How Did We Do? – A Look Back At Our Predictions About Workplace Trends in 2017

Once again, one of the most popular post on our blog this year predicted trends in Labor-Management relations and collective bargaining for 2017. This week, we will take a look back and see how we did before offering our thoughts on 2018.

The trends we saw for 2017 were:

An increase in real wages was seen in 2016 and should continue in 2017. We were right about this. Wage increases continued for the third consecutive year, although the rate declined in the last quarter. Hopefully, this is not a sign of a return to wage stagnation.

The pressure for “Right to Work” will expand. These attacks on unions continued in 2017. In Ohio, the ongoing undercurrent of a new initiative remains, although nothing concrete has emerged.

Labor relations will become more contentious. This was also accurate, and represents further damage to workplace relationships. Management appeared more willing to try to exact defeats from unions and workers by exerting their political power.

Contract negotiations will become more difficult. While this is true, it was not to the degree we feared. The growing economy provided opportunities for wage gains that helped ease pressure on negotiations.

Worker gains resulting from executive orders by President Obama are in jeopardy.  Very true. The current president has been almost gleeful in reversing past gains by employees and unions.

The National Labor Relations Board will become more business-friendly. Also true. The Trump appointees have demonstrated they side with business at the expense of workers.

Union membership will continue to decline, but this may be near its low point. We missed this one, The decline did not occur, as union membership in 2017 remained at 10.7%, the same as in 2016.

Unemployment will slowly continue to decrease, but many of the jobs lost in and following the recession will never return. True. With the exception of an increase in August, the unemployment rate fell or remained the same in every month in 2017, dropping from 4.7% in January to 4.1% at the end of the year. Still, many of the job restoration promises made in the campaign remained empty.

Increases in productivity may inhibit the return of jobs lost in the recession. This has also proven true. Productivity has increased in many industries, but without a resulting increase in employment. This remains problematic for the long-term economy.

 

Automation will become an increasing issue in the workplace and place new pressures on labor and management and in negotiations. This continues to be a concern. A couple of weeks ago we discussed the impact of automation on trucking, and earlier looked at how autonomous buses would impact the transportation industry and employees. The promise of automation in increasing safety and productivity is interesting, but we need to consider the cost is creates.

 

The minimum wage will increase slowly through state and local initiatives, but increases at the federal level are unlikely. This has also proven true overall, in spite of some local increases. Interestingly, the cities and other areas that have increased the minimum wage have seen a positive impact on their economy. Still, the Republican controlled government in Washington and many states is not likely to support efforts to increase the minimum wage.

While more options for communications exist, it has become increasingly more difficult to really communicate. This trend continues, as faces seem increasing buried in tablets, smart phones, and other devices. One positive thing we saw this year occurred in training we were delivering. As we discussed issues, participants were able to look up information about the issues being considered instead of having to wait until later to find the answers.

The need for employee engagement continues to grow. This continues to be true. Only be involving employees can everyone work together to improve their work system. CALMC will continue to provide support ore organizations seeking to actively involve everyone in their systems.

It looks like our predictions were mostly borne out, and some will continue in the current year. In a future blog post, we will try to further hone our psychic skills to see what may be coming in 2018.

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Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Employee Training, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Systemic change, Trends in Labor-Management Relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rosie The Riveter: More Than Just A Poster

Last week it was announced, Naomi Parker Fraley, supposedly the original Rosie The Riveter, had died.  The Rosie The Riveter poster, designed for Westinghouse by Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller, has become an icon.  The inspiration was considered to be from a photograph of Fraley in overalls and bandana working in the factory.

That poster has now become symbolic of the spirit of women and the role women have played in difficult times.   The symbolism of the poster sometimes glosses over or overlooks some of the issues women faced during World War II.  Hollywood, too, helped by glamorizing the time especially if you watch movies from that era.  If we look beyond the poster, it represents a significant culture shift in the U. S. What was it that working women faced during that time that created major change?   We look back at these women and the impact they had on the future.

Initially, the federal government struggled with the idea of women working outside of the home.  They were uncomfortable with how society would react to it.  Society still dictated that a woman’s place was in the home but  as the war required more and more men  and workplaces, especially those the military relied on, could not make production, the federal government reconsidered its stance on a woman’s role outside the home.  A major propaganda campaign targeting women was initiated.  It asked women to help with the war effort.   Some women were eager to work to show their patriotism.  Some were divorced or single and saw it as an opportunity to live in a different location.  Others needed the work to take care of their family.

