The Journey of a Labor Relations Specialist |
Lena Lockhart |
In the quest to pursue fair and ethical choices in the workplace, there is a career that is more important than most. This would be the Labor Relations Specialist. The labor relations Specialist has many skills that are used to pursue these things in the workplace, and many duties to attend to, in order to reach the goal. Knowing what those skills and duties are is the beginning of the journey, and the beginning of dealing with problems that may arise during that journey. |
Table of Contents
Skills??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦..2 ??“ 3
Job Duties??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦.3 ??“ 5
Common Issues Facing Labor Relation Specialists??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦..6
Education and Training Requirements??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦??¦6 ??“ 7
In the workplace, there are many problems that can arise from many different areas, and there are special employees that are there in order to help smooth the way through those problems. The people that do this special job are called Labor Relations Specialists. There are many different titles to this position such as Industrial Specialists, Labor Relations Managers, or Labor Relations Consultants. Regardless of the title that this specialist has, there are similar skills that each one has to have in order to do their job correctly.
The Labor Relations Specialist is someone that helps to negotiate between an Employer and his employees before, during, and after Union Contract is finished. A Labor Relations Specialist must have many skills and the education that teaches those skills under their belt in order to be effective. Having these skills will enable the negotiation to run as smoothly as possible, and also help to calm the high tension that arises out of conflict in the workplace.
Good verbal and nonverbal communication skills are a must in order to work well with others in this position. Speaking frankly, honestly, and with finesse will help to get the two opposing sides talking and working together to create compromises that will benefit both the employer and the employee. When someone in this position fails to speak clearly, misunderstandings can arise, which can lead to a breakdown during negotiations. Speaking well is not the only thing necessary in order to communicate well. Knowing how to listen intently, to hear things between the lines, is also a must. Listening to the problems between the two sides is imperative in order to know just what may be being said behind the scenes. Many times, demands made from either side are created out of angst, and are simply ways of trying to send a clear message to the other side that things are not all they are cracked up to be, and this can be missed if listening is not taken seriously.
Negotiation skills are exceptionally important in order to bring the two opposing parties together on the different subjects in the contract negotiations. There are many different aspects of being a great negotiator, and according to Negotiations.com, there are 10 factors for effective negotiation.
1. Know what you want
2. Know the other side
3. Consider the timing and method of negotiations
4. Prepare point by point
5. Offer benefits for accepting your offer
6. Frame your negotiation around one or two key points
7. Know your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)
8. Prepare options for mutual gain
9. Listening is the most powerful negotiation skill
10. Use the power of the draft
Critical thinking skills are another important aspect of being a good Labor Relations Specialist. Knowing how to spot a hidden problem and how to address that problem are exceptionally important. Being able to think ahead of the game and figure out ways to address a problem creatively are vitally important to this profession because the whole premise of this position is to help two sides find compromise. This skill requires analyzing and evaluating information that was gathered by observation and communication between the two parties involved. Doing this at least proficiently is mandatory in order to be effective in this position.
Having the skills and knowledge to be able to write company policy is very important to this position, as laws, legal codes, rules and regulations are the basis for each policy. Having the skill of not only writing these policies, but putting them into effect and making sure that all parties involved have a working knowledge of each policy is mandatory. Being able to correctly explain what any particular policy means is important to the general welfare of all involved, so that misunderstandings do not arise in the future.
The art of persuasion is very important in the daily goings on of Labor Relation Specialists. ???The successful leader must master the elements of the art of persuasion including (1) an understanding of people, (2) the effective use of words, and (3) the ability to manage conflict.??? (Manning 2009) Being able to sway people in one particular direction is exceptionally important during any negotiation, whether it be a sale or a Union Contract negotiation, and anyone that is involved with a contract negotiation needs to have this skill set.
Decision making is another skill that is required in order to perform the duties required by a Labor Relations Specialist. Knowing how to judge what is needed and how to be creative enough to make decisions that will work with today??™s society is just another integral part of this position. Decisions are made in many areas, such as company policy, Union policy, disciplinary actions and health and safety.
