Back to School – How Is the Labor-Management Relationship?

As summer comes to an end, students and staff head back to school. Most school districts in Central Ohio have already opened, while others around the country are preparing to begin their academic year. When they do, what kind of labor-management climate will they see?

We have written several articles about the advantages of employee engagement and effective, problem-solving, labor-management committees. The many positives they offer in the private sector also apply to school districts, including the ones in your communities.

The key is not to wait until situations are terrible and positions become intractable. Employee engagement can help improve instruction, and labor-management committees can plan the systemic change needed to  resolve the underlying problems that can impact everyone in the district and community. Communications between all parties can be improved.

Studies have consistently shown when employers are happier they do better work. Working conditions are impacted by the labor-management environment and affect teachers, administrators, and other staff just as they would any employee. While I do not believe teachers would intentionally do a lesser job for their students if they are unhappy, working in a toxic labor-management environment is very difficult.

For example, there is a school district in Central Ohio that has developed a pattern of difficult labor-management relationships. Things got so bad in this district there was a highly acrimonious strike by teachers a couple of years ago.

Certainly no one can make a reasonable argument that teacher strikes are good for education in a district. Money spent preparing for a strike is not being used for needed classroom supplies or equipment. Time spent in meetings weighing the decision whether or not to walk out is not being spent preparing lessons or developing new curriculum. Time spent by students in classrooms staffed by “replacement teachers” is rarely quality instructional time.

In districts such as this one, the damage caused by a strike ripples throughout the community as divisions grow and the public takes sides. When the contract is settled and the walk-out is over, what happens next will be critical to all involved. Will all parties use the opportunity to put things back together or will the conflict continue to simmer?

Unfortunately, for the district we mentioned, the labor-management relationship does not appear to be improving. There was a significant loss of good, experienced teachers to other school districts. Trust levels have remained low, and the labor-management sniping has continued. This week, it resulted in the filing of an Unfair Labor Practices complaint against the Superintendent. Whether or not the complaint is valid, it is evidence of the continued bad labor-management environment.

It is not our purpose to use this article to point the finger of blame at one side or the other in this dispute. Finding blame does not fix problems. Only if both sides decide to change the game and work together to repair the climate can things improve in this or any other school district.

As citizens, ask your school district if they have a cooperative labor-management committee. If not, ask why. Ask the same questions if you are employed by a school district or if you serve on a school board. The time to begin labor-management cooperation and engagement is now. Do not wait until it is too late.

If your schools want to consider ways to start or improve on their cooperative endeavors, have them contact us. We have worked with (and in) schools and can help them build a strong relationship.

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WE CAN DO IT!

Most of us have seen the picture at the top, the Rosie the Riveter poster that represented women helping in manufacturing plants during World War II but it also is a good representation of women in general and what women will do to get a job done!  And that applies to roles they have played in the union movement.  In fact, if you visit the American Postal Workers Union site, you’ll see women union members and retirees doing their version of the poster!

We’ve blogged about unions before but nothing specifically about the role of women in unions.  The history of women involved in the union movement goes way back to the 1830s in the textile mills of Massachusetts when women formed a union to get better working conditions.  Girls as young as 10 were working an average of 14 hours a day.  Conditions were not always good, and the Mill Girls, as they were called, were seen as being at the very lowest rung of the ladder.  The occupation was not viewed favorably.  When they were threatened with a wage reduction, the women decided it was time to take action.  They went on strike, not just once but twice.  Nothing came out of it other than they did form their own union and it was a beginning of workers raising attention to workplace issues.

According to Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there is a greater wage advantage for women working in unionized jobs than for men working in unions.  That difference is a little more than 10%.  A woman working in a unionized job can make an average weekly, full-time wage of $899 compared to a non-unionized weekly, full-time job of $687.   In other words, unions help women earn more!  In addition, women also have much better benefits.  These include healthcare and other benefits which could also include pension benefits.  In addition, the working environment may be much better!

