Monday, November 17, 2014

Including Employees In Decision-Making - Response From HR Manager

We make progress. By stages. The WSM HR Manager has replied to my Formal Complaint that WSM management are in breach of WSM Board Policy for not allowing WSM employees to participate in decision-making.

Bottom line. She concedes that the Policy and its application (or non-application) needs reviewing. After that, her response is a bit of a mixed bag.

I can't copy her response, because the WSM corporate office no longer send me digital information. For reasons which ought to be self-evident! I can, however, copy my reply to her. The campaign continues!:

"Board Policy – Treatment of Staff states: “The General Manager may not … for paid staff, cause or allow a decision-making standard that is not transparent or does not allow for opportunity [for paid WSM employees] to participate in decisions or shape the guidelines for decisions.” 

In 2007, a consultation exercise was undertaken which defined those areas where WSM management are duty bound to conduct a process that includes employees in the making of decisions. Those areas are: Personnel Policy, Workplace Environment, Pay and Benefits, and Department Strategy/Focus.


I refer to the response from the WSM Human Resources Manager to my original Formal Complaint. I reply following her progression.

Date for Pay Raises:

I repeat the above Board Policy for clarity. The HR Manager first refers to my request for the 2014 employee pay raise to be backdated to the first pay day in September, stating that this was the norm for the previous three years (with which she agrees), and that WSM management are in breach of WSM Board Policy for not including WSM employees in the decision not to follow the protocol of the previous three years (with which she disagrees).

The HR Manager offers reasons why the decision to backdate only to the second pay date in September was made by WSM management. The reasons are immaterial. The point is that, in contravention of the above WSM Board Policy, employees were not allowed the opportunity to participate in this decision. Therefore, the decision was made in breach of WSM Board Policy.

The HR Manager states that there are ample opportunities for employees to engage in feedback on other decisions. Feedback is not participation in decisions, unless the final decision demonstrably includes the feedback. Moreover, on this occasion there was not even the opportunity for feedback. And the above Board Policy does not say you get a Get Out Of Jail Free card if you allow participation in some decisions, but not others.

The HR Manager continues by saying, “… it is neither reasonable nor practical to go through a lengthy process for each [financial adjustment].” Which is precisely why the consultation exercise mentioned above occurred in 2007. Fully to define when the “lengthy process” should occur. One of the areas was Pay and Benefits. This was a decision about Pay and Benefits. It may be annoying to consult employees. But that does not detract from the fact that it is WSM Board Policy so to do.

I continue to maintain that the decision on back pay was made in breach of the above WSM Board Policy. However, I am a realist. I do not expect WSM management to change its mind. I am much more concerned with the other two, substantially more important, issues that I raised in my Formal Complaint.

Budget Process:

I referred in my Formal Complaint to the requirement to allow WSM employees the opportunity to participate in the decisions that will set the next WSM Budget. The HR Manager refers to her and the General Manager reviewing my request for more clarity on decision-making. She says that will likely start within the next three months.

My concern is that (1) she makes no reference to the Budget Process in her response to my Complaint, and (2) the WSM Budget Process may have concluded within the next three months.

I, therefore, wish confirmation from the HR Manager, as I requested in my original Complaint, that the General Manager will immediately communicate with WSM employees how he will be allowing WSM employees to shape the process by which those employees will be allowed to participate in the decisions setting the next WSM Budget, so that he and WSM management are in compliance with the above WSM Board Policy.

Participation in Decision-Making:

I am grateful that the HR Manager concedes that there is need for more clarity on WSM decision-making.

However, she says that the answer is for her and the General Manager to review such decision-making in their annual review of WSM Employee Policy.

The Policy in question is not WSM Employee Policy. It is WSM Board Policy. Only the Board may review the Policy.

That Board Policy was produced as a consequence of consultation with the co-op at large. I do not expect the Board to review it without the widest possible consultation with the co-op, not least its employees.

The consultation exercise of 2007 was overseen by WSM management, not the Board. It produced clarity on the what of the Board Policy, rather than the how.

I have now suggested a similar consultation exercise to clarify that how. In other words, how the Board Policy can be implemented on a regular basis, so as to meet the requirements of Board Policy, in a manner which interferes with the day-to-day operations of WSM as little as possible.

What such an exercise would amount to is WSM employees shaping the guidelines for implementing the Board Policy allowing them to participate in decision-making. And this is correct. For it is what that Board Policy demands. That WSM employees shape the guidelines; not just management.

So. The HR Manager and the General Manager may not review Board Policy. But they can begin the process of reviewing the results of the 2007 consultation exercise. However. They may not conduct that review on their own. In order to be in compliance with WSM Board Policy, they must craft a process of review that allows WSM employees to shape the guidelines for inclusion in decision-making. That is a huge difference, and I believe it goes to the heart of WSM management’s misunderstanding of this Board Policy.

It is not enough that WSM management make best efforts to include employees in providing some feedback on the occasional decision.

It is the requirement of WSM Board Policy that WSM management allow WSM employees the opportunity to participate in decision-making. Period.

An exercise was held in 2007 in compliance with Board Policy, namely to allow WSM employees to shape the guidelines for decision-making.

If WSM management wish to review the results of that exercise, they must ask WSM employees for their permission to review and change the results of that 2007 consultation exercise. WSM management may not review unilaterally.

If WSM management do craft a process to allow WSM employees to shape new or clarified guidelines for their inclusion in decision-making, then such a process, to be in compliance with Board Policy, must allow WSM employees to shape those guidelines. Not to offer feedback. Not to comment. But actually themselves to shape those guidelines. WSM management present the process, get input, implement the input. Period. Otherwise, WSM management is in breach of this Board Policy.

We all appear to agree that there should be clarity on decision-making. So, in accordance with all the above-stated, and with what the HR Manager said in her response to my Formal Complaint, I look forward to the General Manager announcing, “within the next three months,” the process for allowing WSM employees to shape the guidelines to implement the WSM Board Policy demanding that WSM employees be allowed to participate in decision-making."

[As usual, these are my opinions, no-one else's, not Charlie Chaplin's, not Santa's, I do believe in Santa, I don't care what your ten year old kid says, he lives at the North Pole, Santa, not your ten year old kid, I also believe in co-op's, I believe in WSM, I don't believe we should build more stores though, because then we're a chain store, not a community co-op, but that is only my view, unless we build one at the North Pole, in which case, first dibs on Hot Bar cook.]