Newsletter #1 - HR & Labor Guru Inc.

I plan on publishing an occasional newsletter that talks briefly about current issues, hot topics and new products and services that our company is offering.  I am publishing this first newsletter as a blog post as well. If you are interested in receiving future editions, I encourage you to sign up for this newsletter on our website at  

Detroit 3 Automakers – UAW Negotiations

At this time, both GM and Ford have ratified agreements with the UAW.  FCA is currently in discussions with the UAW. The GM economic pattern is expected to disproportionately affect FCA in terms of incremental costs due to FCA’s higher percentage of In-Progression and temporary employees, so I anticipate that FCA will be looking for economic and/or operational offsets.  It will be interesting to see if the UAW will pressure FCA to modify certain economic elements of the contract in order to be more consistent with GM and Ford. Examples include annual lump sum bonuses, the profit-sharing formula and health care plan designs (FCA plans differ slightly between In-Progression and Traditional employees).  Finally, I would expect that the parties will have deeper discussions with respect to Job Security and Future Product Commitments as a result of the proposed merger with PSA.

CEO involvement in the Collective Bargaining Process

I was speaking about the GM-UAW Agreement at a conference recently and during Q&A one of the participants asked me what I thought about Mary Barra getting involved in the discussions with the UAW.  I had the feeling that the participant was thinking that it was a sign of weakness on the part of the VP-Labor Relations. I responded by saying that I think that it has the potential for being a win-win situation for both the VP-Labor Relations and the Senior Leadership of the union.  Firstly, I do not believe that CEO involvement undermines or minimizes the efforts of the VP-Labor Relations. It is an excellent opportunity for the CEO to get a first-hand look at just how difficult labor negotiations can be and should provide him or her with a much better sense of how dug-in unions can get on certain issues.  Secondly, from a union perspective, especially in the event that there are unmet union demands, the Senior Leadership can report back to their bargaining committee and membership that they presented their demands to the top of the house.

Excessive Absenteeism and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Abuse

Senior labor leaders continue to express frustration with respect to high absenteeism and FMLA abuse.  There are ways to identify suspected abuse and while there is no one single silver bullet to address high absenteeism, there are comprehensive approaches that work.  I strongly encourage anyone who is struggling with these issues to take a look at our HR Analytics – Part 2 Breaking the HR Analytics Paradigm on-demand webinar. The webinar illustrates ways to utilize simple analytics to identify problems, focus your efforts and offers practical, comprehensive countermeasures to address high absenteeism, including FMLA in the United States.

I recently posted an infographic that highlighted my Top 5 Strategies to Reduce FMLA Abuse as follows:

  • FMLA Leaves concurrent with Paid Time Off (PTO)
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Supervisor Access to Frequency and Duration data
  • Pay attention to Social Media
  • Challenge potential abuse

I believe that we may need to think about absenteeism differently in the future. We all have a choice – we can either continue to fight it (old school) or we can accept it and learn how to deal with it (new school).  Many people are openly critical about the overall work ethic of our younger generations (e.g., Millennials, Gen Z). I think that it is dangerous to broad-brush cohort groups like this and I believe that any employee, regardless of generation, would enjoy having some flexibility with respect to their work schedule.  I learned recently that, in an effort to reduce unplanned absenteeism, a fairly large U.S. corporation has created an App that allows employees to trade shifts with their colleagues. From what I understand, the results are great so far. This is an excellent example of how employers can accept the fact that employees today want more flexibility and are capable of designing innovative ways to deal with it.

Are you prepared for the next Economic Downturn?

Our economy has had a great run but it appears that now it is no longer a matter of if, but rather when, an economic downturn will arrive.  Therefore, now is the time to start proactively planning and strategizing for the inevitable. If you think that your company may be required to downsize, then anticipate potential actions and begin preparations.  Start off by running employee demographic statistics such as age and service grids. Ask yourself relevant questions - how many employees are retirement eligible? Should special attrition programs be offered? If so, what kind of take rates do you expect?  If you are in a position to identify likely scenarios, begin brainstorming ideas with your actuaries and finance teams. I have been involved in numerous restructuring actions and anything that you can do to anticipate actions and strategize in advance is extremely worthwhile. If you are not proactive, you risk getting a fire drill exercise from your CFO at 8 am looking for a labor strategy along with the employee cost impact of eliminating a shift in a facility by close of business, as an example.  That kind of fire drill is not only extremely stressful but it is risky in the sense that the analysis and recommendation delivered to the CFO is more than likely not the optimal solution.

Consulting and Training Services 

We have recently developed a one-day onsite Bargaining Preparation and Strategy Formulation session.  This interactive training session is designed to be delivered to your entire labor negotiations team through a mix of lecture, brainstorming and breakout sessions. This format encourages input from multiple bargaining stakeholders (e.g., compensation, benefits, operations), allowing the team to jointly develop the framework for a comprehensive bargaining strategy by the end of the session.  While the content of the session can be modified to meet specific client needs, the general approach and/or topics for discussion include the following:

  • Pre-session telephone interviews with 2-3 key labor leaders from your organization in order to help us to understand the overall bargaining environment and key issues and challenges
  • Bargaining Environment Assessment
  • Internal Governance Process
  • Communications Strategy
  • Union versus Company Bargaining Objectives
  • Labor Cost Reduction Opportunities (including both Compensation and Benefits)
  • High-level overview of Negotiations Costing Models
  • Bargaining Strategy Tools
  • Bargaining Strategy Formulation
  • Post-session Executive Summary of key takeaways

If you are interested, please contact me directly at for more details and pricing.  In addition, please check out our seven on-demand webinars plus I am available for consulting engagements either in-person or via conference call. 


I look forward to delivering our next newsletter.