This can help to ease the stress for a single mother who may not have had the ability to go on to college.  She’s able to have the strong support in child care because her wages help to cover the costs and the increases that go along with it.   A mother working in a unionized facility can take care of the medical needs of herself and her children, and she can have a better work-life balance than the mother who has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet which helps to encourage strong family values.  So much pressure is removed from that single mother when she knows she has a good financial foundation to help raise her family.

Today’s women in unions are not much different than the Mill Girls.  They fight not just for workplace injustices but community injustices, too.  According to an article from The Nation  women union leaders also look at issues impacting women even if they work in non-union organizations.  Domestic violence, child care and housing are some of the social issues they’ve tackled.

For example, one leader wanted to find out more about domestic workers.  Some of the workers were being abused and they couldn’t leave their abusers because they didn’t make enough money to support themselves and their children so the leader worked at improving wages that could help women be on their own and live without the fear of abuse.

Another strong union leader  was able to negotiate better wages for the employees in one workplace only to find out the building where many of them lived was going to be demolished.  The increase in wages wasn’t going to help because many of them planned to leave the community for more affordable housing.  The building also was the home of other non-union workers.  Because of this woman’s strong leadership efforts, she was able to coordinate community leaders to save the building and make improvements to it.  In addition, she also was able to gain even more union members as the non-union occupants of the building asked her to help organize a union in their workplaces.

In the past, unions have focused more on wages and benefits thinking those were the most important issues and ignoring other issues they deemed less important.    One example that has been very important with many workers is the issue of flex-time.  Many workers want the ability to see their children off to school or go to an after-school event.  Flex-time issues  have sometimes been ignored because it was deemed better to negotiate on the wage and benefit issues.

While wages and benefits are important, to some workers the flex-time issue has equal or more importance.  Women union leaders appear to have a better understanding of that need and other worker needs that have become more relevant now to society.  They have seen or been part of the women’s movement so they are much more aware of the non workplace issues that impact people that can directly or indirectly play a role in the workplace.  It could be the  domestic violence or housing issues like the examples above, or it could be child care needs that can be an important issue to many people.

Because these women have a better understanding of the needs they also seem to do better at increasing union membership.  When women are in key leadership roles for their unions, they do better by about 10% than their male counterparts in organizing efforts according to The Nation article.  However, this is not to say women are the only answer to union problems as far as sustainability but the issues that are being addressed by women and how they go about addressing societal needs can help unions for the future.

NOTE:  It’s important to know that some of these causes women have been fighting for, such as domestic workers or restaurant workers, are not necessarily traditional unions but are labor movements that are fighting in areas traditional unions could assist.  For example, the Fight for $15 movement has received assistance from Service Employees International Union.  Traditional unions can help make their issues more enforceable.

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Did You Know: Golf is a Lot Like Employee Engagement? (Part 2)

With the Olympic golf tournament this week, I want to return to the final part of the comparisons between golf and employee engagement or labor-management cooperation. We will look at similarities between them and offer some ideas about employee engagement and labor-management relationships. For example, we need to watch out for the:

Trees – The trees add great beauty to the course. They have been there for years and will remain for more. For all they add to the golf experience, they are less than appealing when you ball is directly behind one of them.

Teams will also find themselves behind trees. They are the paradigms in or workplace or organizations. Teams may hear comments like “That’s how we have always done it.” They need to recognize the challenges the paradigms present but not let them block our success. Golfers and teams need to:

Develop a Plan – When the shot location is less than ideal, professional golfers have a strategy for how to deal with the situation. Through practice, coaching, studying the course, and their experience, they know what to do next. Guesswork is replaced by advanced planning.

Teams also need to have plans for how they will proceed under difficult circumstances. They need to have the tools that can help overcome the paradigms and difficult circumstances they will face. We work with teams to develop a tool-bag of problem solving tools and procedures to help them prepare for any outcomes. They also need to:

Watch Out For The Wind – In the opening round of the Olympic tournament, golfers were plagued with strong, gusting winds that blew their shots off course and raised havoc with putting. Teams may also face strong winds created by uncertainty, opposition, rumors, competition, and other forces from inside and outside their work systems. Like the golfers, they need to be prepared for these challenges and have strategies to deal with them. They also need to be able to:

Finish – Imagine a professional golfer hitting a great tee shot, then following it up with a strong approach shot to the front of the green. They then walk up the ball, pick it up, and declare they don’t feel like putting today.

