In an unusual approach to boosting employee engagement, the state is bringing in the unions to solve problems before they happen.
Source: Darla J. Hamann, Journal of Applied Gerontology, Vol. 33 no. 5, August 2014
From the abstract:
This research examines how the empowerment of residents’ family members and nursing home employees in managerial decision making is related to service quality. The study was conducted using data from 33 nursing homes in the United States. Surveys were administered to more than 1,000 employees on-site and mailed to the primary-contact family member of each resident. The resulting multilevel data were analyzed using hierarchical linear modeling. The empowerment of families in decision making was positively associated with their perceptions of service quality. The empowerment of nursing staff in decision making was more strongly related to service quality than the empowerment of nonnursing staff. Among nursing staff, the empowerment of nursing assistants improved service quality more than the empowerment of nurses
Source: Marick F. Masters, Christina S, Merchant, Robert M. Tobias, Public Manager, Vol. 43 no. 2, Summer 2014
Over the past decade, labor-management relations have taken a sharp turn toward confrontation in several states and localities. … In the midst of this swirling controversy, which has been part of a wider effort to dismantle the existing order of labor-management relations in America that has prevailed for decades, the public and policymakers have lost sight of the potential and real benefits of labor-management collaboration as a strategic device to improve delivery of goods and services in both the private and public sectors. … The essential rationale for undertaking the partnership experiment began in 1993 and underpins the core logic behind labor-management collaboration, Some of the the realized benefits of the federal program were identified by a comprehensive study reported in 2001 as part of the then- National Partnership Council’s assessment of the impact of partnerships in the federal government. What we learned about how to make collaborative initiatives – whether labeled cooperation, partnership, or joint forum – allows us to work as effectively as possible. As in so many aspects of constructive labor-management relations – as well as human resource management in general – the devil is in the details. You cannot achieve real positive results by simply glossing over matters, however painful they might be…..
From the abstract:
In the 20th century, the idea of industrial democracy was more closely linked to collective bargaining in the United States than in the rest of the industrial world. As union representation and collective bargaining coverage has shrunk to less than 7 percent of the private sector workforce, the very idea of workplace democracy has faded from public discourse. Against that bleak background, this essay asks what workplace democracy could mean in the 21st century for the great majority of workers who are destined to remain without union representation. It contends for a form of workplace democracy that can meet some employee needs and aspirations without provoking vehement employer resistance – a domesticated or “digestible” version of workplace democracy to supplement (not to replace) the essential right of workers to form a union.
The essay reviews evidence of “what workers want,” what they have, and what they need by way of representation in today’s workplace. It contends that workers still need a collective voice despite the rise of employment mandates and, in some quarters, improved workplace management practices. Finally, it suggests a role for responsible corporate citizens in supplying a measure of what workers want and need as workplace citizens (if the law would allow them to do so). The corporate embrace of workforce diversity and inclusion could offer a template for how norms of corporate social responsibility could be harnessed in support of a norm of worker representation in governance – but only if “worker representation” is not exclusively identified with unions.
Imagine that you’ve been working in your job for a while. You enjoy your work, know how to do it well, and take pride in the results you produce. And then one day things change. Perhaps a new boss is hired from the outside, who doesn’t talk to you or your colleagues in sufficient depth to understand what works well and what challenges you face. When you offer suggestions about how to improve performance, she ignores them. New policies and procedures are introduced — perhaps ones the boss applied in a different context or read about in a business school case. But they subvert the control and autonomy you have enjoyed in the past. They weaken opportunities for you to apply your expertise and rob you of the investment you’ve made in your work. Your ability to produce value for the organization is diminished — and so is your morale.
The situation above illustrates one of the most common themes in my executive students’ reports of the worst experiences they’ve had with leaders. Leaders who undermine employee autonomy are corrosive because they undermine the dignity of work. This is a serious issue, because dignity is fundamental to well-being and to human and organizational thriving. And since many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work, work is a major source of dignity in our lives.
Not many people would argue with this. Yet few managers receive any guidance on how to uphold dignity in their workplaces on a daily basis…..
From the press release:
Despite the rebound in the U.S. economy and an improving job market, nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey released today. While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. …. Although a majority of workers reported being satisfied with their job overall, less than half said that they are satisfied with the growth and development opportunities (49 percent) and employee recognition practices (47 percent) where they work. More than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. workers said they intend to seek new employment in the next year. The gender pay gap may also be at play, with employed women being less likely than employed men to report that they receive adequate monetary compensation (42 percent of women versus 54 percent of men)….