Life during this time was challenging and uncertain.  Americans were still suffering from the Great Depression when the U. S.  entered the war.  There were still concerns about people having jobs and being able to maintain homes.   Worried about families keeping their homes, particularly while men were leaving for war, the federal government urged landlords and banks to be lenient on families when it came to homes.    This no doubt was a concern women had since they became the only one to keep the family together.  It explains why many women jumped at the opportunity to work so they could supplement the household income.  The  average pay  for a soldier was only about $70 a month plus dependent allowances.

Women faced other problems, too.  For most families, this was the first time fathers were absent.  Problems with child care  became a major issue.  Workplaces continued to struggle as absenteeism rates climbed.  In fact, the Rosie The Riveter poster was created to help with absenteeism at Westinghouse.   If working women didn’t have other family members to support them with child care, it meant they had to miss work for their children.  This created the first time the federal government provided child care benefits.   Grants were offered to communities to help pay for child care centers so women could work.  Some communities still use that funding or something similar for child care centers. The only problem with the child care was children under two were not able to attend so this created another problem for women, just as it does today, especially for those who didn’t have support from family or friends.  The difference between then and today,too, is  the country went from one catastrophic problem to another.  In addition, women faced other issues that we don’t have to contend with today.

As single-parents, these women faced even more problems that are hidden from The Rosie The Riveter poster.  The home front during the war was hard.  In the ’40s, women didn’t have the conveniences that we rely on.  Some didn’t drive.  Some didn’t own a car. Gas rationing was also going on so if a woman did own a car,  it may have been driven a lot less.   Automatic washing machines were not common.  Not only did women work outside the home, they had to work in the home and despite the federal government’s effort for child care, juvenile crime increased.  Children were still being left alone and because fathers were away at war, some children had difficulty accepting the absence of their father. The other problem that all Americans faced was the shortage of food and other items.   Even though most Americans were willing to sacrifice for the war effort, it was still hard to feed a family based on your ration coupon.

Not all women worked in factories.  Women did other jobs, too.  A collection of federal government personnel files held by The National Archives tells some of the stories of women working in government jobs.  Some worked more traditional  jobs such as nursing and office jobs.  Lots of women that were nurses risked their lives and went to battlefields to care for the injured.   Other women helped opened the door to jobs in technology, engineering and other industries.  One woman worked on a chemical that protected soldiers from typhus and malaria.  Then there were those who worked on codes.

There were over 10,000 women recruited by the military to be intelligence coders.  One of these women was the first American to learn the war was over because she cracked the code that told about it.   The coders were kept secret and even today, for all the work that they did, very little is known about them.  Many people did not realize these heroes existed.  Their work helped to give information to the military and the allies so they could win battles and shorten the war.

For most of the women who took jobs during the war, their jobs were temporary.  Once the war was over many were let go so the jobs could be given to returning soldiers. Some were able to keep jobs.  Those who lost their husbands and became the family breadwinner were given an extension of 18 months but imagine their worry as to what would happen once they met that extension.  Another issue for all the women working during World War II was they were paid less than what men earned for the same job.  Union leaders voiced their concerns about the low pay for women and they also were concerned about pay increases for those returning from war.

This does not by any means downplay the problems women face today but the women who worked during World War II helped to promote working women and that was good. But it also changed society and gave it new challenges to face.  Maybe not immediately but it opened the door for America to start thinking about them.  Many of the women who worked during the war gladly returned home.   It would be some time before women would make such a huge impact again.  But when you see that Rosie The Riveter poster, think  a little more about those women and their sacrifices and the groundwork that was laid.  It wasn’t just about a job.

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An Example of the Declining Middle Class

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the concerns of bus drivers Columbus, Ohio about the threat of driverless vehicles. Their concerns centered on the potential loss of hundreds of well-paying jobs of bus drivers and other employees and the negative economic impact that would result.

This job loss is symptomatic of the growing disparity in earnings as middle-class as wages drop and jobs disappear. This week, I want to look at another traditional middle-class job that is in jeopardy.

Recently, I read an article from the New York Times that discussed the concerns of long-haul truck drivers. If you spend any time on the road, you understand the importance of trucking in getting merchandise to warehouses, raw materials to factories, and supplies to schools and businesses. There are 1.7 million people working as long-haul drivers in the U.S. Truck drivers have traditionally been well-paying jobs with decent benefits and job security.

