How Uncertainty Kills Engagement

Unions were a significant force in the 20th century, bringing about widespread changes in working conditions nationwide. At that time, workers came together to end child labor, establish appropriate work schedules and create safer work environments. However, with these major issues resolved, 21st-century employees are less inclined to organize. It takes significant lack of engagement to motivate them towards union representation.

One of the fastest ways to decimate employee engagement levels is allowing a sense of uncertainty and poor communication to take over the workplace. When workers face uncertainty, they are likely to turn to an outside party, often a union, to alleviate their feelings of discomfort. Creating an environment of trust in senior leadership, transparent communication, and limited uncertainty is critical to keeping your organization union-free.

Poor Communication Contributes to Employee Uncertainty

Most successful organizations focus on engagement efforts, creating a variety of programs to measure employee engagement and address any concerns. However, uncertainty can completely offset all of these efforts. When employees feel uncertain about the future of the company – and their future with the company – they are less likely to be engaged with their work. This carries over to productivity and innovation, making it far more difficult for them to contribute towards achieving company goals.

More important, uncertainty about their future, the future of the company, and the future of the market or industry can discourage employees from trusting any communication from business leaders regardless of the topic. The only effective solution to improve engagement when times are uncertain is to communicate well with the purpose of building employees’ confidence in the future.

Keeping Uncertainty Low and Engagement High

Today’s business environment is complex and intrinsically uncertain, which makes it all the more challenging for companies to keep employee confidence levels up. However, there are concrete steps you can take to minimize ambiguity and resulting low levels of engagement.

First, frequent communication is essential. HR and labor relations professionals shouldn’t just communicate when a problem crops up. Instead, create a solid, consistent communication strategy to connect with employees regularly.

Some of the most effective communication techniques include videos, websites, print and e-learning. Many organizations design corporate calendars to keep staff members informed on company-wide events. All of these methods should include messaging from the highest levels of management for maximum impact.

Second, consider options for two-way communication. Make it simple for employees to tell you what they are thinking, including their fears and anxieties. Ensuring employees have an opportunity to share their feedback, both positive and negative, gives you a chance to address concerns before engagement levels are affected.

This requires more than an annual engagement survey. Some organizations expand the number of town hall meetings offered, and they develop programs that bring senior leaders and front-line staff members together for unstructured conversations. Many companies design short surveys and polls to gather critical feedback throughout the year, and new intranet platforms have features specifically for the purpose of giving employees an open forum for ideas and discussion.

Third, don’t forget your secondary audience – the loved ones your employees see when they go home. Spouses, partners, friends, and family members can have a profound influence on how confident your employees feel about their work and the company.

Specialized communication services like those offered by UnionProof and Projections are designed to help companies connect with employees. Using a strategic approach to communication, you can support stronger relationships between your managers and team members – the most important component in any strategy to stay union-free.

About the author

Jennifer Orechwa

In over 25 years of helping companies connect with their employees, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a UnionProof culture. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.