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INK: September 24, 2008

inkquill22 INK: September 24, 2008 Labor Relations INK

Download a PDF of this issue with links here.


Labor Relations Insight from Phil Wilson

We All Owe A Debt To Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart gets a lot of bad publicity. That’s what happens when you are the big dog. But you learn to take those shots with a large grain of salt. Especially if you are in the labor relations part of the business, where just about anything you do is likely to make the front pages of hundreds of union and other anti-corporate blogs – if not the occasional Wall Street Journal article

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Will Boeing Follow American Automakers?

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How is EFCA Good For American Business?

Winning Workplaces has a great article on becoming a business that is hard for unions to organize. They state,

“the great leaders in the progressive small firms we recognize for their exemplary workplace practices work hard to create cultures that embrace soliciting employee opinions, early and often.”

I whole-heartedly agree! The challenge is that this kind of culture is built layer by layer, over time, and if this environment doesn’t already exist it cannot be constructed overnight.

If there is any single benefit to the potential onslaught upon American business brought about by the likely passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, it is the highlighting of this issue: that these types of business cultures really are the best environment for businesses. Those companies that have lagged behind might finally be motivated to be proactive in fostering such environments.

The effort required to build such a workplace, especially in

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Employee Satisfaction Surveys: Action Planning

I got the following email today from a reader of my employee satisfaction survey eBook. I thought her question about action planning was so good that it might be interesting to others, so I am posting her email (excerpted) and my reply below. First, her email:

Dear Phil,

I’m taking you up on your offer [to help on survey issues]…I am focusing on the “action planning” part of employee surveys. Most follow-up guidelines state the obvious steps after a survey:1. Understand the results2. Provide feedback to respondents3. Identify priorities4. Develop an action plan5. Implement6. Follow up

I want to develop a specific, motivating guide for managers to carry out steps 2,3,4 – that is, how to conduct follow-up meetings that are engaging in themselves, and not motivation-killers as I have observed many to be. E.g. “So here are our scores. What should we do about them? Who wants to

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Supervisor's Tip of the Week: Authentic Relationships or Stop Managing and Start Consulting

I mentioned in last week’s tip of the week how much I admired Peter Block (I was glad to see that Slacker Manager agrees with my assessment of Block). I’ve read most of Block’s books, including the most recent The Answer to How is Yes (which while less practical than his other titles, is probably his most important book). If you ever get the chance, attend a conference where he’s speaking – he’s got a very unique perspective on life that really comes through in his presentations (especially smaller-group breakout sessions).

I strongly urge new supervisors and managers to pick up Peter’s book Flawless Consulting. I consider it a must-read. This may seem like a strange recommendation; “I’m a supervisor, what the heck do I need to know about being a consultant?” The reason can be found in Block’s definition of consulting

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Open Source Unions

I love this idea. It is an “open source” guide to creating campaign literature (flyers, newspapers, etc.) for union and community organizers. The core guide is already written and is free to anyone who wants to download it. That is cool, but it is not the brilliant part of the idea. The guide is going to be free to edit by anyone who wants to contribute. That is the truly “open source” aspect of the project (most bloggers I assume will know what open source means – it comes from the open source software movement (Unux is the best example), where the code is publicly available and editable by anyone who wishes to contribute). I have hosted what I call the open source HR department for a few years now, but my technology is terrible – I have decided after reading this article to move the

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Supervisor's Tip of the Week - Three questions you should ask those you lead

It is often repeated that nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. This is definitely true for managers. Being a good manager is challenging, especially in today’s high-pressure business environment. We ask our people (including managers) to do more and more, often with fewer resources. Even when new resources are added, it usually means additional job tasks and responsibilities. Add to this the increased demands for time outside of work and it is easy to see how managers (and their employees) can get overwhelmed.

In this environment managers spend most of their time putting out fires, giving orders and responding to complaints – and very little time on developing their people. Even when development discussions come up, they are often formal “performance reviews” that can end up being negative and de-motivating experiences for both parties.

If you want to be an effective manager, you

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Supervisory ER Toolkit

This was another open forum. It focused on best practices around developing front-line supervisors. Again there were a number of great suggestions. Among the best was a pocket guide one company gives to all supervisors that lists the company’s employee relations vision, outlines both legal obligations and pro-active responsibilities, and highlights common scenarios and expected supervisory response. These are printed on a small, laminated cards and spiral bound to fit in a supervisor’s pocket. Another suggestion was to utilize simulations for supervisory training – I switched to relying almost completely on simulation for my training interventions and in my college teaching a couple of years ago (with lecture items interspersed in the scenario setup, breakout and feedback sessions) and can attest that this is the ideal method for adult education. Really great information sharing.

Diversity's Impact on Postitive Employee Relations

Another great session. This one was led by two diversity officers of companies that you know by name. Especially when seen from the context of Professor Brockbank’s presentation yesterday, this presentation really laid out the business case for one of those key “intangibles” that can provide competitive advantage.

Positive Employee Relations Best Practices

This open forum was presented by three members with employee relations responsibility. Each presenter listed some of their unique positive employee relations practices. Then the audience was asked to break into groups, list some of their practices and then identify a “top-ten” list of best practices. There were a number of great ones. My favorite was from some folks at my table. They, like most companies, were facing really difficult times on health insurance. To complicate matters they had a pretty rich program that had no deductibles and very limited cost-sharing. This year they decided to self-insure and had representatives from each department help them with the plan design. This group was given a budget, interviewed various third party administrators and debated back and forth regarding various plan design elements. This group then went back into the plant to explain the program and how it was designed. Long story

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