Don’t Forget To Include Workers

We have blogged before on the Boston Federal Reserve and the series of articles they have posted on their website about the need for quality jobs and the need to invest in workers.  This last month, they came out with a new series on the impact of technology on workers and their jobs.  In addition to that article, complimentary pieces are on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School for Management about the importance of involving workers and others with technology changes.

As the Boston Fed reports, technology is going to make an impact on jobs but it may not be as bad as what some media sources have reported.  Technology changes will be more gradual, they say, instead of immediate, and while there will be job loss, there still will be plenty of opportunities for workers because robots or other technology just can’t do everything a human does.  They also say it will be important for workers to learn and work more with technology.  Technology can benefit workers.  For example, some technology can eliminate monotonous, repetitive tasks or it may help make jobs safer.

Both the Boston Fed and MIT Sloan say organizations need to watch how technology advancements are implemented because they may not be beneficial.  Just because it may be successful in one organization doesn’t mean it will be in another.  Some organizations rush to implement the latest innovation without exploring the impact or usefulness of it.  In other words, it’s treated more like the flavor or the month. It is better they say to have workers and other experts involved in the decision making process to help determine need, the design and  the implementation .

Involving others, particularly workers, brings about different perspectives.  Things that may not have been thought of by one or just a few people can be recognized by those who actually do the work or by experts or customers who may be familiar or have had similar experiences can provide additional information that can help make the right decision.

When we’ve worked with labor-management groups on technology issues, we use  problem solving tools to help determine the best solution.   We encourage lots of different options by addressing the real issues the organization is facing and the common concerns or interests of each side.  This is a much better approach than focusing on a single solution or rushing to something that may not even resolve the issue.

Plus as others are involved, it creates greater buy-in for any change that may happen.  That buy-in translates into greater loyalty by employees, customers, and other individuals who may be involved.  When it comes to employees it means working hard and productivity gains.  It also can provide more experienced and skilled workers instead of the added costs of hiring new workers who will require training and time to get up to speed.

The Boston Fed says when workers are involved it helps to ease fears or concerns about the future of their jobs but the MIT Sloan article goes a little bit further.  Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO, said in the article it’s more than just informing.  It’s making sure workers are involved in the decision-making process.  If not, the process may not work for the entire organization.  Workers can help with the design and function of technology.

An example of this is something that happened in Columbus and is highlighted in the Boston Fed series.  Several years ago, Columbus received a grant for technology innovation for transportation  from the     U. S. Department of Transportation.  One of the innovations the Columbus group came up with was driverless buses but there was a problem, city bus drivers were not included in the planning.  Once the bus drivers heard about the driverless bus plan, they pointed out several things that those working on the plan didn’t consider.  One was bus drivers help some of their passengers get on and off a bus.  That’s something that could be a problem if there isn’t a driver for a bus.  The bus drivers also said sometimes they see emergency situations along their routes.  One driver saw a home on fire and alerted the fire department.

An example that was in the Boston Fed piece was about workers at a lens plant.  The workers say they aren’t too concerned about technology because they can recognize some imperfections in the lens technology cannot detect.  They also say they are better at developing customized lenses than the robots at the plant.

In another example,  we worked with a group who saw technology taking over their jobs.  Once they learned how each group member was using the technology and what each was doing that technology could not do, they realized there were things they could do to improve their jobs and their ability to do more than technology, they were able to come up with alternatives and other solutions for their jobs.  In other words, they worked with management to re-design their jobs that benefitted the entire organization.

The idea of involving workers especially with technology needs is a no-brainer.  As with many other workplace issues, the benefits are enormous.  The more involved workers are, the better for the organization.  It may not always be easy but it’s worth it.  It’s also important to involve other experts or customers in the process.  Everybody brings a different perspective that only help provide additional information and support for change.

Both the Boston Fed and MIT Sloan said this is not the first time workplaces have experienced major work process changes.  The Industrial Revolution shifted the country into a different industry.  The Information Age with the advent of computers and the internet brought  more change.  AI and robots will change things again but humans have a lot of ideas and lots of ability.  It’s important those ideas and ability are utilized.Thi

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News and Notes on a Holiday Weekend

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I want to use the blog for this week to highlight some item from the Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.

Councilmember Rob Dorans

Councilmember Rob Dorans speaks at the CALMC Membership Meeting

On November 20, we held out most recent Membership Meeting. City Councilmember Rob Dorans was our speaker for the meeting. In addition to his work on Council, Rob is also Chief Legal Counsel for ActOhio, which is associated with the Columbus Building Trades unions. The organization advocates for quality, safe construction by contractors and skilled craftsmen with integrity. They fight for level competition to ensure the state’s tax dollars are spent properly and strive to educate the public on the importance of fair wages, workforce training, industry regulations, and safety standards. From this work, Rob is a real voice for working people in Columbus.

