March Madness…What an Understatement!
Wow, what a month it has been! As you all know, Wisconsin has become a bit of a celebrity over the last couple of months as our labor relation issues have been plastered all over the national and local news. Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this platform to share my personal opinion on the whole matter (besides, who really cares what I think?!). I suspect that many of you, like myself, have had to bite your tongue a few times when engaging in conversations with family, neighbors, friends, and colleagues about these workplace concerns. As an HR Professional, you have first-hand knowledge on many of these issues and so can share a unique perspective…whether that is very well received or not is another story!
What I do think is relevant and worth pointing out is the critical role that we as Human Resource Professionals play in our own organizations, in dealing with many of the same issues that have been highlighted in this recent debate with our public sector employees and Governor Walker:
- The role of organized labor in general, especially in the difficult economy of today.
- How do we remain viable as organizations, as our employment related expenses continue to soar through the roof?
- The rising costs of employee benefits such as medical insurance and retirement plans, and how we design our cost-sharing formulas with employees.
- The dilemma of how to keep employees engaged at the same time wages and benefits are under fire.
- How do we lead employees through difficult times of change and maintain their motivation and morale?
- How we avoid the “us” against “them” mentality in our workplaces, so that management and employees can work together for the good of the organization?
These are all concerns that typically in the past were considered the domain of Human Resources, and therefore strictly an “HR issue” for those HR folks to figure out and solve. However, as this recent public debate has brought to light, these issues are not just HR issues. These issues impact us all, whether you are a private or public sector employee, whether you are pro-union or anti-union, and whether or not you are part of management or a rank-and-file employee. They impact everyone that holds a job, everyone that expects any type of government service (I don’t know about you, but I kind of like my streets plowed and police protection in a moment’s notice!), everyone who pays taxes, everyone who sends their child to a public school, everyone that needs to hire employees for their workplace, and anyone who has any type of stock or bond investments…in short, these concerns impact us all!
So whatever side of the debate you stand on, hold your head high that you as an HR Professional will play a key role in the ongoing discussions within your organizations as we work through these very challenging times!
Linda Johanek, SPHR
GB Area Chapter SHRM President