There are several different job duties that a Labor Relations Specialist must perform on a regular basis that are vital to the successful negotiation and daily workings of any company utilizing a specialist. These job duties can vary depending on whether or not the Labor Relations Specialist works in the Public or Private sector.
The first duty that should be considered is the actual negotiation of a Union Contract. This is something that every Labor Relations Specialist has to participate in. This can be an individual or a group, but generally, groups are only used in exceptionally large corporations that have multiple Unions. The reason for the group is because there can be more than just the company at stake. Some companies have multiple Unions within one organization, and this makes it even more difficult for the Labor Relations Specialist to be able to keep track of all that is going on within the negotiation itself. The contract has to address the issues of the Union that is acquiring it, and also has to find some sort of common ground within the different Unions themselves, and not just of the company. This can be a daunting task, and because of this, many companies have teams of Labor Relation Specialists that each handles a different aspect of the contract negotiations and of policies. Coming to an agreement during the Collective Bargaining Agreement is of the upmost importance.
The Labor Relation Specialist must be able to assess the impact of the Union proposal for both the private and public sector, in order to make sure that the company or government entity involved is not being taken ???for a ride???, so to speak. This is important, because while the employee wants the most they can get from their contract, the company in question has to be able to pay for those amenities that are in the contract. Many companies today have to shut their doors because the employees want more than the company can afford to give. This is where the Labor Relation Specialist must use their power of persuasion to make sure that there is a legitimate compromise between both the employer and the employee.
While being a part of the Collective Bargaining Unit is a huge part of the Labor Relations Specialist job, this is not the only thing that they are required to do during their career. There are many other aspects of the position that most people do not consider when thinking about this type of position.
One of the things that a Labor Relations Specialist does is to investigate and evaluate complaints that are presented in the form of a grievance. When a grievance is filed with the Union, it is part of their job to look deeper into the problem to see if there is really an issue, and whether or not it affects either the Union Contract, or company policy. This can be done in a variety of ways, but generally, a grievance is filed, and there is a time frame that the employee has to file that grievance, usually 5 business days after the altercation. This time frame allows the employee that is grieving an action or policy an opportunity to think through what is going on, and gives them time to contact the appropriate person or persons involved with the grievance procedure.
Once this grievance has been filed, the Labor Relations Specialist will present it to the appropriate authorities within the company, to try to work out the problem before it becomes a bigger issue. Usually, the Plant Manager and Human Resources are contacted, to give them the opportunity to address the issue at a lower level of concern. If this does not handle the problem, then the grievance procedure continues to a meeting with the Labor Relations Manager in order to solve the issue. This gives both parties an opportunity to work on a resolution in order to bring harmony to the situation.
If this does not address the issue, or if the issue involves more than one person, and arbitrator is brought in to help mediate, and this becomes a 3rd step meeting, that goes on permanent record. This can be done on the company premises or at the Arbitrators office, whichever is easier for both parties involved. The Labor Relations Specialist will assist by gathering evidence for both parties, so that a fair and equitable decision can be made. Helping to mediate in order to help reconcile differences between an employee and their employer is an important part of the Labor Relations Specialist daily duties and should not be taken lightly.
Policy is important to any business, and a good Labor Relations Specialist must be able to write effective policies on a variety of subjects, including attendance, health and safety. Knowing how to do this well helps to keep misunderstandings to a minimum, because there will be no gray areas for people to make a mistake in.
Being able to write good policy can be even more important when it comes to companies that have more than one Union under the same roof. This is because the negotiations may be different for each on many different things, and it is the responsibility of the Labor Relations Specialist to not only write the policy, but to understand it, so that they can work with more than one group at a time, and know what is expected according to the contract that each person is a part of, and the effect it may have on each different contract, and employee.
While company policies must be maintained properly, the Union Contract must also be followed in order for a harmonious working environment to continue. In order to keep this environment going on a regular basis, a Labor Relation Specialist must be able to monitor the day to day goings on in the company to ensure that the rules of the Union Contract are being followed by the management side of the company.
A Labor Relation Specialist must have the ability to produce and submit written reports of various types. These reports can range anywhere from reports due to Union officials, company reports on how well the union and company are cooperating together, or reports that are produced for governmental studies. These can also be reports that are mandated on the basis of Equal Opportunity Employment, new hire forms, and minority compensation forms. Knowing how to write these reports properly is critical.