Councilmember Dorans’ presentation dealt with a number of topics he faces from both of his jobs, including promoting business growth and opportunities for job growth in the City. He discussed the need for more workers in the skilled trades to meet the existing demands as well as the new projects that will come to the area in 2020 and beyond.  He also spoke about the need to ensure fair treatment from employer, some of whom try to treat their workers as contractors and not employees. This results in lower wages and a lack of basic protections such as health benefits and Workers Compensation coverage. He is working with other council members to draft meaningful legislation to prevent this practice.

CALMC Membership Meeting

Some of the CALMC Members listen to Councilmember Dorans

Another of the topics addressed by Councilmember Dorans was the need for better transportation in the City. Workers cannot take the new jobs being created if they have no was to get to them. He discussed a variety of options, including expanded bus lines, increased use of connectors between current lines and the neighborhoods that could provide employees, as well as the efforts of Smart Columbus to improve and modernize local transportation.

Rob’s presentation was very well received by our members and generated a number of questions. We thank him for taking the time to join us.

Our next membership meeting will be February 26 at 8:00 AM. We hope to have representatives from the State Council of Professional Educators, a CALMC member organization that represents teachers in Ohio’s prison and juvenile detention facilities.

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It’s been a while since we have mentioned Skinner Diesel Company and their efforts to improve worker health and safety, a process that continues to be successful. They recently passed 2,000 worker days without any injuries or incidents, a significant improvement from their safety record before CALMC introduced the Safety Always process at the facility..

This turnaround in workplace safety is sustained by the ongoing work of the safety committee. This dedicated group keeps an eye on working conditions and practices to help raise awareness of safety among their co-workers. The commitment of business owner Mike Skinner and his support for the safety process has been a major contributor to the improvements that keep the workplace safe.

Unlike other safety programs that produce short term, unsustained results, the improved safety record at Skinner Diesel has continued for over 16 years. As a result, workers have remained safe, the business has added more employees and increased wages and benefits from the savings that have resulted from improved safety.

_______________

We are continuing to add to the series of Podcast available on our website. We are currently featuring a series of programs dealing with the career of Eugene Brundige. Gene served as a labor leader, manager, and a neutral at various times during his career, and played a significant role in achieving collective bargaining rights for Ohio public employees.

Shortly before his death, Gene did a presentation about his career which we are using for the podcasts. We hope you will listen to these and our future podcasts.

 

Are you interested in improving the safety of your workplace or participating in a CALMC meeting or event? Contact us, and we will let you know more about how to get involved.

 

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The Latest Workplace Trend Is Driven By Fear

One of the latest trends occurring within workplaces is the increased use of non-compete agreements.  These agreements in the past had predominately been done with executives or with workers who worked in contracted environments but now many different types of workers such as fast-food workers or janitors are having to sign agreements.

Employers see these agreements as a means to help organizations remain competitive and to aid in development and expansion.  It also helps to retain already trained workers instead of having increased turnover and associated costs.

When employers use non-compete agreements they may require employees to remain confidential about specific practices or they may require employees, if they leave, not to do the same  or similar work within a certain jurisdiction. These agreements can have particular time frames such as one, two or more years.

The increased use is being driven by the need for specific skills or to prevent employees from leaving and going to competitors.

What this really sounds like is employers are more concerned about losing trained help and don’t have enough confidence in their abilities to be able to overcome the competition or they can’t come up with new ideas to be competitive.  This practice keeps  employees from being able to improve their livelihoods.   Employers want the skills employees provide but sometimes refuse to recognize them through monetary gain or by allowing them a voice in the workplace.

Non-compete agreements not only hurt employees but they also hurt the organization.   These type of punitive actions usually don’t help or convey the type of positive values an organization has.  It gives the impression the organization is more concerned about itself and not the people that work there. Consider finding out on the first day of work you have to sign an agreement that prevents you from working elsewhere that could better your career. Imagine having to stay in a job that doesn’t offer you upward mobility whether that be in pay or work status.   Think about the overall message that conveys from employers to employees.

Eventually, organizations cease to be competitive with non-compete agreements.  An organization needs to look at new ways of doing things or look at new ways to provide customer service. New products, services or  processes can be stifled through the use of non-competes.

