A few weeks ago, we presented a list of labor, management, and workplace trends we see for 2019. This week we want to conclude our list and examining some other developments for the upcoming year.
The pressure for “Right to Work” will expand through attacks from the courts. While right-to-work advocates predict wins in state legislatures, several states have refused or repealed these laws. Cases from Kentucky and other states will challenge right to work.
In 2019, we will also learn more about the impact of the Janus decision on public-sector unions, while other states are considering new legislative and ballot initiatives regarding this practice.
The decline in Union membership will continue, but at a slower rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported union membership dropped by 0.2 percent from 2017. While this was still a decline, it was less than in preceding years. 6.4% of private-sector workers were union members compared with 33.9% of public employees.
The report also showed union workers had median weekly earnings of $1,051 in 2018 while median weekly earnings for nonmembers were $860. This is an obvious reason many employers avoid unionization.
We expect the decline in union membership will continue to slow, although the impact of the Janus decision is still uncertain.
Companies will be forced to focus on retraining current workers in order to meet their needs. The Wall Street Journal reported 3.4 million Americans quit their jobs in the first half of 2018, which is twice the amount of those who were laid off from jobs, This costs employers millions. Difficulties in finding workers has forced businesses to place increased importance on worker retention.
For example, the restaurant industry has long paid wages at or near the minimum wage, justifying this by citing the number of young people they employ. However, Brian Todd, president of The Food Institute, reports last year, only 19 percent of teens aged 17 to 19 were working, compared to the 80 percent that were part of the workforce in 1968.
As a result of increasing difficulties in recruiting new workers in this and other fields, employers have begun initiatives that have included college tuition assistance, better parental leave benefits, and paid sick days for part-time employees.
Many employers have increased training opportunities for incumbent workers, recognizing well-trained workers are happier and more likely to stay in their jobs. We expect this trend to increase in 2019.
There will be increased opportunities for real employee engagement. We also predicted this last year, and have begun to see more engagement occurring. We have written several times about the benefits of effective employee engagement for both employers and employees, and it appears others increasingly recognize these opportunities. The G2 Learning Hub predicts businesses will increase their employee engagement spending by 45% in 2019, and we agree with this prediction.
Research has repeatedly verified companies benefit from increasing employee engagement opportunities. Employees who have these opportunities feel more valued resulting in increases in dedication and enthusiasm for their jobs and employers grow. As a result, employee retention, performance, and productivity increase.
The G2 study found 57% of HR employees strongly agree that employee engagement initiatives will help their company retain productive staff. The majority of employees surveyed overall believe that employee engagement is important for a thriving company culture. When employees are engaged, everyone wins.
Employee engagement strategies will result in increased flexibility in the workplace. HR Strategy reports, “Flexibility in the workplace is no longer a request by moms and/or Gen Xers. Both genders and every generation are looking for workplace flexibility for their own reasons. To stay competitive, organizations will need to figure out how to accommodate these requests for flexibility such as flexible starting and ending times and options to work from home as needed—perhaps even adjusting the normal work day to a 5 – 6 hour day.” Effective employee engagement opportunities will provide workers a voice in determining the changes that can be made cost-effectively that will increase employee satisfaction and retention.
Labor-management relations will improve as both sides realize the need to work together. We believe the pendulum is swinging back from management domination toward labor-management cooperation. Employee engagement strategies can only work if both management and unions are equal partners in organized workplaces. In some cases, employers appear to realizing the benefits they derive from collaboration with their unions. CALMC is seeing some new initiatives from organizations that had been resistant to joint labor-management efforts, and hope this trend continues.
Zero-tolerance drug policies will come under increasing scrutiny. Make no mistake, we support efforts to keep drugs and impaired employees out of the workplace. We also recognize the impact societal changes will have on employer drug policies.
For example, many states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons or recreational use. If a substance cam be used legally, what impact will this have on drug policies? As a result, some employers have stopped testing for marijuana in their pre-employment screening and ongoing testing. Others are looking for answers in this quickly changing area.
Some employers have relaxed drug testing in order to be able to hire more employees who would previously been screened out. “Anecdotally, there are some employers who have relaxed their standards. It’s unclear how widespread it is,” said Rick Farrant, a spokesman for Northeast Indiana Works, a nonprofit workforce development organization.
Another aspect of this issue is the impact it will have on new employee hiring. Since marijuana use has barred many individuals from being hired in some companies, will the new policies permit hiring these individuals, or will employers still want to keep these restrictions?
One last trend – CALMC will continue to provide news and information of interest to labor and management during 2019. We hope you will continue to join us each week.