By Joe Ross, Chief Product Officer, WorkForce Software
As we’ve stated before in our pieces on employee experience, workers currently have more options than ever before. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt “business as usual” in ways that are still being felt today, but concurrent advances in workplace technology have allowed for workers to pursue new opportunities in entirely different industries than their previous positions. This increasing employee leverage, combined with widespread general dissatisfaction among workers with employee experience, has led to rising unionization rates. And organizations that are not accustomed to managing a hybrid or unionized workforce are finding their existing workforce management technology lacking.
With many industries anticipating more unionization, it’s important we consider the effects this will have on Big Tech workers, what employers can expect if this occurs, and how workforce management technology can tackle the challenges that arise as a result.
Let’s take a look at some of the major concerns being considered by organizations in this current atmosphere.
Why do workers want to unionize?
Labor unions promise workers greater power to negotiate for better working conditions, higher pay, more flexible scheduling, and other workplace benefits. As the pandemic has had a massive impact on business and caused a labor shortage, workers now have greater options than they’ve had in a generation. In many cases, they’re using this leverage to unionize and collectively demand more from their employers. Also, there’s sense of unfairness over perceived disparate treatment between office and deskless employees: many of the concessions demanded by deskless employees for time-off, scheduling, and work/life balance have been granted already to their desked colleagues.
To address labor shortages, organizations must change to support the needs of deskless employees. Work environments that prioritize flexible hours, skills training, and new benefits such as pay-on-demand have a higher chance of retaining employees, reducing burnout, and improving worker satisfaction. Enabling employees to provide feedback—and making it possible for managers to act on those ideas—is another key way to show workers that they are heard and supported.
WorkForce Software plays an important role in providing large employers the ability to administer the benefits demanded by modern workers—unionized or not—creating an overall happier and more productive workforce.
How will employee unionization affect business?
As negotiating power is shifting toward labor, more industries are seeing unionizing employees demand higher wages, better benefits, and safety provisions. But some organizations are running into an obstacle to union accommodation: their insufficient, out-of-date workforce management solutions. As employees unionize, these companies will require new HR systems to support the administration of more complex union contracts, including provisions that impact work schedules, pay rates, breaks, training, disciplinary actions, etc.
There are 2.7 billion deskless workers around the world, accounting for nearly 80% of the workforce. These were the much touted “frontline workers” who worked through the early stages of COVID to keep the world running. Despite the obvious importance of these workers, less than 1% of workforce management technology caters to their needs. They feel left behind, which only exacerbates the frustration that has led to plummeting retention rates and higher turnover.
If these organizations don’t have prior experience with union agreements, their existing HR systems and policies will fall short. Unionized businesses will require standalone solutions specifically designed to track and automate union rules administration.
How will HR tech play a role in helping companies meet compliance, payroll regulations, etc.?
When workers begin to unionize, companies who have previously performed well with basic workforce management suddenly need to upgrade in a hurry. For companies to properly administer union regulations, they’ll need robust workforce management solutions that can handle the complex demands that often arise from collective bargaining agreements.
COVID has also been a major factor, as sudden regulation shifts could instantly complicate issues like scheduling and payroll due to in-person limitations or hazard pay. Companies can adapt and meet the requirements of new union agreements with modern solutions and automation. The ability to add and edit specifications and restrictions helps organizations remain compliant under the trickiest circumstances.
What can big tech companies expect from union versus non-union employees in the workplace?
Big tech companies with both types of employees have been hesitant or have found it difficult to implement complete parity between these two worker groups. It seems like an insurmountably complex issue that managers are not prepared to handle.
The nature of work performed by people in union roles often prevents certain flexibility from being offered to deskless workers. These disparities are fueling the focus on employee flexibility and more businesses will need to adapt if more employees gain unionization.
Workplace experience perceptions often differ between employers and employees, and indeed there is a sizeable gap between each group’s estimate of flexibility in the workplace. WorkForce Software data shows that 82% of employers believe they offer scheduling flexibility, while only 59% of their employees agree.
As the labor crisis plays out around the world and more workers unionize, businesses with in-person workforces will now have to try to be flexible with scheduling, hours, and benefits to enable them to achieve work/life balance the way knowledge workers do. Success here will be critical to attracting and retaining this vital part of the workforce.