Employees need to feel valued and a part of the organization.  When that happens, employers can see benefit.  In addition, allowing employees to have a voice in every day decisions and to come up with new ideas can greatly improve an organization’s ability to be competitive.  It helps increase productivity.  Certain costs can be reduced.  Overall gains can be made.  And people stay not because they’re being forced but because they WANT to.  There’s a huge difference in that.

We have blogged many times about the company that has had great success with a joint employer-employee safety committee.  The owner of the company was ready to shut down because of the costs associated with accidents and injuries.  While he didn’t use non-compete agreements, he did use many other methods that failed.  But when he established the safety committee, he saw positive results within a relatively short time because the people who actually performed the job were able to have a say in safer processes.  This same owner who was ready to shut down his business has now expanded his business and has provided more money and benefits to employees.  Never once did he decide to do non-compete agreements.

The other day at one of our breakfast meetings we have throughout the year, we heard one employer increased wages by $7 an hour because he needed the skills and didn’t want to lose employees.  The employer didn’t stop his employees from leaving by using a negative approach.   He used a positive approach that encouraged existing employees  and not one that forced them to stay.

Non-compete agreements hurt everybody because the overall economy is impacted. Employees that have an ability to start their own business are restricted because of a possible requirement from non-compete agreements that say the same or similar work cannot be done within a geographic area. That can eliminate job opportunities for others.

The concern businesses have about employees taking trade secrets or customers with them to new jobs is legitimate but it also should encourage businesses to be more innovative.  Amazon was one that had non-competes and decided to stop using them.  It hasn’t stopped their ability to come up with other ideas or  be successful.

We all have heard and read about the division that has been going on in politics these days but the idea of limiting or eliminating non-compete agreements has gained bipartisan support because it doesn’t allow employees the ability to improve their livelihoods.

When it comes down to it, this is a practice that is only driven by fear.  That fear seems to be more a part of power and not wanting to grow and change.  Customers and their needs change.  If companies are not willing to change their ways for existing or new customers, they will not exist.  Employers and employees working together can make those necessary changes that strengthens workplaces.

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Do You Know; What are Some Factors Causing Employee Burnout?

Although we sometimes think of worker burnout as being most prevalent in some jobs or situations, it can impact employees of all types. Others discount the reality of burnout, especially in some jobs. If we try to deny or categorize it, we may miss the opportunity to do something that helps the impacted workers..

A Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, with an additional 44% feeling burned out sometimes. The World Health Organization recently included burnout as a legitimate diagnosis. It is characterized by three indicators: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

As a teacher, I saw some of my colleagues experiencing the problem. You might picture the victim being an older teacher, worn down by many years in the classroom, but this was rarely the case.

Burnout symptoms were most likely to affect new teachers, They entered the profession with great idealism and ideas about how to reach every student and mold the system to their methods. After some time coping with the reality of students who may not be interested in learning, lack of respect, unfair treatment, and local, state, and federal regulations that hamper their ability to teach, they decide to leave the profession.

The Alliance for Excellent Education reports half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year. Research also indicates that just under 205 of teachers leave the profession within their first five years. It is little wonder teaching is the third-most regretted college major in a survey of 5,000 college graduates by ZipRecruiter.

The American Psychological Association calls the phenomenon of teacher burnout “Work

Induced Depression.”  The  Journal of Clinical Psychology notes a significant overlap between burnout and depression. This is symptomized by a  “loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, and fatigue.” Educators who experience burn out are often told to “Get over it”, or try self-treatment, while the underlying problem is ignored and the problems worsen.

 

The resulting increases in health care and absenteeism costs, the loss of good teachers needed for a quality education, and the difficulties of recruitment and training of their replacements further hamper already financially strapped school districts.

 

While many non-educators may not recognize the reality of teacher burnout, it is a real problem. Burnout, however, is not unique to educators.

 

Hourly workers are also subject to burnout. Pressures including continually changing shifts and hours, variability in work locations, difficulty in finding workers, and increasing demands to meet tightening schedules contribute to hourly worker burnout.

For17 straight months, the number of open jobs has been higher than the number of people looking for work. Low-skilled workers such as nurses and restaurant workers are in the highest demand.

The result has been increasing pressures on employees, along with an increasing need for employers to attract and retain employees. Locally, a major on-line retailer has been running TV commercials touting their warehouse jobs as great places to work in order to attract employees.

This is likely to be a short-term solution. We used to share an office building with a hone health care organization. This company was continually recruiting and training the next group of workers. Yet, as new employees were deployed in the workforce, existing staff quit, often siting job pressures, schedules, and low wages. The impact has to negatively impact the quality of care they were able to deliver.

