WorkHound’s Role in Union and Non-Union Workforce Engagement

In today’s labor market, a significant portion — some 94% — of the U.S. private sector workforce is non-unionized. However, a notable shift is underway, leading to an uptick in union formations, due at least in part to recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule changes that simplify the path to union elections. Industries with high unionization rates include utilities (19.9%), and transportation and warehousing (15.9%). With our extensive work in transportation, logistics, and warehousing, we’ve seen these dynamics play out first-hand.

At WorkHound, we connect workers and their companies through anonymous feedback, improving relationships across both unionized and non-unionized workforces and fostering stronger leader-workforce connections across all types of organizations. By focusing on culture, communication and workforce relations, we help employers of all sizes grow and improve employee retention.

WorkHound for Non-Union Organizations

In non-unionized environments, employees have a direct relationship with their employer. This setup allows for personalized employee engagement efforts, where employers can interact directly with their workforce, creating a naturally engaged workplace and a responsive organizational culture with healthy employee retention.

This makes WorkHound’s role also a direct one. Because companies already have a relationship with their workers, WorkHound can easily facilitate messages between workers and leadership, sending surveys, company-wide communication, and direct messages directly to the workers phone. Like other communications, this is simply part of their employment agreement. In these cases, WorkHound functions as an extension of the company’s existing communications strategy.

WorkHound for Unionized Organizations

While the classic response to unionization was to stall and fight the unionization effort, Sharon Block, Professor of Practice and the Executive Director of the Center for Labor and a Just Economy at Harvard Law School and former member of the National Labor Relations Board, says collaboration can actually be a more effective strategy. “Right now, with a tight labor market and rising worker organizing, companies should reconsider this approach,” she wrote in a recent piece for Harvard Business Review about working with unionized employees. “Companies that take steps like voluntary recognition, partnering to create the best conditions for a fair campaign, and respecting workers’ decisions can preserve a positive relationship with their employees.”

By intentionally working with unionized employees, Block says leaders will help drive better outcomes for both workers and employers.

WorkHound recognizes that, in union environments, the company-workforce relationship is more nuanced, with each site having its own unique dynamics. In these cases, we take a more layered approach to our platform rollout, customizing our role according to the needs of the company.

First, we check if the company can directly engage with workers for feedback, as per their agreement with the union. If direct workforce engagement is not possible due to collective bargaining agreements or other specific union stipulations, WorkHound coordinates directly with the unions. When this happens, our employee engagement strategy specialists work to ensure feedback is always gathered in a way that respects both the legal framework and the spirit of union representation.

Next, we work with leaders to understand if feedback from union and non-union workers should be kept separate, as is sometimes the case. All employees are equally important and so are their voices, but sometimes it can be helpful to analyze feedback in different contexts. When this is the case, we structure our approach accordingly, providing different tabs within the dashboard, or sometimes even separate dashboards altogether to keep unionized worker feedback separate from non-union worker feedback. This separation allows for tailored insights that respect the unique aspects of each group while maintaining a unified overview for leadership.

A Deeper Look at Workforce Engagement

What is workforce engagement anyway? Workforce engagement is more than just aggregate data from annual surveys. True employee engagement embodies an employee’s passion and energy directed towards their work and the company’s goals. Healthy workforce engagement gives employees the sense that they are part of something greater, where every contribution matters and collectively drives the organization forward. Engaged employees are personally invested and emotionally connected to their work, willing to go the extra mile because they believe in the mission.

Foundations of Effective Workforce Engagement Strategies

An effective workforce engagement strategy features a blend of transparent communication, meaningful recognition, and real opportunities for growth. It hinges on creating an environment where employees feel heard and valued, and believe that they are integral to the company’s success. Leadership must also embody the company’s values, fostering a culture of trust and respect by earning from their subordinates. Leaders must also have a servant leadership mindset, where they are happy to support their teams, providing employees with the tools and autonomy to innovate and solve problems creatively.

Why the Majority of Workforce Engagement Efforts Fall Short

Unfortunately, sometimes workforce engagement management efforts can fail. The good news is these pitfalls are typically avoidable. Superficial or misaligned initiatives are a big one. While well-meaning, company goals that fail to address core employee needs and desires will also fail to engage them. Lack of authentic leadership engagement is another big offender. If leaders aren’t bought in, workers won’t be either.

Remember, engagement is a continuous process that requires genuine effort to understand and act on employee feedback, making adjustments as needed to ensure initiatives resonate with and fulfill the workforce’s evolving needs.

The Role of Managers in Workforce Engagement

In both union and non-union environments, managers are the primary connection between the company’s strategic goals and the day-to-day experiences of employees. They are in a unique position to influence engagement through daily interactions, providing support, and recognizing achievements. Effective managers communicate transparently, offer constructive feedback, and champion their team’s development, creating a supportive environment where employees feel empowered to excel and innovate.

WorkHound Gives a Voice to All Workers

Since 2015, we have worked hard to understand the nuances of each company and their locations as we help our customers improve their company culture with feedback. Through our experience, we’ve learned that policies and worker sentiments can vary significantly across locations, even within the same company. As such, WorkHound’s experts engage closely with company management teams to get the specific context we need for each site, ensuring union compliance where applicable and maximizing workforce engagement and participation from the outset.

WorkHound believes that all workers, whether in direct employment or under union representation, deserve a platform to express their views. Our commitment is to facilitate meaningful communication across the board, reinforcing the belief that a well-informed and heard workforce is the cornerstone of any thriving organization.

Let's Build Better Workplaces Together

Revolutionize your company culture and your worker retention rates by improving communication and engagement.

Book a Demo