Labor and Management Behaviors to Build Employee Engagement

Last week, I wrote about examining your role in conflict situations. This time, I would like to turn attention to our roles in labor-management partnerships.

When labor and management come together to create opportunities for employee engagement, leaders on both sides need to be aware of their behaviors, particularly in the trust building phases of the new relationship.

This week, I received an article from Kaiser-Permanente that discussed 10 essential tips for managing in a partnership. While the article focused on the behavior of managers, it is equally applicable to their labor counterparts.

Kaiser-Permanente has an exemplary history of employee involvement in a cooperative environment. They have a track record of using the knowledge of employees to help improve healthcare, reduce costs, boot employee and patient satisfaction, and, in doing so, strengthening the organization.

Their ten tips as CALMC has adapted them for both labor and management are:

  1. Be knowledgeable about the negotiated contract. Everyone needs to know the contract and remember it is more than a list of suggestions.
  2. Get trained on the contract. At CALMC, we encourage joint training for stewards, supervisors, and other leaders to create joint understandings of the contract and how it is to be applied. This also helps reduce the suspicion that results from the feeling “I wonder what they are saying about this.”
  3. Proactively develop relationships with your union or management partners. Check in with them on a regular basis to share information and get their ideas.
  4. Model partnership with your management or union partner. Treat each other with mutual respect. Jointly develop meeting agendas and share meeting facilitation responsibilities. Raise issues with yout partners as soon as you identify a problem, and engage them in what to do about it.
  5. Be accessible to staff. Make sure everyone has the opportunity to share their concerns with you and has the opportunity to do so. Kaiser-Permanente recommends managers roam the department on a regular basis, eat in the lunch room, and implement an “open door” policy for staff members who come by and want to talk.
  6. Be open to the ideas of all employees. Encourage people to share ideas and have input on procedures or work flow. Create an environment in which people feel comfortable speaking up. And be open to trying new ways of doing things.
  7. Create a structure for dialogue and engagement. We see many organizations where past behaviors and organizational culture do not promote engagement. It takes a positive effort to make opportunities for real engagement under these circumstances.
  8. Tell it like it is. Be open and honest in your communication and transparent with information. As a starting point, they suggest sharing the departmental budget with team members to get their ideas on reducing costs.
  9. Recognize and value employees’ contributions and acknowledge their value. Go out of your way to acknowledge someone who comes up with or implements an idea that has made the department a better place to work.
  10. Develop employees to become department leaders. We would also add becoming union activists to this.

We want to thank Kaiser-Permanente for sharing their ideas. You can access the original document by clicking here. You can also read more about their labor-management partnership and its accomplishments.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at
This entry was posted in Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Teamwork and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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