What can be done to reduce worker burnout? Steve Kramer, the CEO and president of WorkJam, suggests:

  • Promote worker engagement
  • Give back some of the power frontline workers lack.
  • Keep two-way communication between managers and workers fluid.
  • Provide opportunities for employee recognition. While I am not a fan of “Employee of the Month” type programs, plans that provide fair opportunities for all employees to earn recognition can help employee morale.
  • Create opportunities for upskilling and cross-training.

These are some ideas to help deal with the issue of burnout. In upcoming blogs we will look at a couple of additional options, improving employee scheduling and employee organizing.

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Do We Need To Hold People Accountable?

One of the tools the Society of Human Resources (SHRM) is using is social media conversations about workplace issues such as workplace culture.  It can be a great tool for people to share thoughts and ideas but it also brings out some of the same old, tired ideas and actions that don’t bring about real culture change.   One of those old and tired ideas that appears regularly by participants is the idea of holding people accountable.

Holding people accountable is related to that traditional approach of focusing on the numbers to achieve results and when that doesn’t happen, somebody gets blamed instead of looking at what really occurred so that we can resolve the issue.

Some may think holding people accountable is necessary to take a tough stance and some may think it’s also quicker than taking the time to actually problem solve. But if the problem keeps re-occurring, the problem hasn’t been resolved and placing blame did nothing but create bad relations and a threatening work environment.  In other words, if somebody didn’t do what was expected, there are consequences which may or may not be known and that just becomes the threat.

The other thing about placing blame is people usually aren’t the cause.  It could have been the fault of the system.  Quality expert, W. Edwards Deming, said most of the time it’s not people that contribute to the problem but the fault of the system.   A good rule of thumb to determine cause is to ask “why” five times.  By the fifth “why”, the root of the problem should be determined.

There may be times when someone doesn’t do what they’re supposed to and that’s an entirely different situation and may require a reprimand but if something wasn’t done as it was intended, it also could be a communication problem.  Maybe the expectations weren’t clearly defined or it was assumed the person would know what to do.  The problem with assuming, though,  is no two people think exactly alike.  Everybody has a different way of looking at things based on experiences, gender, age and other variables and that is something we want especially in the workplace.  We need those different perspectives so new ideas or new ways can happen.  Misunderstandings happen but we can do things to prevent them, too.

In one of the SHRM conversations, somebody said it’s important to hold people accountable for safety concerns.  That may be true but greater success can happen with safety or any other workplace area by involving and including people in day-to-day decisions instead of holding them accountable.  It will create a much better work environment and will produce even better number results than what was originally sought.  This has been proven over and over.  We’ve blogged several times about the great results involving employees particularly with safety can provide.

It’s great SHRM is pushing for workplaces to improve their cultures and these conversations from people that want to hold people accountable demonstrate the need for culture to change.  This knee-jerk reaction only reduces the level of trust and does nothing to create a high-performance workplace.  High-performance workplaces consist of supporting and empowering leaders.  They include workers in decision-making and use coaching skills to help guide them. Leaders encourage change and are willing to take risks for new and different ways of doing.  Employees are seen as being valued instead of being held accountable and will provide better results.   That’s how supervisors and managers can change workplace culture.  Maybe it’s time to hold them accountable for making the change!

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Thought About the Roles of Leaders

I made it through the entire season without making any baseball references in this blog, but today I’m going to break that streak. I want to look at a real leader from the sport.

This week, the New Your Mets hired Carlos Beltran as their new manager. Carlos has long been recognized as a leader on the teams he was with as a player. Even though he had a great playing career and is a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame, his leadership had more to do with how he handled himself in the clubhouse to distinguish himself as a leader.

Let me cite one example of what I mean. Carlos was born in Puerto Rico, and when he signed his first baseball contract in the Royals organization, he spoke no English. He remembers feeling lost as an 18-year old, unable to do things as routine as ordering dinner in a restaurant.

Most teams offer English lessons to their Hispanic players, and he used that to become fluent in the language. He still recognized an additional need. As he moved up in the Royals system, he encouraged teams to offer Spanish classes to their American-born players.  He then carried this a step further. When he spoke to native Spanish speakers, he spoke to them in English. When talking to his English-speaking teammates, he spoke only in Spanish. This helped encourage each group to learn and use the new language.

There are a number of lessons about leadership to be learned from this example.

You do not have to be in management to be a leader. Until he took the Mets job this week, Carlos was never in management. That never slowed him down from looking for ways to improve the workplace and the careers of his teammates. Real leaders can come from every part of your workplace. It is important these leadership skills be recognized and given the chance to flourish.