Unfortunately, this is becoming less true. Transportation wages have fallen by a third since the early 1970’s accounting for inflation. In addition to the lower wages, working conditions have declined. Turnover at large for-hire fleets runs 80 percent a year, according to a trade group.

This is not the result of driverless trucks, which are still in the future. We are not sending jobs to or from foreign countries. It is caused by indifference to the needs of drivers and their inability to do anything about it. The Times article cites one significant factor in the declining wages, a decline in the number of unionized truck and transportation workers. They cite:

“…using the data at unionstats we can see that a drastic fall in trucker unionization took place during the 1980s: 38 percent of ‘heavy truck’ drivers covered by unions in 1983, already down to 25 percent by 1991. It’s not quite comparable, but only 13 percent of “drivers/sales workers and truck drivers” were covered [in 2016].”

Without unions to represent drivers and work to maintain their standard of living, the real wages and benefits have declined. Working conditions have deteriorated. The attractiveness of the job as a good opportunity to provide for workers and their families is a thing of the past.

There is still a demand for truck drivers and plenty of new employees to fill the openings. Training schools are found in most areas promising employment following conclusion of their programs. The Times article points out trucking is one of the few good alternatives for workers without higher education, citing a  survey that found 17 percent of truckers had less than a high school diploma. The author states, “Some have lost better-paying manufacturing jobs in the continuing deindustrialization of America. Others have spent years knocking on the door of the middle class in minimum-wage jobs in fast food or retail. To them, trucking is a step up.”

The jobs these workers are finding are not the well-paying jobs of the past. As one 27-year veteran driver put it, “We’re throwaway people. Nobody cares about us. Everybody’s perception of a truck driver is we clog up traffic, we get in the way, we pollute the environment.”

Over the last decade, we have seen well-paying jobs disappear in a variety of fields in manufacturing, mining, services, and now trucking. Each of these losses contributes to the decline of the middle class and wage disparity. The long-term impact of these losses on our economy and society is staggering. Unions, which may be the best stabilizing factor, are under intense attack from those who benefit from the disparity. It is clear upper management and the current administration are not interested in helping these workers.

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Supervisors, What’s In Your Tool Bag?

Recently I read a  report from an employee who gave a description of his workplace.  He works at a facility for a chain that routinely gets negative media attention.  The only difference was this employee talked about how much he liked working there.  The employee said it wasn’t so much about the workplace as it was his supervisor.  He said he had a great supervisor and he believed good and bad workplaces are created by a person’s supervisor. I’ve heard something similar from others about their supervisors and workplaces.  Do supervisors have the sole responsibility of creating a good or bad workplace?

Supervisors have a difficult job.  They’re the shock absorber between employees and upper management but they’re also the initial or the only contact or representative of the organization employees may have which means there is some opportunity to shape the workplace environment.

What can a supervisor do to create a positive environment that will help to retain employees and also make the workplace productive?  The Society of Human Resources (SHRM) has done employee job satisfaction surveys for several years.  In the 2017 report, respondents said they were more satisfied at work when they were respected.  Supervisors can have a direct impact on that.   In fact, according to the survey, respect was more important than pay.

It may not only be about showing respect.  It can also be about creating an environment of respect for all employees and the supervisor.  It still relies, though, on the supervisor to make sure that happens.  People need to feel free from retribution if they disagree even if that includes talking with their peers.

When supervisors create an environment that is open to new ideas and risk-taking it can show people they are respected for who they are and what they think.  It becomes the model for positive workplace behavior.  Everybody brings a different perspective to the workplace whether it be a supervisor or employee.  That’s very important for survival so the competitive edge is maintained which also leads to another satisfaction factor in the survey, job security.

When we provide supervisory training or teambuilding training, we show how to encourage ideas and risk-taking so people will feel comfortable.  We tell people there may be some conflict but that’s okay It’s how it is managed  is the issue and that goes back to creating an environment of respect.

SHRM’s survey also mentioned other traits such as communication and trust that can build relationships and also build strong workplace foundations that create environments where employees will want to stay.  Those, too, are other things supervisors can encourage to help make a positive environment.

Communication, trust and respect go hand-in-hand.  It’s something like a chicken and egg theory as to which comes first.  Does good communication between supervisor and employee help to create respect or is it first developing respect and trust for good communication? When an employee feels they’re respected, do they feel more comfortable communicating to their supervisor which also leads to trust?  They all are intertwined.

