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.