Leaders recognize what they need to do to enhance their own skills. Carlos took advantage of the opportunity to learn English. Doing so helped him enhance his leadership role among all teammates. Being a life-long learner is important, especially in the constantly changing demand of our workplaces. Employees must be willing to seek training in the skills required for their jobs or for their next job.

Managers must also learn ways to better understand and improve their work systems. In baseball, the latest trend impacting the game is analytics, the use of statistical analysis to determine the best approach to take. Several managers who have failed to grasp this process have lost their jobs and limited future employability. Past success means little when paradigms and methods change.

Leaders recognize the importance of good communications. Carlos recognized the importance of learning English. This enabled him to communicate better with teammates, club officials and workers, the press, and fans. Good communications is essential to let people know what is going on, share ideas between employees and managers, and improve employee morale.

Real leaders encourage others. Through his choice of languages when speaking to teammates, Carlos encouraged them to learn and use their new skills. This helped improve communications and teamwork on and off the field, enhance opportunities for players to improve their skills by communicating with other players and coaches, and increase understandings and interpersonal relationships. Your colleagues will also benefit from encouragement to leave their comfort levels to learn and use new methods and skills. It may be an employee who doubts their ability to learn new ideas or a senior employee who doesn’t want to cope with anything different, encouragement will help them be willing to make the effort and, in doing so, improve their careers and the workplace.

Even in a diverse workplace, leaders need to encourage inclusion. A baseball clubhouse is highly diverse. For example, the Yankees clubhouse featured players from the U.S., Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and a variety of Latin American countries. This could have fostered a clash of cultures, languages, and backgrounds. By promoting inclusion beginning in the minor leagues, the team melded together.

In our workplaces we need to encourage everyone to be involved with each other, create opportunities to build teamwork, all while recognizing the unique needs each may bring. We have worked with employers who were reluctant to hire candidates whose religion, culture, or other factors would have required special accommodations. When they learn what is required, and how easy it usually is to do, the employment doors open. By ensuring all employees understand the nature of any accommodations, the barriers they present can be eliminated.

Even though I am not a Mets fan, I wish Carlos Beltran success as their manager, His hard work and natural leadership have paved the way for him to earn the job and bode well for his success. The things he can teach us all about leadership can help us be more effective and satisfied in out jobs.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Employee Involvement, Employee Training, Managing Change, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leave Your Titles At The Door

An idea that is gaining more traction is the idea workers should have representation on corporate boards.  Think-tanks, colleges, college professors and political leaders all say it is something to consider.  In Germany, the law requires workers to be on corporate boards and it has worked very well according to one MIT professor.  So why doesn’t that happen in the U. S.?

Arguments have been made that having workers on boards could stifle innovation or it could be difficult to fire subordinates. But arguments like the one about innovation, in particular, are bogus.   Having workers on the board might help.  They have a completely different perspective especially when they’re doing the job.  Let’s take the role of customer service reps who actually talk to customers.  They may be able to provide more insight as to what products customers want.  The worker on the shop floor may be able to recognize productivity issues that could be from equipment not working properly.

As far as the problem of having workers on a board because workers may need to be fired can be disputed, too.  When we have worked with labor-management committees, it’s usually the labor people who are harder on themselves than management.  In many organizations, there is a specific discipline policy that outlines the steps before termination.  It allows employees to correct whatever is wrong whether that be with work or behavior.  Workers on corporate boards may be able to suggest that type of process or suggest something that is fair for all.  Corporate boards also terminate CEOs and other management personnel.  Rarely, do employees retaliate.  There may be times but they also know there must be just cause.

Sometimes boards have to approve layoffs.  We worked with a labor-management committee that developed a policy to avoid layoffs.  Both sides did a lot of work looking at layoff alternatives.  It wasn’t just the management side that did the research or came up with a new approach.

And then there’s the arguments about shareholder interests or pension solvency.  The argument is workers do not care about shareholders’ interests.  Wrong.  What if the employees are shareholders?  More than likely they do have an interest, and even if they aren’t shareholders, they understand why it’s important to have shareholders and why it’s important to take care of them.  Workers are not stupid.  One comment was that workers will fight for pension solvency when it may not be possible.  Of course workers are going to fight for it.  It’s about their retirement.  Workers may be able to come up with ways to save a pension plan.  UAW had to help GM with healthcare when the company was about to go bankrupt.