Sometimes teams do the same thing. They carefully analyze the problem they face, develop multiple good options that meet the interests of all parties, select the options they want to use, then walk away. They fail to develop implementation plans or decide the criteria that will be used to determine if their solution has been successful. Unless teams have implementation plans that address the what, when, who, and how their solutions will be put into place, it is unlikely their ideas will ever be seen. Without plans for how to evaluate their work, the opportunity for continuous improvement and process growth are lost.

For both golfers and employee engagement teams, all of these things require:

Commitment – Both being a great golfer or a member of a great team requires commitment. Professional golfers do not just pick up their clubs and head for the opening round at a tournament. Their success is a reflection of the dedication, practice, and hard work they put in.

In the same way, the most effective teams with which we have worked at CALMC have been those where the members were committed to the success of the team. They wanted to solve problems, improve the workplace, and do whatever they could to ensure the success of the organization. They knew this would require them to give their own time and energy, and are prepared to do the work necessary.

Golfers do not just buy a set of clubs and head for the course the first time. Most take lessons or get assistance with their swing and strategy. Teams must heed this and get assistance with how to effectively work together and solve problems. If your team is ready to start employee engagement or cooperative efforts, or if your game just needs some improvements, CALMC can help.

 

 

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What’s In Your Retirement Plan?

A couple of weeks ago we blogged about the transition going on within the workforce in regards to the number of retirements.  Because so many workers will be retiring or are thinking about retirement, we’re going to focus this week on individual retirement planning  and not the financial type!

Mentally planning for retirement is just as crucial as the financial planning.  Some say it’s more important because without the mental retirement thoughts it’s difficult to have  the financial piece.  There are a lot of options out there so it’s best to determine which will work for you!

It’s important to understand some will ease into the retirement transition without any problem but others may have difficulty adjusting to the lack of a career identity, loss of work friends, lack of daily routine or not knowing how to keep busy along with many other issues.

The other thing, too, is people don’t always realize how difficult that transition will be and won’t make any plans.  Once people become aware of the discomfort they are feeling about retirement, they don’t like to talk about their negative feelings because they’re supposed to be happy and excited about retirement.

A perfect example is football players.  It can be very difficult for some NFL players.  That excitement or charge that comes from playing week after week, year after year can very easily turn into depression and anxiety with that transition into retirement.  That transition can be extremely difficult for players to cope with especially when the norm is to be the “tough football player.”  Many have called on the NFL to help players cope when they leave from the extreme highs of the football field to the adjustment of a completely different, and possibly more quiet, lifestyle.

To avoid the anxiety that can accompany retirement, it’s best to start considering early what retirement will look like. Daydreaming about retirement is actually an important start and that should begin three to five years from the actual retirement date.

A very simple exercise can help.  It’s  one we use with groups on vision but it can also help with retirement planning.  It’s important to do with a spouse or significant other so ideas or vision can be shared.  Other family members may need to be included, too.  This will help to reduce or prevent any misunderstandings or conflict in the future.   The exercise starts with coming up with some questions related to retirement.  Come up with your own or here’s some sample questions:

  • When am I going to retire, will I retire all at once or do a phased-in retirement?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • What are my housing options, i.e. same, new, condo?
  • What will I do after I retire, i.e. new job, part-time job, volunteer, hobby?
  • What are other people doing, i.e. friends, family spouse or significant other?
  • What will life be like – easy, more difficult, fun?
  • What are the most important factors in making my decisions?

The next step is to do some silent thinking on each of the questions.  Spend about 5 minutes on each question and imagine how it is.  Remember, this is in the future – 3, 5 or whatever the number of years into retirement.

After you have spent time thinking about each question, go back and record your thoughts to each question.  If you’re doing this with someone else, take turns recording your ideas.  This is just brainstorming so come up with even the wild and crazy ideas!  You never know what the end-result might be!

