Friday, December 11, 2015

Employee Participation, Fulfillment, Board Retreat

Battling yucky health, I attended the WSM Board Meeting this past Wednesday evening. Notwithstanding how I felt, I was not going to let them remove any worker rights, without having to look me in the eye as they did so.

You will shortly be hearing that things went quite well. Our appeals to have the precise wording on employee participation in decision-making retained in 'Treatment of Staff' didn't succeed.

But. After vigorous interventions by Worker-Owner Director Jon McDonald and by Ruffin. The Board made quite clear that they would be reconsidering the Ends statement at their January Retreat. With a view to including wording in that Ends about employee participation in decision-making and fulfilling worker and consumer experiences.

Continuing to beat my drum about policy wording meaning nothing if it is not implemented, I have written further to the Board, in advance of their January Retreat:

"Dear Board,

I would be grateful if this e-mail could be forwarded to all Board Members before the January Retreat.

I enjoyed my visit this past Wednesday to the Board Meeting. I look forward to hearing what decisions are made following consideration by you at your January Retreat of inclusion within Ends of employee participation in decision-making within WSM, and a statement about fulfilling worker and consumer experience.

At the same time as you consider the wording, I would be grateful if you would spend time working out how compliance would look. For example, and you know I have been raising this a lot, it's all very well stating that we want employee participation in decision-making. I would repeat that we already have that Board Policy, even if it was badly worded. But it matters nothing if it isn't happening.

And when employees can turn around and say, gee, we just made a decision to double the size of the hot bars, but we weren't included; gee, we just decided to spend half a million dollars on refurbishing the SV store, but we weren't included in that decision; we're not included in decisions setting the sales per labor hour figures, or how much of the profit to set aside for pay rises and dividends, if employees can say this - and they do - then the policy of participation (wherever it may be found) is not happening.

Employee participation in decision-making on a regular and meaningful basis, and one which does not upend normal operations, is only going to occur if there are systems and processes in place to allow for efficient employee consultation. Those systems and processes do not currently exist. It's all ad hoc.

In my opinion, whatever you decide during your January Retreat will only mean anything if it is accompanied by plans to hold a full consultation exercise on how to implement it, or perhaps, by the formation of a Board Task Force to consider the same.

Good luck.

All the best,

[You may well wonder why I attach a photo of the Monty Python crew. A little known fact about them is that, during the Seventies, in addition to their comedy program, they (well, specifically John Cleese) produced an endless stream of hilarious business training videos.]