And some point to companies that have had workers on their boards and those companies haven’t performed.  They say it’s because workers didn’t let the CEO make the decisions he needed to make.  What if the decision was to have negative consequences?  What if other alternatives that could make the company more profitable were not identified or addressed.  That has happened before and, yes, workers, need to say something.  What if a decision is unethical, or worse, illegal?  The board and the CEO could be held liable.  The recent Boeing Dreamliner issues are an example.  Two fatal accidents happened after workers had complained to management about problems during the manufacturing process at the new South Carolina plant.  If workers are on corporate boards, such as Boeing, they would be able to address safety concerns especially since they do the job on a daily basis.

Here’s the thing, the arguments that are being made against workers on corporate boards are very weak.  There are a lot of other good reasons why workers need to be on corporate boards.

Even though some people cited certain companies that had workers on their boards and failed, there are examples of companies that have succeeded.  And even if those companies did fail, the arguments being made didn’t prove it was because workers were on the corporate board.  A professor at MIT did some research on corporate boards with workers and found the companies were more productive.  It’s just like allowing workers to have a voice in the workplace.  When workers can have a role in the day-to-day decisions, they feel like they’re more respected and valued which makes them want to help their organization flourish.   That has been proven over and over.  Two weeks ago, we reported on the blog that SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, is now advocating for worker voice because they said work culture must change because it is costing companies billions of dollars.  Who’s making that decision not to allow worker voice and losing money?  More than likely it’s not workers.

The professor also points out that workers are not the only board members.  There are others who have a voice, too.  So things like stopping an increase in CEO pay or not taking care of shareholders or not being able to fund the pension are addressed by other board members who also have a voice.

When we work with labor-management committees there is usually a common ground rule among committees and it is, Leave Titles At The Door.  It isn’t isolated to one side.  It is relevant for both sides.  It means everybody is to be of equal standing during the meetings. Everybody’s voice has equal weight. Neither side nor any particular individual should dominate the process.  Groups work better that way.  The groups that have truly embraced that ground rule have been the most successful and have worked through some very difficult issues.  It should be the same with a corporate board.

There are a couple of pieces of legislation in Congress now that outline the make-up of corporate boards.  In both bills, workers would consist of one third of the board members.  There would be another two-thirds made up of management, shareholders and other outside individuals.  That really doesn’t give workers dominance over a decision like some fear but it still would provide them with a voice.  And that’s what’s important.

There are a lot of other issues that would need to be addressed for workers to be on boards such as how it work in a unionized environment versus a non-unionized environment, would workers be compensated as board members, how would representation work, and how much information would be shared.  These and many other issues still need to be defined and can be.  There’s also nothing to say a company would be more successful with workers on boards than not.  It depends on the people themselves and their commitment to the issues they face and to the organization.

It could be ego, or experiences, or something else that is causing some to not like the idea of workers on a corporate board but when it comes right down to it, it’s about people in general.  The concern is not without merit but there are good and bad players on both sides.  It’s also important to recognize there have been some very good people who have been extremely successful at making some significant decisions for their  organization when they left their titles at the door.

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Do You Know: Check Your Knowledge About These Facts

This week, we are going to start with a quiz. Let’s test your knowledge about some commonly known facts. You don’t need to look them up, we will give you the answers following the items.

Which of the following statements are true?

  1. Christopher Columbus wanted to prove the earth was round.
  2. Speaking of Columbus, his statue outside City Hall in Columbus, Ohio is based on a portrait painted before his second voyage.
  3. As we approach Halloween, remember that several children are seriously injured each year by fruit and candy that has been tampered with.
  4. Napoleon Bonaparte was known as le Petit Caporal because of his short stature.
  5. Einstein failed mathematics in school.
  6. The Great Wall of China is the only human-made object visible from the Moon.
  7. NASA scientists spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would write in zero-gravity, while Russian cosmonauts simply used pencils.
  8. Scientists and engineers do not understand how bumblebees can fly.
  9. Early humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time.
  10. Swimming less than an hour after eating is likely to result in cramps or drowning.

 

 

SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANSWERS

 

 

How do you think you did? Were most of the statements true?

Let’s find out. Here are the answers.