Many Labor Relations Specialists have been called to testify in court hearings as expert witnesses related to labor relations or labor contracts. This can be the defining factor in a case whether or not an employee or employer wins, and what the court hands down as a verdict.
Common Issues Facing Labor Relation Specialists
One of the biggest issues that a company faces today is attendance. Companies today write policies about attendance in order to protect themselves from loss of profit. When people are absent, this cuts into profit, and so rules must be enforced pertaining to attendance. Most policies about attendance give a time frame that is acceptable for absenteeism, and once that time frame has been exceeded, disciplinary action must be taken.
The Labor Relation Specialist must be savvy to the attendance policy in order to be able to monitor the disciplinary action being taken, to ensure fairness. This can be a huge issue, because in Union positions, it has been usual practice that Union members will use their available time that they have to be absent. The problem with this lies in the fact that while most people keep track of their time off, in order to keep from being reprimanded, there will be those that go over the limit, and then face various different methods of discipline, up to, and including termination.
Discrimination is also a problem that faces many companies today. A labor relations specialist must be able to decipher whether or not there is a valid issue facing an employee, by investigation into the matter. They must be able to understand how to address the issue with management, should there really be an issue. This is imperative because the opportunity to sue a company for discrimination is very easy to do, but not always easy to win. This can cost a company so much financially that it could bankrupt the company trying to cover its legal fees.
Education and Training Requirements
There are different levels of labor relations specialists and different levels of education that someone interested in holding this position must consider before taking on this career. ???Most labor relations specialists are college graduates. Many of them have bachelors degrees in labor relations, personnel work, business administration, or liberal arts. Some have masters degrees in labor or industrial relations. Some kinds of jobs in labor relations require law degrees. It usually takes between four and seven years of full-time study beyond the high school level to complete the necessary training, depending on the degree and the kind of job. Some labor relations specialists start out in the larger field of personnel work and move into labor relations after gaining several years of experience.??? (Careers, 2013)
Once a degree is being obtained, it is a good idea to add to the degree by joining a professional association that caters to the Labor Relations Specialist. There are organizations out there that cater to the Human Resources part of the this position, such as the Society for Human Resource Management, and these groups often have student chapters that can be joined while still attending college.
Another way to help develop skills and experience is to take on an internship with a local company or government office. This can give real world experience to a student, that can then be transferred to a resume??™ as work experience. This may be something that can be acquired through the degree program.
???Obtaining certification in the area of human resources (HR) can show prospective employers that one has amassed a certain level of work experience and expertise in HR principles; some employers also request certification. The Society for Human Resource Management offers three levels of certification for both bachelors- and masters-educated HR professionals.
Many mid-range or upper tier labor relations positions require significant experience and graduate degrees. Masters degree programs in employment and labor relations emphasize coursework in conflict resolution, negotiations and labor law. Some companies also consider candidates with law degrees.??? (Education portal 2013)
The Labor Relations Specialist has many duties that are vital to keeping everyone happy in a company, whether they are the employer or the employee. These duties range from office work, to investigation of issues brought to their attention, to labor contract negotiations. Company policy is also important to the Labor Relations Specialist, as this is how companies maintain the status quo.
In order to perform this job successfully, a labor relations specialist must be educated, and have skills that require more than just an education, such as critical thinking and persuasion. These skills lay the groundwork for a happy experience from both ends of the spectrum in business. Having a working knowledge of how to acquire the skills necessary is a good start for someone considering this career.
There are many issues that face a Labor Relations Specialist today, and this is the reason that this profession has grown over the years. What once was something that could be handled in short order has now become something that must be addressed with the legal ramifications in mind.
http://www.negotiations.com/articles/negotiating-skills/ accessed 3/23/2013
Manning, G., the Art of Leadership, 3rd Edition, McGraw-Hill Learning Solutions, 2009.
http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/584/Labor-Relations-Specialist.html accessed 3/23/2013
http://education-portal.com/articles/Labor_Relations_Specialist_Career_Information_Becoming_a_Labor_Relations_Specialist.html accessed 3/23/2013