Three Steps Management Can Use to Prepare
Astute managers realize the best way to avoid election hassles - and the chance of losing - is to treat their employees fairly so that they don't want a union. The best way to do this is to identify and eliminate the irritants that cause employees to seek out unions in the first place. Experts know that money is not the real reason employees seek out unions. Rather, workers vote for unions because they believe they are not being treated fairly, openly, and honestly, i.e., without partiality or favoritism. This is the core issue that determines whether or not a work force will vote for a union.
The first step to avoid elections is to conduct an employee audit to determine worker sentiment, i.e., test the temperature on the plant floor - out by the four-slides in spring makers, next to the molding machines in automotive trim plants, on the pour decks in gray iron foundries, on the chuck lines in meat packers' fab areas, or by the thread rollers in screw and bolt making facilities.
Employee attitudes cannot be accurately assessed with the simple paper-and-pencil employee audits many attorneys recommend. Those surveys rarely uncover the nuances of employee thinking, especially those of workers from different backgrounds and cultures.
The best way to understand employee attitudes is through face-to-face interviews conducted by expert outside interviewers, because workers speak more openly to an outsider than to any manager for fear of retribution. Also, the ability to discern what employees actually mean by what they say is critical, takes a good deal of experience, and requires knowledge of modern manufacturing practices. After experts uncover employees' level of satisfaction or discontent - and the reasons behind these sentiments - management can then address employees' concerns and eliminate the causes of negative worker attitudes.
This often requires two subsequent efforts. The first is supervisory training tailored to the specific problems of a particular company. Canned training from the Internet is inexpensive - and usually ineffective (see "How To Train Across Cultures," Industrial Management, November 2010). The second is developing a compensation system that encourages productivity and employee cooperation while reinforcing the natural employee/employer bond. Together, these efforts improve a company's marketplace competitiveness, while rendering its employees virtually impervious to the promises of union organizers.
It is better to avoid an election entirely rather than merely winning one. Don't you agree?