  1. False. Medieval scholars knew the Earth was spherical since at least 500 B.C.
  2. False. There are no known portraits of Columbus done during his life. In fact, physical descriptions of Columbus are often contradictory. (http://www.christopher-columbus.eu/portraits.htm)
  3. False. Poisoned candy and fruit stories are urban legends. No cases of strangers killing or permanently injuring children this way has ever been proven, and there have been no reports of a stranger harming a child with poisoned candy or apples.
  4. False. At 5 feet 7 inches, Napoleon was actually slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time His nickname was a term of endearment.
  5. False. Upon seeing a column making this claim, Einstein said “I never failed in mathematics… Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”
  6. False. None of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing any specific human-made object from the Moon
  7. False. This story is used as an example of unnecessary government spending. The space pen was independently developed by Paul C. Fisher, founder of the Fisher Pen Company, with his own funds. NASA . then purchased 400 pens at $6 per pen. Pencils cannot be used in space because the graphite dust and particles they generate pose fire, puncture and inhalation hazards in a low-gravity, high-oxygen environment, something even the Soviets acknowledged.
  8. False. The aerodynamics of bumblebees has been well understood for at least a century.
  9. False. The last of the dinosaurs (other than birds) died 66 million years ago, whereas the earliest humans evolved between 2.3 and 2.4 million years ago. This leaves a 63-million-year gap between the last non-bird dinosaurs and the earliest humans.
  10. False. There is no evidence eating before swimming increases the risk of muscle cramps or drowning.

Were you surprised by any of these? You have probably heard all of them stated as fact and accepted many (or all) of them. You may have heard some from teachers or other respected sources. Yet, they are false.

How can this happen? It is because in the absence of facts, misinformation or the things we want to believe rush in to fill the void.

For example, take the questions about Columbus. Most of what we “know” about Columbus comes from Washington Irving’s biography, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus published in 1828. When facts were missing or not interesting enough, Irving filled the void with embellishments.

In the same way, in the absence of other facts about Columbus, we come to accept what we are told. In the case of Columbus, this has little real impact on us. In other situations, relying on misinformation can have serious consequences.

This is the problem. When we do not have the facts in a situation or we choose not to consider them, we can make serious mistakes. Some factions rely on this, regularly presenting fallacies while blasting information they do not like as “fake news”. The lack of information and thought can help control the beliefs of supporters. As we stated before, in the absence of facts, misinformation can fill the gap.

What does this have to do with labor and management? The same problem exists: when we do not have all the facts, the things we want to believe can obstruct our judgement.

Consider one additional statement and decide if it is true or false:

“Recent strikes, such as the GM/UAW, Mack Truck, or the Chicago teachers show labor and management cannot work together.”

We believe this statement is blatantly false, and is based on the misinterpretation of events as well as overemphasis of a small sample size. If someone doesn’t like unions or believes in the paradigms of labor-management conflict, they may want to believe the statement is true.

We know from our experiences labor and management can and do work together for the benefit of both employers and workers. Don’t be fooled into thinking otherwise.

As Joe Friday used to say on Dragnet, “Just the facts.” Stick to the facts and look for all the relevant information you can find when making decisions.

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Did You Know We’re Having A Workplace Crisis?

Three reports have been released within the last month with some great information about the workplace.  What’s more interesting are the sources that represent differing perspectives but have  similar information in each of their reports about the workplace.   Those sources are The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) which represents management perspectives, AFL-CIO which represents labor’s perspective, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management which of course represents an educational perspective.   They all agree the workplace needs to change.  The broader topics include the future of work and workplace culture but all three reports include the need for worker voice.  In other words, management and labor agree workers must have a voice when it comes to improving the workplace.  Education is also adamant about it.

While a lot of the report from the AFL-CIO focuses on the need for stronger unions, economic changes, and the impact of contracted and gig workers, it also addresses the impact of technology on jobs in the future.  The MIT report addresses much of the same.  Both reports reject the idea of abundant job loss through increased technology but they do say people have legitimate concerns.  The reports say other jobs have been created in the past through increased technology and the report from AFL-CIO also adds jobs have become safer because of technology but the bigger issue, they say, is how technology changes will be  managed and that’s why strong unions are needed.    But again it’s the need for workers to have a voice to help with the changes workplaces are facing whether it be technology or in workplace relationships.

A good example of the need for worker voice with technology changes is something that has happened in Columbus.  Columbus was a recipient of a federal technology grant for transportation.  One of the transportation changes the city’s grant management group suggested was driverless buses.  This was a big problem for union transportation workers not only because it could cause a loss of jobs but drivers are more than just drivers.  They can be the first alert if t something out of the ordinary happens on a route such as  a house fire or drivers can be  the necessary help for passengers  when they have difficulty getting on the bus.  Obviously, those are things a driverless bus can’t do but because bus drivers were not part of the discussion, their concerns were left out.  The union said it wasn’t against technology.  They said there may be other technology advancements that could benefit them.  This explains  why it is so important to involve the people who actually do the job in discussions.  They bring a different perspective and may provide other information people may not have considered.