Once all ideas have been written down, go back over them and compare the ideas.  Are there some significant themes or common ideas that jump out?  Are there some that need more information such as finding out how much a house on the beach will cost?  Are there others to start working on immediately?  Which ideas are more important to one of you?  How will both of you work on those more important to only one of you?

There may be additional things to consider but this helps to get you started on those retirement plans.  It may even help to start the financial planning, too.  If retirement is way off, maybe you want to revisit the lists at a future date or do the exercise again because  some things may have changed or  the ideas may not be what you want or you just want to make sure you’re on track for your retirement goals. There may be lots of other things out there you want to do, too!

Have some fun with this and happy retirement!  Watch on our CALMC Facebook page for additional ideas on retirement planning from Forbes magazine!

Chamberlin, Jamie.  (January, 2014).  Retiring Minds Want To Know.  Monitor on Psychology, Vol. 45, No. 1, Pg. 61.  http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/01/retiring-minds.aspx

Bell, Jarrett, & McCracken, Jamie. (May 11, 2012).Counseling urged to ease NFL players’ retirement transition. USA Today. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2012/05/nfl-players-seeing-benefits-of-post-retirement-counseling/1

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Did You Know: Golf is a Lot Like Employee Engagement? (Part 1)

This weekend, I spent time watching the U.S. Open Golf Tournament. It featured 86 of the best golfers in the world playing a challenging course under somewhat adverse conditions. As I was watching, it brought to mind several parallels between golf and employee engagement or labor-management cooperation.

Prepared for the Unexpected –  The tournament was plagued with bad weather during 3 of the 4 days.  Golfers had to make adjustments, some as simple as wearing a second glove, to more significant changes in club and shot selection. They were prepared to play, even under poor conditions.

Labor-Management and employee engagement teams must also be prepared for changing conditions and unexpected events. Changes in leadership on either side, upswings or downturns in the business, or unexpected problems must not be allowed to derail the process. Teams need to realize their conditions will not always be perfect and be ready to deal with them. Clearly defined operating procedures that are planned in advance will help with this. Still, the golfer’s shots or the team efforts may not go as expected, so we need to:

Know What to do When Things Go Wrong – The most meticulously planned shot can still end up in the bunker. Golfers are prepared for how to handle bad positions, and do not let them destroy their game. They are recognized as part of playing golf. They learn from their experiences to better their games in the future.

Teams may also see their efforts go awry. Perhaps the solution they developed does not work as anticipated. They need to be prepared for this by recognizing the need to carefully diagnose the problems on which they work to determine the root causes, then work carefully to examine multiple options for resolving them. Golfers and teams develop these skills through:

Practice – Professional golfers continuously practice and work on their games. They strive to develop their swing to produce a consistent, repeatable outcome. They learn when and how to best play any situation before it happens.

Teams also need to develop their skills. They can do this through training to help them learn the tools of effective problem solving, communications, and how to work together. They then need to use these tools under all circumstances to produce the same type of consistent, repeatable outcomes. To accomplish this, both golfers and teams should:

Use A Coach – Professional golfers hire swing coaches and others to help them improve their game. Teams can also benefit from coaching to help keep them on track and teach them new skills as they are needed. They still need to remember:

You May Hit from Either Side of the Ball – While most golfers are right-handed, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and others play left-handed. They avoided the suggestion that they are doing it wrong and have gone on to great success.

In labor-management teams, we need to remember there are good people on both sides of the table. They have good ideas and are dedicated to the success of the organization. We need to listen to them and work together to be successful.

 

Those are just a few of the ways playing golf is like being part of a labor-management or employee engagement team. In an upcoming blog we will consider some additional similarities. In the meantime, remember that while CALMC might not be able to help with your golf game, we can work with you to develop or improve on your teamwork and engagement strategies.

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Is The Workforce Changing in Your Organization?

A lot has been written about the changing workforce.  Millennials, Generations X and Y are either in the existing workforce or coming into the workforce and baby boomers are getting ready to leave.  When those baby boomers leave, there will be some huge gaps in the workplace.  The skills and knowledge baby boomers have can be a critical loss to many workplaces.  In fact,  in one article out of Baton Rouge,  a recruiter told how some employers are almost terrified when an employee retires because they don’t know what to do with the loss of the person retiring.