From the summary:
….Yet within some districts and schools, union leaders and school administrators have found an alternate path to reform—one that is based on building strong relationships that facilitate collaboration among educators and is focused on teaching quality and educational improvement for students. This report explores the impact of school-level, union-management, institutional partnerships on teacher collaboration and student performance. Moreover, it offers strong evidence for this alternative direction to the policy debate on public school reform by analyzing the role of union-management relations in educational quality…..
From the abstract:
Recently, workers led by non-union labor advocacy groups, popularly labelled “ALT-Labor,” have been staging strikes and other job actions across the low wage economy. Some observers see this activity as the harbinger of a reinvigorated labor movement or, more generally, as audacious dissent by low wage workers with nothing to lose. Others view the activity cynically as an exercise in futility, a struggle against inexorable market forces that refuse to pay $15 per hour to a fast food or big box retail worker. This article takes a different tack, presuming (implicitly using history as its guide) that employers will respond to ALT-Labor in a historically typical manner — by seeking labor injunctions and civil damages in courts.
Labor injunctions are available under certain sections of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) when “labor organizations” violate those sections. This article specifically considers whether ALT-Labor groups, though not unions in the traditional sense, are nevertheless “labor organizations” under the LMRA capable of violating the secondary boycott provisions of the statute. If ALT-Labor groups have the requisite status to commit these violations, they may be subject to federal court injunction and civil damages under the LMRA.
The article concludes that ALT-Labor’s labor organization status is uncertain and will turn on a given group’s explicit statement of a “labor organization-like” purpose, and on whether it behaves like a statutory labor organization. Litigation premised on the labor organization status of an ALT-Labor group therefore poses risk for both sides, business and ALT-Labor.
The article accordingly proposes that unions and business strike a deal by agreeing to narrow the labor organization definition. Employers have wanted to narrow the definition for decades in order to establish workplace committees that have consistently been found presumptively unlawful. Unions, on the other hand, have historically resisted a narrowing of the definition because of the 1930s historical specter of the “company union”: “fake” unions set up by employers to confuse workers into thinking they have real representation when they do not. However, the article contends that the companies in which fake unions were once a concern are vanishing artifacts, and that unions should therefore compromise on the labor organization definition to protect a dynamic, emerging new type of workforce from labor law used as a sword.
Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver looks to its own employees for simple, straightforward reforms. …
…In Denver city government, this is what an innovator looks like: White-haired, dressed in light blue scrubs and wearing a pair of sneakers, Tara Morse works as an animal care supervisor. Each day, she conducts about a dozen examinations of new dogs and cats that arrive at the Denver Animal Shelter. Not long ago, Morse came up with a simple idea to save her agency about $75,000 a year.
When pets get reclaimed by their owners, they’re usually collected in fewer than 15 days. After that, the owners rarely turn up. Yet city and county policy dictated that the agency hold animals for 30 days before trying to place them in another home. The longer they stayed, the more their health deteriorated. And as their health worsened, their chances of being adopted dropped as well. Morse recommended a new policy of 15 days. The result was just what Morse had predicted: cheaper, more effective care.
Morse was putting to use skills she learned at the Denver Peak Academy, a city-run training program, housed within the mayor’s budget office, that teaches municipal employees analytical methods to improve their daily work. Graduates apply those lessons toward improvements within their home agencies….
Cities throughout the country are creating offices tasked with spurring innovation. But the Peak Academy represents a different strain. Instead of looking for better results through data analytics, new technology or paid consultants, Denver is turning to its ground-level employees for simple, straightforward reforms. More than a suggestion box, the academy provides a structured ongoing process for soliciting new ideas and making sure they happen….
From the abstract:
Institutions of higher education collectively constitute a major economic concentration that ranks—by whatever measure: resources, budgets, endowments, employees, constituencies—among the major industries in the United States. The unionized academic U.S. workforce ranks sixth among organized labor. Yet, when compared to the top-tier manufacturing industries of steel or automobile or to national unions such as the UAW or the Teamsters, both the public institutions of higher education and their academic unions lack national visibility, lack influence on national debates, and, most tellingly, lack major successes in the quest for public monies. Health care, the environment, energy policies, and the current global economic crisis drive both state and national discourse. Consequently, during the last two decades public funding—local, state, federal (including publicly guaranteed student loan debt)—for public institutions of higher education has diminished to the point that many if not most institutional budgets are dominated by non-public monies (student tuition, privately raised non-tax levy funds, grants, and gifts) and by savings achieved through use of cheap academic labor. Loss of public revenues demonstrates how politically impotent our public higher education institutions and their unions have become.