Another example is the GM-UAW strike. According to a CNBC report, one of the big sticking points is the change to electric vehicles.  UAW is concerned about job loss.  Electric vehicles, which is what GM wants to produce, take less manpower to manufacture.  Already GM has said they will cut salaried positions.  They also  have closed or idled plants. We don’t know if UAW was part of the discussion on the changes GM is planning but if they weren’t, they should have been.  Those changes directly impact employees and whether they’re salaried or bargaining unit, employees need to be involved.  If management wants people to support their decisions they must  involve them to create the buy-in they want.

That brings us to the third report from SHRM.  The SHRM report says a serious crisis is going on now that is related to workplace culture.  Turnover and loss of productivity are costing organizations billions of dollars.  People are leaving workplaces because they’re not happy with the culture of the workplace and they believe it lies at the fault of management.  According to a survey SHRM did, employees see managers as being responsible for workplace culture.  They do not believe many of their managers are capable of being good team leaders and they also are not able to have a voice. It has created what SHRM calls a “toxic” environment as there is little trust and communication is not good.  Other problems also have contributed to the negative culture.  SHRM emphasizes the need for building partnerships within the workplace that demonstrate a commitment to employees and encourage the ability for workers to have a voice.  To help overcome this crisis, SHRM is going to help managers improve their skills so workplace culture can be more positive.  One of the things they are doing is creating a new certification that will concentrate on developing people and leadership skills.

So now we have an organization representing management interests saying we’re in a crisis and we may be.   One of the blogs on the SHRM website suggests the world we live in is to blame and some civility is needed.  That could also be true.  Instead of sitting down having face-to-face conversations we go on social media or we text.  We don’t necessarily learn about each other or LISTEN to what others are saying.  Conversations become short responses so we can respond quickly.  That doesn’t help us to hear new ideas or how to do things differently which can stifle workplaces and not allow them to grow.

In labor-management training or in teambuilding we do a personality style assessment.  A lot of times groups have many members of the same style.  We encourage groups to reach out and invite those who may not have the same personality style to be part of the group because they may look at things differently.  It’s that diversity of ideas that really helps to solve workplace problems or issues.  That’s how workplaces can grow and succeed.  That’s how workplace cultures become better.

We need to go back and have face-to-face communication and take the time to really listen to one another so we can work together instead of against each other.  I’ve blogged this before but one time I heard the real Patch Adams, the doctor, not the Robin Williams character from the movie.  He said if we didn’t start working together and caring for each other we’d all be dead in 50 years.  At the time, I thought that was a harsh statement but now I’m not so sure.  That was almost 20 years ago and at the rate we’re going I think he might be right. Those technology advancements two of those reports  looked more at the jobs impact but they didn’t say anything about the human interaction impact.  We only have 30 more years.  We better get going.

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CALMC Releases New On-Demand Video and Podcast

This week CALMC added two new on-line resources to our website. These complement the training and information already on our site.

The newest entry in our Quick Takes video series deals with consensus decision making. While this form of decision making can result in better, stronger decisions that can be supported by everyone on your team, those new to the process may question how well it works.

Some people do not believe they can make decisions everyone will be able to support or fear the process will take too long to be practical.

Groups using consensus decision making can benefit from help with the process. That’s one of the reasons we have a video dealing with the consensus process on our web site.

Our new video is a companion resource for those using consensus. It is the first of two programs that present Frequently Asked Questions about how the process works. We hope you will enjoy the program and find it useful. You can watch the video by going to our web site and clicking on the On Demand tab. You can select a video by clicking on Quick Takes.

Videos are also available on our You Tube channel. The new video is here. As you watch, please let us know your questions about consensus. We plan to produce a second part of this program and would like to incorporate your ideas.

Earlier this year we also began planning a series of Podcasts about labor-management topics. We have added a new podcast to this list, the first of a series honoring the memory of Eugene Brundige.

Gene served both as a union leader, a manager, and as a neutral during his long career. He also served as a member of the CALMC Board of Trustees. In this series, which was recorded shortly before his death in 2017, Gene spoke of his work in the labor movement, the origins of public sector collective bargaining in Ohio, and his experiences from over 40 years as a leader in the process.

The current program is the first of five planned podcasts on Gene and his career. You can hear this and our other podcasts by going to our website, clicking the On Demand tab, ands selecting Podcasts. You can also go directly to this podcast by clicking here.

We plan to add more presentations to both or video library and our podcasts as we move forward, so please check back often and see what’s new.

 

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Public Sector | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment