08 Dec Don’t Bash Unions: Just Fix Your Company Culture
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need unions because we’d all work in organizations where having an inclusive, healthy culture is a priority. But the truth is, that isn’t always the case and we need some mechanism to ensure employees get the treatment they deserve. Almost half (46%) of the U.S. population is unhappy in their work life. They’ve been telling us so for years. It’s no wonder so many employees want to unionize now as they likely feel it’s the only mechanism they have to create a better workplace. And when they’re met with adamant pushback, it’s basically the equivalent of employers plainly saying “your fair treatment is not worth our investment.”
Union membership has been on a steady decline for over 40 years… but don’t let the numbers mislead you. Unfortunately this is not a sign of a decreased need for unions, but rather the increased lack of ability to unionize. While plenty of workers participate in an NLRA election each year, very few of those elections are actually won. That’s due to a history of labor law as becoming stacked against employees, thus taking away their power to have an actual say over wages, hours, working conditions, and so on.
Workers wanting to unionize have to jump through countless hurdles that make it nearly impossible to actually achieve that goal.
With only 10% of Americans belonging to a union, the statistics can easily make it look like unionization is an unpopular opinion. However, other studies show that 48% of non-union workers would join one if given the chance. When those numbers are compared, there’s clearly a huge gap in representation. Workers wanting to unionize have to jump through countless hurdles that make it nearly impossible to actually achieve that goal. However, the impact of the global pandemic has sparked stronger efforts to unionize, and we can expect to see more groups trying to cross that finish line… and we all know there’s power in numbers.
With The Great Resignation afoot, it seems workers finally have the upper hand, and are therefore more likely to succeed in having their demands met. This, coupled with the recently established Labor Caucus, whose primary goal is to make unionization easier and increase the power of unions, means we’re likely to see an uptick in unionization efforts.
It’s been proven over and over again that companies with higher rates of happy employees experience higher productivity, lower job turnover, increased innovation, and overall higher profitability.
If more companies were to focus on boosting employee satisfaction, the employees wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit. It’s been proven over and over again that companies with higher rates of happy employees experience higher productivity, lower job turnover, increased innovation, and overall higher profitability.
Here are the top factors that contribute to employee satisfaction, and some tips for how you can make sure you’re nurturing them.
Employees who feel underpaid will always feel undervalued. When we feel undervalued, we lose our motivation to give our all because it feels like a wasted effort. Make sure your employees are getting fair pay by conducting annual market research, regular equity assessments, and open conversations with each individual at your company.
Burnout affects over half of the working population, and that number is on the rise. Help your employees maintain peak performance by taking measures to avoid overtime. Show your team the importance of work/life balance and the need to draw certain boundaries, like not checking email on the weekends or after a certain time on the weekdays. If possible, give your employees the freedom to set their own schedule so that they have more flexibility.
Poor working conditions can often be attributed to improper management. Investing the time and money to adequately train your leadership staff will greatly improve day-to-day life in the workplace. Managers who really listen to their employees, and have their best interests at heart, are more effective in supporting success.
Beyond the obvious benefits such as health insurance, paid time off and retirement plans, you should offer the more cutting edge benefits such as paid maternity/paternity leave, work from home options, sabbaticals, life coaching, networking assistance, and mental health benefits (for example, Starbucks connects employees with 20 free therapy sessions per year).
Everyone wants to be heard, and feel that their opinions are valued and genuinely taken into consideration. Studies indicate that employees voices are being muted, making it so that they have little to no say over their work experience. It’s important to create space for your employee’s voice to be spoken, heard, and acted upon. Make sure that you provide adequate channels for input, thus giving a voice to those who have had theirs taken.
When leaders realize that their company culture and employee satisfaction are directly tied to the success of their business, positive change takes place. We need more organizations to rise up and take informed action that benefits both the employers and the employees. So, if you don’t want your employees to unionize, it’s pretty simple: create a positive work culture where all can thrive.
Shaara Roman is founder and CEO of The Silverene Group, a culture consultancy that helps companies align their people programs with business goals.