Traditionally, creating a company culture that gave employees the confidence and knowledge they needed to avoid unionization was centered around one-way communication. Companies talked, employees listened, and hopefully, crisis averted. But today, many companies are adopting a more holistic approach, working instead to create ongoing, two-way engagement with employees. And while “employee engagement” has been the big buzz word in employee relations for years now, it’s only recently become part of the labor relations strategy for companies that are working to avoid third-party involvement in their business.
Employee Engagement and Organizing Efforts
Statistics show that highly engaged employees tend to stay with the company longer, reducing the expense and disruption of turnover – an issue that costs US businesses approximately $11 billion per year. What’s more, engaged employees are far more productive than their more disengaged co-workers. But more and more companies are now discovering that there are benefits to engagement beyond lower turnover and higher productivity. Specifically, engaged employees are far less likely to consider union representation.
In a study conducted by Modern Survey, researchers determined that of the workers surveyed, half of the disengaged employees said they would vote yes to unionization. Engaged staff members typically have confidence that the company can and will handle their concerns fairly and equitably, reducing their interest in bringing a union into the mix. The Modern Survey study demonstrated that of respondents who said they are confident in the company, 72 percent stated they would vote no to union representation.
Creating a Culture of Engagement
Organizations that boast high levels of employee engagement tend to out-perform the competition. In fact, the Dale Carnegie Training Center reports that companies with an engaged workforce have productivity levels up to 202 percent higher than competing companies with primarily disengaged staff. Their attrition is between 25 percent and 65 percent lower according to a Gallup study, and attracting top talent to fill open positions is effortless.
These companies are able to avoid having unions in the workplace, as they can negotiate directly with individual workers. Unfortunately, the Dale Carnegie Training Center notes that 75 percent of businesses lack a comprehensive engagement strategy. Instead, they rely on individual front-line managers to keep team members happy.
The drawbacks of leaving employee engagement to individual managers are striking. Research from the recognition experts at Achievers shows an astonishing 51 percent of workers are unhappy in their jobs. The same study indicates that 61 percent don’t know their company’s mission, and of those who do, 57 percent do not find it motivational. Just 44 percent have positive feelings about their company’s culture.
An employee engagement strategy that touches every member of the organization is one of the most important steps you can take to proactively avoid unionization among your workers. Careful attention to engagement levels now prevents unions from gaining traction later. Start by engaging new hires on day one, and explaining your union-free operating philosophy. Get feedback, and make sure that your onboarding supports engagement, long-term.
Another option is creating an online resource that provides employees with an opportunity to engage – even anonymously. This platform provides the company with insight into employee concerns and can even facilitate in-person discussions on the topics about which employees are most concerned. Learn more about producing a “dark” website, specific to your company’s labor relations needs, here.