While teamwork was listed near the bottom, building a team within the work area can be a great way to develop a positive work climate but even that takes some skill and probably some team training.  Putting people together doesn’t necessarily make them a team but if supervisors start by providing and demonstrating strong communication skills, showing respect for employees even when they disagree, and developing an overall positive interaction that’s a great foundation for teambuilding and creating employee engagement.  Listening to employees’ suggestions, working with them on their ideas AND acting upon those suggestions and ideas will also go a long way.  That helps to build respect in  both directions.

In supervisory training, we tell supervisors they need to act like a coach.  A coach doesn’t tell people how to do something.  They let people figure it out for themselves.  The coach provides the support, the mechanism and the tools to get the job done.  We put up a message  that says, “No one individual is as smart as all of us” which says it takes a team but it also takes a coach to make sure everyone is part of the team and each person is needed for their abilities and skills.

On the other hand, it may not be fair to lay the entire responsibility of creating the work environment on one supervisor.  Employees can  change departments in a single organization and their supervisors may have different styles.  As SHRM points out, another problem is respect can sometimes be difficult to define especially when it pertains to the whole organization and certain behaviors or styles that don’t represent respect can sometimes be directed from above.

At one organization I worked at, supervisors were directed to be firm.  Employee empathy was downplayed.  A top-down structure was definitely emphasized.  Supervisors were the only ones who could  make decisions.  Unfortunately, there are also other examples.

Several years ago, there was a management style pushed by some people called “management by intimidation.”  It was supposed to get more productivity.  A recent article that talks about workplace bullying, says some workplaces still prefer that method.  We once worked with  a manufacturing facility where the supervisor said his management style was to make life miserable for employees. Maybe those styles get results, we don’t know.  They may for some.  There has been legislation passed in some states that condones workplace bullying or management by intimidation but legislation can only do so much.

In the end, everybody wants the same things including respect.   It doesn’t matter if it’s a union employee, a non-union employee or a supervisor.  I’ve been hearing a lot of good stories about supervisors lately so I hope the bullying and intimidation tactics are being used less.  Creating a workplace environment that encourages behaviors that bring people together to talk about workplace issues and that value each person’s individuality makes a great workplace and a thriving one! A lot of good supervisors have their own set of techniques and tools ready in their tool bag so they can be prepared  for any incident, good or bad.  That leads me to ask:  what’s in  your tool bag?

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Introducing the New CALMC Web Site and YouTube Channel

As we begin the new year, we want to let you know about new on-line information available from Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.

Our new web site is now available at http://calmc.org. Our old site has been completely redesigned to be more relevant, contain more information, and be more usable on portable devices. The various pages are easier to navigate, a map helps you locate our office, and a photo gallery shows some of our customers in training, meetings, and other CALMC events.

Although we are still in the process of updating some of the pages, we think you will like the new site. Please give the site a look and let us know your feedback. If there is anything you would like us to add, please let us know.

Also new for 2018 is our YouTube CALMC channel. We have reorganized the content we have on YouTube to make material easier to find and more logically arranged. Our webinars, Quick Takes presentations, and other items are all available from one channel.

What else is coming in 2018? Keep an eye out for the start of our new Podcast series. We are looking forward to bringing you interviews, conversations,  and other features involving labor and management leaders from Central Ohio and other areas. We will let you know when the new series begins.

Thanks for taking the time to look at our website, YouTube channel, and for reading this blog. Keep checking every week as we provide you information on issues relevant to labor and management.

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Do You Know What’s Predicted For the Workplace in 2018?

I recently read an article from Forbes on 2018 predictions for the workplace.  It was interesting and the big surprise is working together on a face-to-face basis seems to be making a comeback!

The author of the article told about the benefits of people working together in teams.  He wrote about the substantial annual savings for organizations and the increases to productivity teams can provide.  Neither of those is surprising to me.  If anything, I believe the savings and increase amounts he identified for both are somewhat conservative.  One thing he mentioned that is absolutely true is teams  must be trained properly especially if organizations want to see some benefits.  In other words, you don’t just put people together and expect them to be successful.

For example, training can provide teams with techniques on conflict management.  Conflict isn’t bad but it’s how it’s managed is the issue.  There are a number of interventions to handle disagreements between team members or things that can be done to prevent conflict from occurring but still allow people the opportunity to present ideas without the risk of arguments.