This is a crisis that will impact many workplaces.  In 2010, the Pew Research Center estimated 20% of the U. S. population in 2030 will be 65 or older.  That’s less than 20 years away now and some workers may be leaving the workforce before that according to the Society of Human Resource Management(SHRM).  SHRM quoted the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics and found 44 million people will be age 55 and older by 2022, almost 5 years away.

In a report done by the U. S. Department of Labor, it said baby boomers are important to employers because they are usually more engaged and enjoy the work they do.  These workers are much more productive and are more skillful at building customer relationships.  In addition,  because they enjoy their work, there is a tendency not to take many sick days and they are less likely to use their health insurance benefits.  Experts suggested employers look at ways to retain these workers.

The report also said the loss of knowledge and skill is troubling for workplaces because the trend with younger workers is not to work at one workplace for more than two years.  With that kind of turnover and the potential for large numbers of retirements, it could cause workplace profits to suffer especially as turnover costs increase.

What’s troubling is that many employers are not concerned but SHRM believes it is a crisis employers should be addressing.  So what could workplaces do to avoid the loss of skill and knowledge?

One recommendation we at CALMC would encourage is to put a committee or team together to look at this problem.  It can also be an excellent problem for labor-management committees to address.  Succession planning is definitely in the interest of both unions and management.  A committee or team can help bridge not only labor and management but also work groups from different areas and bridge age groups.  Composition of all age groups could help identify workplace practices beneficial to everybody and help people of different ages work together and learn from each other.

Workplaces need to do a demographic assessment and skills forecast.  This will provide better information of what changes will take place.  One manufacturing organization conducted an assessment and the results identified a large portion of the workforce was eligible for retirement much at the same time.  Management was quite concerned about the disadvantage this could create in their ability to produce their product.  They developed some training plans to implement to avoid a potential loss of skill.  First, the organization reached out to the local community college for training assistance for both labor and management.  They also offered college tuition benefits for additional training that could provide even more assistance to salaried workers.  They also looked at their hiring practices to make sure they were hiring the best qualified hourly and salaried workforce.

Some employers are not concerned because they provide benefits to entice potential retirees to stay.  One employer said some workers who are eligible to retire prefer to work part-time so they are offering those employees benefits or phased-in retirements which encourages them to stay longer and that allows the employer opportunity to have skilled workers as they hire and train replacements.  Job sharing can provide an excellent benefit  for those wanting part-time work.

While many of these ideas sound familiar, they are popular ideas across all age groups.  Other ideas employers can provide are flexible work environments such as work-at-home situations.  Another could be older workers mentoring younger workers or providing additional training, if needed, to help different age groups work together.  Other training could also be done to help all employees learn new skills either for work or offer health and wellness programs that offer all age groups a healthy life-style.  Another idea is to recognize the dilemma for older workers and  provide classes that can help them learn more about retirement.

Congress is also trying to help older workers.  Last week we posted an article on our Facebook page about Congress addressing the need to maintain social security time for those workers who need to leave the workforce to be caregivers.  It is a conflicting issue for older workers as they are concerned about those they must take care but also their own needs of a reduction in social security benefits they could have when they retire.

There are plenty of ideas that can be implemented to avoid the crisis and also make the workplace better.  It just takes the initiative and commitment to do it.

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How Are Your Team’s Critical Thinking Skills?

When I was a science teacher, one of our goals was to enhance the ability of our students to use critical thinking skills. As I look at the approach to studying problems commonly used today, I am afraid we failed.

H.L. Mencken wrote, “For every complex question there is an answer that is simple, clear, and wrong.” People often head for the simple, easy answer that matches what they want to accept or is based on false information they are told to believe, regardless of evidence, data, or basic reasoning. Facts and logic are replaced with ignorance and bias.

Critical thinking is when you systematically process all relevant information to make the best decision and better understand what is really happening. A survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) identified the top competencies they consider for candidates they look to hire. Critical thinking and problem solving topped the list.

