I have written on the importance of knowing your employees beyond their company existence. This means you know the communities the employees live in. This means you know your employees families. This means you know their wants and desires. You may ask “Why do I want to do that?” The answer lies in what I heard from a former union organizer who made it apparent that knowing your employees is more important than you think. Read more here and here.
Why do I want to do that?
The answer to that question is because union organizers do it. Former union organizer Dina Cordiano, now with National Labor Consultants, said that she would spend up to a year getting to know the employees of a targeted company. She would learn this information:
- Their names and the names of their family members
- Their favorite places to shop and eat
- Where their kids went to school and what church they attended
- What they enjoyed doing
- Who they were friends with
- Their wants, desires, aspirations and fears.
She did this because she wanted to be able to promise them whatever they needed or wanted; to play on their fears; to unite them with others or to cause divisions, even amongst friends and family members. Her goal was to strike fear into non-union supporters and to make management make mistakes. The ultimate goal was to win a campaign.
Fewer campaigns, more wins
Cordiano said that a good union organizer knows more about the company and its employees than you do and they know it before you ever know they are there. By the time management hears about it they are deeply seated with your employee group, including by-the-way, with some supervisors and managers. And these tactics are working. Unions today file for fewer campaigns than they used to but they are winning about two-thirds of those campaigns. They are going after smaller groups in hopes that it will lead to larger groups.
Supervisors are the lynchpin
Which member of management is the closest to the employee? Those of us in HR might like to say we are, but the truth is that the line supervisor or line manager is the lynchpin in effective employee relations. That is why training in effective employee relations is absolutely critical. Good employee relations also includes training in knowing the warning signs of union activity. Supervisors, managers, HR and even upper management need people skills because how you deal with people on a day-to-day basis is what makes or breaks a union effort and for that matter any potential lawsuit due to discrimination or lack of “fairness.” As Cordiano said employees are only looking out for what they perceive to be in their best interest. If that best interest is provided by the company union campaigns and lawsuits never have a chance.