maintain an ongoing union-focused webpage for training purposes, allowing employees to post policy and procedure questions anonymously, while at the same time maintaining an unpublished UnionFree.com dark website that’s not made public unless a union organizing campaign is initiated. Another option is to publish a union-focused website that’s updated with appropriate information should a union-organizing campaign start.
Most union elections today are ambush elections, so you have an average of 23 days to communicate the advantages of staying union free and respond to union claims and employee questions. It takes seven to 10 days to develop a customized website. Having a dark website ready to launch at any time can make the difference between remaining union free or your employees embracing the union.
When launching the dark website into the light of day, don’t password protect it so everyone, including union representatives, can read the information. The more people who understand the consequences of unionization, the less likely the union can continue spreading false information. Also, the union will attack the information, giving you insights into the union’s platform.
Positive Reinforcement Through Transparency
Transparent communication has some specific features. The language used is easily understood by employees. The communication tool is available 24/7, expected in the age of technology. All forms of communication are linked to ensure employers stay in the loop and all information remains consistent. The website should be factual, informative and encourage questions. Public and dark websites will include a lot of positive reinforcement, reminding your employees of good things like the employee benefits package and career opportunities.
Transparency embraces everything you do, from management decisions to policies and procedures. It brings enormous benefits, one of which is increased employee engagement. People feel like they have a voice that is heard and have some control over their work and working conditions.
Every time a manager transparently responds to an employee inquiry, a UnionProof culture is strengthened. Ongoing workplace transparency leads to an openness that creates trust between employees and managers and that leads to greater organizational success. Employees get regular direction, are more connected and more informed. Listen to your employees, and you will be recognized as a caring employer. These are employee engagement tactics that work and contribute to a union-proof culture.