Last week, a blog reader had a question: “Is it possible to have the benefits of an employee involvement process in a non-organized company?” The answer is “Yes!”, but the process will require some modification.
The key to success with any involvement process is planning how to actively engage employees in a meaningful way. This can work with any employer, whether or not a union is present. Remember, if there is no union present, employees selected to participate represent only themselves, not all employees. A union can speak for all bargaining unit employees and represents all members of the unit. When the union is part of a team reaching consensus on an action, we expect the decision will be supported. In a non-organized employer, committee members do not represent all employees, and it may be difficult to convince others to go along with their decisions. This makes the selection of committee members even more crucial. Be sure to choose employees who have the respect of their colleagues and are good communicators,
Another difference will be in the name of the process. Most non-organized employers avoid the use of the term “labor-management committee”, preferring “employee engagement committees”, “action teams”, “Kaizen groups”, or other names. The name makes little difference, the commitment of the participants and the support of management to a real engagement process is the important factor.
The purpose of employee engagement is to involve employees in analyzing and resolving problems that will help the organization be more successful, preserve and improve jobs, and provide opportunities for expansion. If the process is initiated only as part of a union avoidance campaign, or based on any underlying hidden agendas, the process is doomed to failure. Employee engagement processes must be based on honesty and openness in any organization.
Other than these factors, the function of the committee will be the same as the process we have described in other blog entries about labor-management committees in unionized environments. The team should carefully analyze problems in order to find the root causes using an effective problem solving technique such as interest-based problem solving. Members should be committed to giving the time necessary to carry out the tasks, openly participate, provide information and options, and help sell the final decisions.
Employee engagement works in any organization in which a commitment is made to a real, open process focusing on cooperative problem solving. The many benefits we have described in earlier blog entries can be achieved, and the employer and employees can benefit.