Some of the predictions are interrelated to  team building.  One of the other predictions he wrote about was the increase in turnover that would probably occur in 2018.   The reason for that, he said, is because people are burned out from  working more hours without receiving adequate compensation.  Technology has created more of a 24/7 environment which has caused employees to work after hours and on vacations.

This is a great problem for a team to work on which can help reduce the probability for turnover because individuals can have some input on something that impacts them which can also provide personal rewards.  By utilizing teams to look at workplace issues, the work environment can be enhanced so that people will want to stay.  The savings the team provides to the organization can be given back to employees which may be part of a solution to the burn-out problem.  That is what happened at one business that realized savings.  The owner decided to give back to his employees by providing more benefits.

Another prediction is workplaces will embrace more diversity.  Diversity actually makes teams do better because it provides more and better ideas which also creates a better opportunity for successful implementation.  Unfortunately, when a team is put together it sometimes means putting people together of a similar personality so they will all get along.  That actually hurts the team process.  If there’s a more diverse team, each member has their own distinct personality that is based on their perceptions, experiences or abilities which help groups do a more thorough exploration of problems and solutions.  Bringing out all the different ideas may take a little longer but the outcome can be so much better.  Again, there are lots of techniques we talk about in team training to help speed up the process and also reduce the potential for conflict.  Which, by the way, it’s not bad to have some conflict.  It’s how the conflict is managed and, again, that’s something training can provide.

Also, when we do team building with a group, we do a very basic personality test for members.  Many times the personality styles of each team member we work with are the same because they’re leadership teams and they have a tendency to have the same personality type.  We warn them about that because it can cause everybody to think about problems or solutions in the same way which is what some people call “group think.”  That means an essential component of that problem or solution could be overlooked.  It also can prevent a successful implementation as fewer personality styles are represented by the team.

A few weeks ago we blogged it might be time to slow down technology.  This article also suggests we could be going back to less reliance on technology and more on people.  Studies are cited in the article that say people need that human interaction particularly in the workplace.  Even millennials and Generation Zs favor human interaction.  Both groups prefer working at the workplace instead of working from home.  In another study, face-to-face interaction can help to build trust which is something technology can’t always give.

All of this doesn’t mean that technology is going away but when we work together, as in a team or a committee, it helps us work better.  Some workplaces have created work spaces that encourage interaction so others can share ideas.  Interacting with each other helps create positive environments just like working as a team or committee plus it provides all employees with  a voice on important workplace issues that can give substantial savings.

Next week, we’ll be blogging about an update to our website.  The website will have more about team training.  Also visit the CALMC channel on YouTube to learn about some techniques that can help with your team!

 

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How Do You Get Your Christmas Tree?

As we celebrate the holiday season, we want to consider a business that has used Christmas trees to break paradigms and provide employment.

For most people, getting a Christmas tree involves going to a lot to purchase or cut a live tree. The tree is brought home, decorated, and enjoyed until after the holidays. Then, the tree ends up at the curb to be hauled away, burned, or ground into mulch. (Of course, in my house, it goes back into the box and on the shelf until next year, but for today we will consider only live trees.)

Enter Scott Martin, who spent a holiday season delivering trees for a nursery in the Los Angeles area. While he enjoyed delivering the trees and seeing the excitement they caused, he was saddened to see them as debris after the holiday.

These experiences inspired Martin to create The Living Christmas Tree Company in 2008. Their mission is “to change the way California celebrates Christmas.” Instead of purchasing trees, customers rent their Christmas tree and return it after the holiday. Customers can also purchase Fair Trade decorations and ecologically appropriate ornaments.

Martin takes on-line orders for trees which can be picked up or delivered to customers’ homes. Most trees cost between $100 and $200. After Christmas, the trees are picked up and kept in pots so they can continue to grow until the next December when they are rented again. Customers originally could order the same tree each year, but due to the expansion of the company and continued growth of the trees, this is no longer possible. When a tree is no longer usable as a rental, it is planted in a nearby forest or community through the Urban Reforestation project.

Since its founding, the company has expanded into other communities. In addition to creating a new business that is ecologically sound and permits the continued use of the trees, the company is also committed to hiring veterans to deliver the trees and in other parts of the operation. They are now working with the Veterans Administration to help find new employees.