As we work with Labor-Management Committees and other groups, we encourage them to gather all relevant information when studying a problem. The information can help them better analyze the root causes of a problem and separate them from the symptoms. Using the tools of data-based decision making enables teams to determine the best solutions to the issues. Critical thinking replaces conjecture, and better outcomes result.

A recent article examined the importance of critical thinking and offered suggestions to help build critical thinking skills. As the author points out, we do not know everything and our instincts are not always correct. Critical thinking is founded on open-mindedness and evidence-based knowledge. While it’s good to look to past experiences to inform future decisions, it’s important to deliberately consider other options and their potential outcomes.

The suggestions offered to improve critical thinking from the article include:

  • Define Your Purpose and Intention

It’s so easy to get caught up in persisting without any direction or goal, resulting in lost focus and failure to complete tasks. This requires you to slow down the automatic thought processes and think deliberately.

  • Articulate Your Perspective

The author suggests the importance of understanding the scenario you face. This involves questioning everything and carefully assessing the validity of your assumptions. Questioning your assumptions helps bring your biases to light so they don’t cloud your decision making. She suggests cultivating an awareness of your personal prejudices and cognitive biases makes your thinking critical — you’re critiquing how perspective is influencing your thought process.

  • Look At All Outcomes

Obviously, every decision you make will have outcomes, both positive and negative. Visualization can help you see what those outcomes will look like and how others may perceive them. Have you ever been part of a group that made a decision that created unanticipated problems? Considering both the potential positive and negative outcomes of your decision, anticipating potential problems, and planning for how to avoid or deal with them will help avoid this situation.

Critical thinking is essential for individuals and teams as they seek to understand situations and make decisions. As with any skill, critical thinking can be learned and developed and CALMC can help you build these skills. If your team can use help building your critical thinking or data-based decision making skills, contact us.

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Placing Social Emphasis on Work

Last week the U. S. celebrated its 240th birthday.  Today, we hear a lot about erosion of the middle class and wages being suppressed but what about the average, everyday colonist in 1776.  What was important, what was work like for them and how much was the average person making?

According to labor history on the website of the U. S. Department of Labor, the major industries were farming, fishing and other sea-based activities.  There were some specialized craft workers that were, of course, necessary for daily life.  In Virginia , some of these crafts were blacksmithing, carpentry, and basketmaking.

Some colonists may have received wages but it doesn’t mean the work was always steady.  Those who were skilled such as journeymen may have received wages, food and shelter but they also worked under multiple year contracts.  Some never were able to have their own business.

According to the book, Colonial Americans at Work, by Herbert Applebaum, work was more social instead of an economic gain.  Although very little is known about wages or situations related to work in colonial time, the work people did was to take care of themselves and their homes.  Work and morals were closely linked.  Work for economic gain was viewed more of a disruption to society.  People thought it was being too materialistic.  There was concern by some before the Revolutionary War there would be a loss of community appeal and spiritualism if work became more of an economic need.

Work in the colonies had other social implications.  It helped to reduce unemployment and reduce prison populations in Britain.   Workers in early America were also convicts who were released from British prisons so the British would not have to take care of them.  Another group of workers were the very poor from Britain.  Because there were so many in England without jobs, the poor were encouraged to go to the colonies because there was a need for workers.  Workers also came from other countries but many of them were skilled craftsman.

Unfortunately, those who warned about the problems with mixing work and economic gain were right.  Much has been made about the slave trade in the southern colonies but there were those who were indentured servants.  The DOL website says when a ship landed in New York it contained a number of Irish indentured servants who said they had been kidnapped.

Others came from Britain and were under contract for multiple years.  Wages may have been paid but many received food, clothing, shelter and transportation from Britain.  Once the contract was met, some indentured servants received clothing and food and were free to go.  It depended on the servant’s master as to the working conditions for indentured servants.  They were considered a master’s property and could be sold.  Some were not treated well.  Some had difficulty adapting to a different climate, and many did not live long enough to meet their contractual obligations.

