Collective bargaining is an expensive focus group

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The Big Story: Strikes Becoming More Common Amid Inflation, Tight Labor Market

There were 180 strikes [across a swatch of industries] involving roughly 78,000 workers in the first six months of this year, up from 102 involving 26,500 workers in the same period a year earlier.

What It Means for You

Conversations about the workplace are proliferating across industries – from railways to hospital corridors – and share notable characteristics.  From quiet quitting to organized walkouts, many industries have a workforce that’s bleeding out.  

You know this. Leadership teams know this. So do unions. And individual workers. Leaders need to ensure they’re listening to what employees are saying, and responding to those issues by acting when they can, and educating when they can’t. Or both. 

It’s a meme today that society is rethinking work. Sure, there’s pay. Always pay. But people are more broadly concerned about quality-of-life issues. Like too much overtime, not enough paid time off, inflexible workplaces and rigid scheduling. They’re tired of understaffing. 

According to fresh Jarrard Inc. research (debuting next week), workers are feeling disconnected from administration and see administration offering things that don’t address their needs. Administration and nurses are sometimes having different conversations. Pay is important, but not the only thing. In these financially strapped times, raises often aren’t available. But the alternatives being presented often come across as cheap substitutes. To tease our upcoming survey of 1,000 nurses, we found that nurses who feel they’re not paid appropriately are more likely to see global appreciation events like Hospital Week as tone deaf. Ditto, pizza parties and knick-knacks. But even where pay raises are being offered, they’re not always solving the problem. People want raises. Who doesn’t? But talk of money alone from leadership teams doesn’t always resonate because, again, the conversation doesn’t extend to the other issues – lifestyle, stress, balance. 

Leaders who push the wrong conversation are risking a lot. Union activity is one piece of that, but it’s a road sign of broader, and sometimes more subtle cracks in the road. And so, putting resources into getting it right is a wise investment for the long term, not just a feel-good accomplishment. Call it “ROLI” – Return on Listening Investment. 

We don’t use the word “investment” lightly. We understand time can be as precious as money and to “spend” an hour listening, responding, engaging, is – in fact – an investment strategy that comes as a cost to investing your time and attention elsewhere. Our point: It’s a worthwhile investment. 

This doesn’t happen overnight. But here’s some thinking how to use the power of communications to help bolster your workforce and heal some of the cracks.

  • Listen to your workforce. That means everything they say, not just flag phrases like, “an X-percent raise.” Listen for more than the requests with “Yes/No” answers. You’re looking to dig into the essay questions that reflect deeper concerns which, most likely, are harder to solve.
  • Be responsive. Once you’ve heard the entrenched concerns, engage accordingly. Act, and follow up with your employees. Obviously, organizations can’t always give employees exactly what they want. But understanding their needs and desires at least lets you figure out the real issues so you can find related solutions. Or at least have clear conversations about why things can’t happen – putting the financial picture you share into context.
  • It’s not a one-off. Listen, respond, activate, evaluate, refine. Repeat the process, keeping your employees engaged and appraised. This helps you as a leader and your organization to learn from those who are actively involved in all aspects of your enterprise.
  • Give leaders the right tools. Workers typically have greater trust in their colleagues and direct managers than in their C-suite leaders. At the same time, fewer than half think their organization is effective at cascading information. That leaves a huge opportunity for communications training that equips leaders at every level to create better flow of information and increase trust.
  • It’s a new era. What worked in 2019 might not fly in 2022. Any kind of engagement program that’s being done out of habit needs to be revisited – it’s probably not as effective as you want it to be. Things that used to work don’t anymore.
  • All eyes are on nurses. All healthcare workers, but nurses, especially have been elevated to hero status over the last three years in ways never seen before. Nurses recognize that status and power and are seeing that now is a good time to use it. They’ve earned it. Be the one who helps foster that confidence and their pride in your organization.
  • People aren’t as tethered. Healthcare has seen considerable executive turnover. Leaders are retiring, moving around. Consolidation is leading to reorganizations. People aren’t feeling tethered to their organizations the way they once did. Be aware of the impact of greener-pasture pursuits at the C-Suite level has on each of your employees. If executives aren’t feeling the connection, should employees?
  • Walk the talk. Any organization talking about how it values its employees, is connected with employees, is a home for employees must be operating in a way that matches the words. You can’t wait until collective bargaining is on the horizon to claim you’ll be a better advocate for employees. Live it. Every day.

None of this is breaking news. You know it. You feel it. Your gut and experience have told you all of this. In fact, that’s the title of the survey. Trust your gut: It’s time to ditch old habits with nurse engagement. Stay tuned for full results next week.

This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday Quick Think newsletter. Fill out the form to get that in your inbox every week.

Jarrard Inc.
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