The Living Christmas Tree company has broken paradigms by its business model of rental and reuse of its trees. This eliminates the need for customers to find trees, arrange for their delivery, and ultimately dispose of them. The green nature of the company is good for the ecology and the economy. The expansion of the company and use of veterans has provided layoff aversion and the opportunity for increased employment.

No matter what kind of tree you may have or the holidays you celebrate, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee would like to wish you a happy holiday season.

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Have Our Expectations From Technology Been Met?

Last week we blogged about the hearing we went to in the Ohio legislature regarding autonomous vehicles(AVs) and the issues that are involved.  I want to continue this week on this topic but focus more on what Jason Swanson from KnowledgeWorks in Cincinnati spoke about and what we as both workers AND consumers expect from technology.

Jason painted a very bright picture of the advancement of technology particularly with vehicles.  He identified AVs that will be able to take people to doctors’ appointments or refrigerators that tell cars when to get something at the grocery.  That all sounds great and a little exciting!  Maybe it sounds just like an episode from The Jetsons.  But is it all good?  Is all this technology as great as it sounds?

Don’t get me wrong, I like technology.  I like some of the new technology gadgets that have come out.  I love my computer, tablet and phone.  I’d like my smart tv, too, if it had more capability but it doesn’t.  It’s also so much better than before when you had to get out to get a movie or go to the library for a book you needed.  It’s now available to you in your own home.  Not to mention it’s so much easier typing this blog on the laptop instead of a typewriter.

Have we gone too far, though, on technology?  In a recent Pew Research poll, Americans kind of think that way.  More than 70% think that way.  According to the survey, people like technology but it may be there’s a limit to it especially when robots take over the jobs humans do.

What happens when a family member relies on an AV to take them to their doctor but they fall coming out of the house on the way to the AV?  No one will be there to help them.  It could mean elimination of those who are caretakers.  It also means the loss of other jobs.  As Jason Swanson points out in his hearing testimony,  there will be no need for transportation drivers such as taxi or bus drivers or even an Uber driver.

He also brings up other things that could potentially make life easier but also have a trickle down impact on jobs.  Jason mentions insurance companies will need to change policies because of AVs.  Insurance companies like AVs because they are potentially safer than human drivers.  But if there are fewer accidents, which is nice, does that help insurance companies justify cutting jobs such as claims people that help to make us whole again.  Jason also says fewer accidents helps  police departments spend less time on traffic accidents.  Does that mean fewer police officers to help and protect us?

There are other jobs he identified that probably will have potential job loss.  These are delivery drivers such as the U. S. Post Office, UPS and FedEx.  As technology takes over there will be less need for them.  Drones and AVs will be delivering packages.  No longer will postal workers and other delivery people be needed to bring our packages or mail to us.  It also means we will no longer hear the stories about postal workers alerting authorities about things that seem out of character for a an individual or house or neighborhood.

Along with the delivery drivers and postal workers there is the same concern from the Longshoremen’s Association, the people at the docks where some of those packages we receive originate from as they came into the country.  They, too, are worried about the progression of automation and what it means to jobs in the future for their members.  They already have experienced a reduction in jobs as some have been automated.  They acknowledge, just as most unions do, some technology is fine but when it comes down to job elimination that’s not so fine.

Andrew Jordan, Transport Workers Union Local 208 President and also a presenter at the hearing, said one of the bus drivers happened to see a house fire starting and notified authorities.  Driverless technology can’t help save a home.  One night, my niece, sister and I rode a specific bus that takes you around downtown Columbus.  There were a couple passengers that had just a little too much to drink.  It was great they could rely on the bus to drive them instead of them driving but what if someone had become violent and we were on a driverless bus.  Who would be there to make sure passengers were safe?

A group of workers we’ve blogged about before were afraid their jobs would be eliminated because of technology so they decided to do something about it before it was too late.  They formed a labor-management committee to look at the problem.  Again, these workers were not opposed to some of the technological improvements  but wanted to make sure it was being used to eliminate their jobs. The committee ended up re-evaluating the work that was being done and came up with a much smoother, uniform process that everybody was happy with.  In fact, the workers who feared losing their jobs, had an opportunity to re-write their own job descriptions which was something that didn’t happen in their workplace.

In the poll from Pew Research, Americans are willing for more regulation to counter technical automation trends.  A majority of Americans think technology advancements will not only lead to the elimination of jobs but lower paying jobs.  That is something Jason Swanson says will probably happen and encouraged legislators to prepare for it. He says other jobs will be created such as someone loading or unloading AVs but the jobs he is talking about probably will pay much less.