Attitudes about work as an economic need changed even more after the Revolutionary War.   Once colonists realized independence from Great Britain also meant independence from the goods and services they depended on did they realize the economic impact.  It meant the items they relied on to bring comfort would not be available.

In the post-Revolutionary War period, workers begin to resist and it appears for economic reasons.  Instead of living by social need, economics was starting to take over.  In 1791, according to the AFL-CIO website, the building trades people struck for a 10-hour day and three years later, in 1794, shoemakers started to form a trade union.  The earliest protest that is known occurred in 1768 in New York.    Journeymen in the tailor industry went on strike for their wages being lowered.

What’s interesting is how the meaning of work evolved in America.  Before the Revolutionary War, work was more about social or society gains.  Maybe it was about average people making or building to meet their everyday needs or maybe it was about giving more meaning to people with nothing or reforming people.   Those who believed combining work with economics was not good were very smart.  Maybe they saw how economic wealth in early America led to inequality as shown in this article.   The 60% of colonists in the article who lacked wealth were unable to have a say or make improvements to their everyday life.  Maybe they saw how humans could be taken advantage as cheap labor, and in some cases, abused.

So what do you think about the caution from early colonists on the relationship between wealth, economics and work as being bad?   Think about those who had indentured servants or slaves?   Is that an example of what happens when economics and work are combined? Think about those who had the ability to be self-sufficient and used their work as a social means in early colonial days.  Think about how it would be today.  Would things be different today if we put more social emphasis on work than economic emphasis?  Have we progressed or are things the same as early colonial days?  Would we be happier?

Reference

Applebaum, Herbert A.(1996).  Colonial Americans at Work.  Lanham, MD; New York, NY; London, England:  University Press of America

 

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Did You Know: We are Halfway Through 2016

On July 1, we passed the half-way point of 2016. You may have begun the new year with the usual resolutions, but we are not going to dwell on those. It is time, however, to look at what has happened in your workplace so far this year.

What has happened to your employment? Many firms have expanded employment this year. In Central Ohio, we are beginning to see shortages in some areas, particularly those that demand certain skills. If your organization has been hiring or is planning to do so, what have you done to be certain there will be an available pool of qualified applicants? Are you working with area schools, training centers, or your unions to establish relevant pre-service training programs and help with recruitment?

What have you done with incumbent worker training? Now is the time to reexamine your training programs and restore cuts that were made when budgets were thinner. Have you increased training this year, or has it remained stagnant? Your own workforce is you best source of qualified workers for new tasks. By training them, you can fill the need for more skills while retaining workers who already understand your workplace.

Have you truly involved your employees? Want to know more about the training employees need? Ask your employees. Want to get ideas about how to improve the system or production? Ask your employees. Want help selecting applicants that will work with your employee teams? Ask your employees. Are there significant factors impacting your employee satisfaction? Ask your employees. Are you concerned about other workplace issues, such as drug abuse, return-to-work procedures, flex-time or job sharing? Ask your employees. (Of course, CALMC can help you with each of these issues by enhancing your employee involvement process, but you get the idea – ask your employees).

Do you have world class customer service? Good customer service is essential, but it is really a minimum standard. Good is not good enough. Share information about customer surveys, complaints, and commendations with your employees so they can use them to help improve the process. The answers they have about customer service issues may surprise you and help your organization.

How is the safety record in your workplace? Have the number and severity of your incidents or injuries decreased this year? A recent Google search for workplace safety programs returned over 82 million returns. Many of these programs produce a reduction in injuries, but usually only over the short term. To produce lasting reductions in safety incidents you need to involve your employees. Employee involvement processes, such as our Safety Always process, produce a long-term reduction in problems, which benefits employees and the bottom line.

Is your organization as successful as it could be? If not, the time to start getting there is now. Engage your employees to identify and solve workplace problems, and look proactively at the improvements that can be made. If you believe your employees are the most valuable resources in your organization, then it is essential to maximize that resource through employee engagement. Remember, CALMC can help you optimize your employee involvement and Quality process.

