The Return of the Union?

Gawker Media editorial employees recently voted overwhelmingly to unionize their workforce. For HR professionals and private sector executives around the US, this came as a huge surprise. Is unionization really coming to tech companies?

Probably not.

BUT, this could be a real game changer, and more importantly, it is an indication for management as to how employees want to be treated. There is a slow and steady shift from independent employment contracts, every man for himself, and sacrificing your colleagues for the sake of a better deal, to fairness and equality for all. There are a variety of reasons this may be happening—the millennial generation’s perspective on work and a post-recession economy where employees continue to be pushed to their limits among them. You can read Gawker employees’ rationale here:

There is a very real movement in the US toward employee-centric practices that lead to greater transparency and equity (!!!) for all, even in industries where loose employment practices were once the norm. This vote for unionization follows the recent 1% movement and minimum wage rallies taking place across the United States. Employees want security and transparency, and they care what happens to their coworkers.

This change doesn’t need to be contentious, nor does it need to create a rift between you and your staff. Collaborating with your employees for the greater good of all will result in more satisfied employees (and potentially greater profits—read the stats here:

I know, I know—you treat your employees fairly, and everyone is 100% satisfied and engaged. But for those who aren’t there yet, private sector employers who abolish unfair practices and eliminate the mystery behind corporate decision-making will be the ones who will win the talent war. Where do you start?

  • Create a compensation policy and share it with your staff – All of them

Too often, employers are afraid to share wage data because they think employees will know too much. But they should know starting salaries, criteria for pay raises and salary differences in functions and industries. If you don’t provide salary increases every year to everyone, tell them why. It’s perfectly legitimate, but if you aren’t willing to talk about “it”, the “it” seems unnecessarily shady. Think about all of the information that is available on the internet. If you don’t provide the data that is relevant to your company, your employees will pull data from other sources and assume it applies to you too.

  • Be consistent

Don’t do for one what you aren’t willing to do for all. This doesn’t mean you can’t reward your top contributors with flexible schedules or incentive pay—it does mean that you should be able to justify your decisions with facts. If you follow Tip #1 above, your employees will already know what they need to do to be rewarded the way they want.

  • Set clear business goals

Being employee-centric doesn’t mean you lose sight of your business goals. Clearly define your vision, mission, and key results. Employees need to understand them if they are to succeed.

  • Prioritize recruiting

Recruiting is the single most important function of the business. Find the people who will succeed in your organization and listen to their needs

  • Be transparent

Ok, now I’m just repeating myself. But in the absence of information, employees make up facts. Don’t let that happen to you. If you are making a decision that that you can’t explain to your team, it may be the wrong decision.

  • Incorporate employee ideas

Create an employee committee that is empowered to share its ideas and concerns without fear of reprisal. This one sounds easy, but in reality it isn’t. Corporations (and executives) have egos, and no one wants to hear about their warts. However, isn’t it better to hear about the issues from your top contributors while they are still working for you?

These tips may seem pretty basic, yet many employers, especially in certain industries, aren’t ready yet. What do you need to convince your executive team it’s time to embrace employee equity and corporate transparency?