It’s also not just about the job, as we’ve pointed out, but it’s how we interact with each other either on the job or off that’s impacted by technology.   A 2015 article on Huffington Post, talked about the impact of increased technology on children and their emotional intelligence ability. In the article, they tell about  something posted on social media one day may have implications later on which is usually more difficult for children  to understand but it’s important to also remind adults.  People that see a bus driver or postal worker concerned enough to help them builds a positive impression and a relationship that’s reflected on the entire organization.  Sometimes those types of episodes get lost as the focus is on numbers and costs and how to reduce them.

It also reminds me of the book I blogged about earlier, The End of Loyalty, by Rick Wertzman.  In that book, Rick writes, in the late ’40s and during the ’50s companies wanted to take care of employees so that loyalty became a “two-way street.”  It worked well until more emphasis was placed on profits for shareholder return.  Technology helps increase that return and those advancements in technology we like may be nice but they also hurt us and reduce our ability to interact and help with one another.  Maybe it’s time to have a conversation, a REAL conversation, as to how far we want technology to go.

If you would like to read the testimonies from the participants at the hearing, here is the link:

http://www.ohiohouse.gov/committee/transportation-and-public-safety

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An Upcoming Issue Facing Labor, Management and the Community – Driverless Vehicles

This week, we attended a hearing conducted by the Transportation and Public Safety Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives. The session dealt with the advantages and disadvantages of driverless technology, and showed an upcoming issue between transport drivers and their managers.

The emerging issue deals with driverless buses. On one hand are the perceived safety benefits offered by automated vehicles, along with cost savings resulting from their use. On the other hand is a belief driverless technology may not be safer and will have other drawbacks.

This issue has been brought to a head by the $50 million Smart Cities Challenge grant awarded to the City of Columbus and its private sector partners. Part of the grant proposes the use of fully automated buses in parts of the city including driverless passenger shuttles in the Easton shopping area.

The grant points out operating driverless buses will represent a savings to be achieved by eliminating drivers and equipment needed to operate the vehicles. It is hoped increased safety will result from the use of this technology.

At the hearing, various experts testified about vehicle automation, the current state of its development, and the possibilities that could emerge. They painted a very intriguing picture of the implantation of this technology, which is going to happen eventually regardless of the grant Columbus received.

Another viewpoint was offered by Andrew Jordan, President of Transport Workers Union Local 208 that represents drivers, mechanics, and other employees of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), the regional transport agency for this area. Andrew focused his testimony on the issues remaining regarding driverless technology (“We’re trading human error for computer error”), the benefits realized by having human drivers, and the potential economic impact that would result from drivers losing their jobs.

Jordan pointed out “Driverless buses are faceless. They can’t talk with people, give directions, alert law enforcement when they see problems. [Drivers] should still be there for everyone’s safety.”  He gave several examples of how drivers assist passengers and others in the community, services that would be lost under the grant proposal.

Andrew also pointed out the economic issues raised by the grant proposal. He discussed the potential for job loss, a replacement of well-paying jobs with lower wage employment, and increased reliance on government services. The issue also has racial implications, as many drivers are African-American and are more likely to become unemployed.

He concluded by calling for bus operators to remain on buses, even if they are not driving, noting this would improve safety for riders while and allowing Columbus “to serve as a role model for what a Smart City looks like.

Jordan’s concerns supported by the testimony of Jordan Swanson, director of strategic foresight at KnowledgeWorks. He pointed out the negative economic impact of driverless technology extends beyond just bus drivers. For example, he discussed the potential impact on law enforcement, noting “Four out of 10 police interactions are traffic stops. How would this change community-police relations, and what would be the impacts of reduced traffic ticket revenue?” He went on to point out, “The rate of unemployment will overtake our ability to create jobs.”

Clearly, this has become a labor-management issue, with COTA and the City of Columbus advocating a significant systemic change in COTA and in the terms and conditions of employment for drivers and creating the possibility of declining employment. TWU is obviously concerned about job loss and the impact the change to driverless technology would have on the community. While this has the possibility of becoming a very divisive issue, it also creates an opportunity for labor and management to work together.

