i Dear Workforce-i How Do We Introduce Profit Sharing In A Unionized Manufacturing Environment

November 7, 2002

Dear Fencing:

Focus on three things: education, commitment, and results.

The first process to concentrate on is education. Here you will provideemployees with information about both business issues and the need for change,slowly building toward the need for change. Define up front what the company isspecifically trying to achieve. The union will not be happy about the fact thatyou are attempting to tap into employees for participation in businessprocesses. It tends to make union leaders think you are trying to undermine theunion. You will generally need to work with union leaders first to help themeducate employees. Don’t try to go around them.

The second process is commitment, and this goes hand in hand with education.Just because the union and employees understand what your company wants to dodoes not mean they will agree to it. If this is something that the company feelsstrongly about, then you literally need to make the union believe in the programas well. Create a win-win situation for the union, employees, and management.Lay out the specific business rationale for implementing the program (such ascompetition, declining productivity, or high cost of manufacture) and why profitsharing is an effective solution. Focus on the skeptics; if you convince them,everyone else will come along. Remember, management’s commitment andcredibility are keys to gaining employee and union support. Half-heartedmanagement commitment means little or no employee support.

Finally, you’ll need to deliver the results. I’m not talking aboutgain-sharing results, but the logical follow through on company commitments. Theunion will be extremely interested in seeing whether the company will deliver onits promises. You will need to involve employees and union members at all levelsof the process, and management must be willing to provide more openbusiness-performance communications. What you want to create with employees arefeelings of responsibility, control, and participation. Achieving this will bethe hardest part of the change, and it requires constant and consistentattention on the part of management throughout the design and implementationprocess, as well as on-going commitment. That is how true gains are made -- inpartnership with employees.

SOURCE: BobFulton, Project Consultant, The Pathfinder’sGroup, Chicago,Illinois, May 21, 2002.

LEARN MORE: See, "Can Pay for Performance Really Work?"

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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