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Welcome to the May 2009 issue of Alignment Solutions! We are pleased to announce that our first teleseminar for 2009 will take place on Thursday, May 28th at 9 a.m. Pacific time. "Is Your Organization Ready to Pass the Employee Free Choice Act 'Test?'" addresses what this legislation will mean for employers, why taking immediate action is critical, and the four key areas of employee concern you must assess. While there is no charge for this teleseminar, you must register on the Business Alignment Strategies web site. Simply go to the Teleseminars page, click on the registration link for this session, and enter your contact information.

Our new article series called Research News You Can Use selects findings of academic research that are applicable in the workplace, and suggests how you might implement them in your organization.

May Topic: Mutual Trust in the Workplace: Is it Overrated?

Premise: Employee trust in managers results in an increase in job performance and a decrease in undesirable outcomes such as intention to leave the organization. Current research examines two related phenomena: the effects of manager trust in employees, and of mutual trust.

This month's theme is "preparing for the new reality of labor-management relations." The proposed Employee Free Choice Act or similar federal legislation is highly likely to pass in the near future, shifting the balance of power from employers to unions. What will this mean for employers and employees?

The Feature Article, "Preparing for the New World of Labor-Management Relations," provides ten suggestions for addressing the upcoming new reality.

In "The Employer Performance Scorecard," the Business Solutions section describes a tool that can be used to assess employees' perceptions of how well their organizations treat them. We identify four key elements known to influence those perceptions.

In the Personal Solutions section, "What to Do When the Emperor Has No Clothes" suggests two techniques you can use to influence leaders who don't walk the organization's talk.

I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com to find other articles and resources that may be of value to you and your colleagues. I welcome your feedback!

 

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Preparing for the New World of Labor-Management Relations

The proposed Employee Free Choice Act is focusing attention on the nature and quality of labor-management relations in the U.S. Given the current political climate and the number of Democrats in decision-making positions in Washington, it is highly likely that some version of this bill will be passed, sooner rather than later. Among other provisions, this legislation makes it easier for unions to organize workers.

In essence, employees will be asking themselves this question: "How does my employer treat me on a day-to-day basis?" If your employees are satisfied with the answer to that question, it's unlikely that they will choose to join a union. However, if they are dissatisfied with the answer, they will be far more likely to exercise their right to seek third-party representation.

How can employers prepare for this new world of labor-management relations? Here are ten suggestions to get you started:

  1. Make a conscious decision about how high employees should be on your organization's priority list.
  2. Learn all you can about existing labor laws, including what actions are legal and illegal.
  3. Make sure that the actions of every member of your management team are legal and ethical.
  4. Conduct a realistic assessment of your work environment from the employees' point of view.
  5. Based on the results of the evaluation, develop a plan to address deficiencies.
  6. Implement that plan as soon as possible. Under current labor law, employers are prohibited from making changes in the terms and conditions of employment once a union organizing campaign has begun.
  7. Involve employees in the assessment, planning, and implementation stages.
  8. Make a long-term commitment if substantive changes are required.
  9. Focus on increasing the level of trust between employees and managers.
  10. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

For a tool to guide you in assessing your work environment, see the Business Solutions section of this newsletter.

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The Employer Performance Scorecard

Hearing organizational leaders declare, "Our employees are our greatest asset!" always makes me wonder if they actually treat their workers as valuable contributors. If the employees were asked to indicate how high on the organizational priority list they believed themselves to be, would their answers match management's sentiment and assessment? There is a way to find out.

In many organizations, employees are held accountable through use of a performance management system. However, I am not aware of a commonly used counterpart that enables employees to assess the organization's performance (vs. their managers' performance). Consequently, I researched and developed an Employer Performance Scorecard to meet this need. It contains four quadrants that represent key elements known to influence employees' perceptions of the work environment:

  1. Supervisors/managers: The #1 reason why employees leave organizations and join unions is dissatisfaction with their immediate supervisor.
  2. Organizational culture: Employees who feel they are part of something larger than themselves and that their views are respected are much more likely to believe they are valued than those who feel no such connection.
  3. Organizational processes: Employees who perceive that decisions and processes are procedurally fair will accept them, even if they are dissatisfied with the results of those decisions.
  4. Rewards and recognition: Though pay may be "a" reason for employee dissatisfaction, it generally is not "the" reason. A little recognition goes a long way.

Within each individual scorecard area, there are examples of factors to which management needs to pay attention. To obtain a copy of the Employer Performance Scorecard, simply go to the Special Resources section of the Business Alignment Strategies website and request it.

 

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What to Do When the Emperor Is Wearing No Clothes

Employers who boast, "Our employees are our greatest asset!" yet treat their workers as if they are a burden remind me of the fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes." The emperor paraded around town so everyone could admire him in what he claimed to be a set of the finest new clothes. The reality, though, did not match his words: he had no clothes on. Not only did no one question his assertion, but everyone admired and praised the non-existent suit - until one little boy in the crowd blurted out the truth: "Look, the emperor has no clothes on!"

If you work for an organization whose leaders don't walk the talk and you are not in a decision-making role, how can you influence them in a respectful way to change their behaviors? Here are two very effective tools that I often suggest to my clients. Both techniques are part of a program called Influencing Options® that I teach and use in my consulting work.

In some cases, managers truly are unaware of the gap between their words and their actions, while others believe that no one sees an inconsistency. In those situations, a simple statement may be all that is needed to point out the discrepancy. For example, "John, I'm a little frustrated. On the one hand, the company tells us that we (employees) are its greatest asset. On the other hand, when I offer suggestions about how to improve our product or better serve our customers, I'm told that things are just fine the way they are." By "owning" your feeling and naming the specific behaviors that are at odds with each other, you can put the issue on the table for discussion without creating a defensive reaction.

If managers are aware that their actions don't match their words, you can use the discrepancy statement or a technique called natural consequences. "Natural" consequences of behaviors are results that occur on their own, without human intervention. They can be positive or negative. For example, some negative natural consequences of not treating employees like they are, in fact, the organization's greatest assets are that employees lose their trust in and respect for management, they become disengaged and cynical, and they have little commitment to the organization. As a result, productivity decreases, customer service is poor, turnover costs are high, and profitability suffers. In other words, everyone loses: management, employees, customers, and stakeholders. Thus this technique allows you to show in a respectful way that it is in management's best interest to change its behavior.

Pointing out positive natural consequences has the same effect. When leaders choose to align their behavior with their words, employees increase their trust in and respect for managers, they become engaged and motivated, and they feel they have a stake in the organization. As a result, productivity increases, customer service is exceptional, turnover costs are very low, and profitability increases. This is a scenario in which everyone wins.

If you are in a situation in which the emperor has no clothes (i.e., management doesn't walk the talk), will you be part of the crowd that goes along with the rhetoric in spite of clear evidence to the contrary, or will you be like the little boy who held the emperor accountable? It's your choice.

For more information about the Influencing Options® program, please contact us.

Special thanks to Mary Agnes Antonopoulos, who provided the inspiration for this article.

 

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Date of Publication: May, 2009
Pat@BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com
www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com | 562.985.0333
Copyright 2009 - All rights reserved, Pat Lynch