We encourage the union and management, along with other community representatives, to meet jointly and consider the issues regarding this proposal using a facilitated interest-based process. Together they could explore various options that satisfy the interests of all concerned without employing traditional, positional techniques. This would provide an opportunity for labor-management collaboration using employee engagement to tackle the complex issues in this situation. The result can be better, stronger solutions that benefit all stakeholders in the problem.

 

(Click here to read more about the legislative hearing and the related concerns,)

Posted in CALMC, Change Management, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Conflict Resolution, Customer Service, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Facilitation, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Public Sector, Systemic change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome To The Future!

Last week our blog was about the need for teams to develop a mission statement.  Without a mission statement, it can cause confusion and disagreements between team members.  We also mentioned the mission statement should be aligned with the goals of the organization.

But before goals can be established, there needs to be an overall idea of what the organization should look like or what it should be about.  Team members need a clear picture, or vision, of the future because if they don’t know what the target is, how can they establish any goals?   Each member needs to have that target so they can contribute ideas that will help make it a reality.

Organizational vision is more than just a statement.  I think people sometimes just develop a statement because it looks good, or it’s done by others, or it’s quicker than developing that whole picture of the future.  Vision statements may be nice but they don’t give enough description about the organization and its future and rarely do people get excited about reading vision statements. That description can provide so much more of what needs to be achieved.  For example, what type of culture is there?  Is it one where employees participate?  What do customers say about the organization?  Is the organization part of the community, and, if so, how does it do it?  What about products or services, what will they be and how will they be developed over time?  These are just some of the things visioning can do and do more than just a statement.  Once questions like that can be answered, goals can be established to achieve the vision or parts of it.  They also could be roadblocks or obstacles that prevent the vision from taking place or moving forward.  Goals can be established to overcome them.

One article I read about on the importance of visioning identified Disney as a company that created a vision, not just a statement.  Walt Disney did a great job of developing his vision.  I can remember as a child watching The Wonderful World of Disney on tv and watching Walt Disney describe the vision for Disney World in Florida.  It was very exciting!  I immediately started to nag my parents about going to Disney World.  During the episode, Walt showed the goals or plans they were working on to build this vision.  I remember one in particular was Walt marking off the land they had purchased for Disney World.  If there wasn’t a vision first, how would he know how much land he needed and whatever else he needed to make Disney World in Orlando a reality?

A team can be the leader, especially a labor-management committee when it consists of both labor and management leaders on it.  This works much better than having only one person, like Walt Disney, coming up with a vision.  A committee or team provides more ideas and perspectives on the vision. It also means the vision can be more readily communicated to more people as leaders on a labor-management committee are usually a broad representation of the organization. It will be just as important for them to get people excited just as Walt Disney did with his vision. I don’t know if Walt involved employees or it was his vision alone but it’s so much better when more people are included.  There may be some naysayers at first but the more they see the vision becoming reality, the more they’ll get on board and it will also help if they can play a role.

So how can you get started?  Here are some ideas we use when we work with groups:

  1. Think about how long into the future you want to go. Maybe it’s a year because something needs to be done quickly, but usually it’s best to go three or five years out.
  2. Think about some of the areas you want to focus on. Is it about employees?  What about customers or the community?  Come up with about 5 or 6 questions that can help everyone to conceptualize the organization in the future.  Get some flip chart paper and title the pages with the questions you come up with.
  3. Have everyone visualize that future time frame silently. Everybody thinks about the future on their own because everyone will have their own idea. Ask them the questions you came up with to help focus their thoughts.
  4. Get those flip charts with the questions posted and have the group spend a few minutes at each flip chart and jot down their ideas. Ideas from others may trigger some more ideas and those need to be written down.  Some responses may be goofy but it’s okay because it could trigger a really good idea.  Keep going until everybody has had time at each flip chart.
  5. Look over all the responses on the flip charts and organize them into some distinct themes. Discuss the themes and what the group needs to focus on in each specific area.

The next step is to develop some goals and communicate all of this as soon as possible so everyone else hears about the future!  It helps also to get others involved such as with developing or working on goals.

The best leaders are those that inspire others.   We live in an instantaneous world so it will be best to give regular updates so people know how things are progressing.  The other thing that can happen is fatigue.  People are eager to take off right away and a lot of things are done in the immediate future but as groups go farther out leaders will need to be prepared on how to keep everyone enthusiastic.  Achieving a vision is not an easy task but once it has been, it’s very rewarding.  It’s also something that can be done on an individual basis.

Have fun visiting the future!

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