Now, about those New Year’s Resolutions……

Posted in Change Management, Customer Service, Data-Based Decision Making, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Cooperation, Managing Change, Problem Solving, Systemic change, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turnover Doesn’t Need To Happen

A few months ago, there was an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, or cleveland.com, that  provided some perspective as to  why employees quit  their jobs.  Some of the reasons included  a lack of respect  from the supervisor or manager, lack of appreciation for the work being performed or for abilities, and lack of ability to improve skills or promotion opportunities.

In fact, there’s also another  article that says employees should not stay at a job longer than a year or two because it decreases income.   The author explains that an annual raises may now not be enough to cover inflation.  He also says it used to be recessions helped employers keep salaries and raises to a minimum but now employers have learned to extend that idea to a regular occurence.

No matter why employees decide to leave, one of the responsibilities managers have is to keep employees from leaving or reduce turnover.  As a new manager, I was told  turnover costs are manageable and turnover rates need to be  kept to a minimum to control those costs.   Over and over again that was stressed, and, you know,  it is exactly true.

The problem with managing turnover is managers sometimes think it’s okay to let people go.  That is NOT managing turnover.  In two different reports, one from Harvard Business Review  (HBR) and the other from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), consultants said it’s okay to lay people off if there’s duplication of work, employees are underperforming, or  if there hasn’t been a lot of turnover and there is a need to remove supervisors.  Those are other managerial problems that have nothing to do with turnover and can be addressed in other ways.

The National Restaurant Association says the 2014 turnover rate of 66.3% in the hospitality industry is okay because the employees are teenagers or students and others are switching jobs in the industry and that’s normal. But if the turnover rate is 50% or greater, that means for every employee I hire, I’m losing one, and maybe two as in this case.

By having to hire all the time, which that requires,  it takes away the concentration from other business areas that could help to build it.  The money I lose from having to train, the loss of productivity and not to mention the customer service I may not be able to provide are huge costs to my business.

According to an  Inc. article, it may be difficult to put an actual dollar amount on certain areas related to turnover but it does have a significant impact to the bottom line.  Other areas impacted in addition to those in the above paragraph, there also is the lack of knowledge that can impact customer service and the increased workload on remaining employees until a replacement is hired, trained and is a productive member of the organization.

So how can managers avoid and reduce turnover issues?  One way is to address the pay and benefit issues.  During 2015, the retail industry saw a decrease in interest in retail jobs (Business Insider, October, 2015)  and has not yet made a strong recovery from the recession so this week Macy’s in New York listened to their employees during contract negotiations.  Macy’s agreed to a substantial increase in wages and provided improvements to health care coverage.  Another concern of the employees that was addressed  were scheduling issues particularly at holiday time (New York Times, June 17, 2016).

The high turnover rates in some retail stores has caused them to re-think their pay structure.  Wal-Mart, Target, TJ Maxx have started to improve their wages as other retail establishments have lower turnover rates with higher wages. (Business Insider, October, 2015).

But pay, benefits and scheduling are not the only things to decrease turnover.  These improvements may only be short-term in nature but what can help more long-term can be through employee engagement such as what we have emphasized over and over again.  Involving people in the day-to-day operations can be a huge benefit in reducing turnover.  Although we don’t know if this occurs but if Macy’s and the union that represents the employees in New York City have a labor-management committee that can be a great way to involve employees.  Hopefully, those other than leadership are involved on both sides.  Employees in non-union workplaces can also be involved day-to-day decisions.

Also investing in employees longevity such as ongoing training and educational needs can be important for managers to show they value employees.  Any organization that does that or any combination of strategies identified can help keep employees from leaving the organization.

In a response to the high turnover in the hospitality sector, one article (Hotel Marketing Strategies)suggests leaders may have to change themselves and their style to change the workplace culture.  As the author, Josh Tolan, says, “It’s easy to point the finger at employees, but is your turnover problem actually closer to home?”

Josh Tolan also makes another great point at the end of the article, “Employee turnover is a huge problem in the hospitality industry, but it doesn’t have to be.”  He’s right – it doesn’t have to be and that’s in any industry or workplace!

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