How to Pick a Labor Consultant Firm

When a company encounters union organizing it usually has to make many decisions in a short period of time. It can be a dizzying experience. There is a steep learning curve and a short timetable. This article should you navigate through the process of selecting a labor consulting or labor persuading firm.

While there is overlap in styles, there are essentially four types of labor firms in the business today.

First, there are the Traditionalists.  These are the firms or consultants who have left the firms that have been around for a long time.  Their approach to running campaigns has remained largely the same, as it was in the 1970’s.  They come in with a campaign calendar that is standard and are very reluctant to deviate from that plan.  Many times, they discourage input from their clients and portray themselves as the people with all of the answers. Traditionalists are often effective at easier campaigns, but struggle with more difficult campaigns, as they are limited in their ability to adapt to issues that are outside or their comfort zone.

Next, are the Cowboys. Cowboys rely largely on the strength of their personalities.  They often eschew structure and are highly flexible in their interactions with line employees.  Like Traditionalists, they often demand control and dislike participation and direction from the client. Cowboys struggle with corporate politics within larger complex organizations.  Their demanding style often alienates supervisors, managers and executive leadership.  Cowboys see involvement as getting in their way.

Then there are the Campers.  Campers seek to ensconse themselves in organizations for months or years.  They often layer their campaigns with “consultants” and “persuaders.”  Since all experienced “persuaders” are also “consultants” this mostly allows those firms to increase their billing to their clients for the work that is being done. Campaigns do not need consultants and persuaders.  A good persuader can do both. Campers often extend their stay long after they are needed, as a preventative insurance measure, when their time would be better spent preparing the clients’ leadership to take on the role they are playing as a consultant. Any effective campaign should seek to reunite the leadership with the workforce without a long-term consultant intervention.

An Ideal union-avoidance labor firm should start with a traditionalist’s campaign calendar.  They should partner with the client to determine if there are additional messages that need to be communicated to employees to help the employees make an informed decision.  Depending on the situation, those messages can be communicated through the persuader or by the clients’ leadership.

In addition, the consultant should communicate the root causes of the organizing and where legally permissible, begin to address those concerns early in the process.  In addition, the Ideal firm should work jointly with the client, in order to determine both short-term and long-term solutions, to stop the immediate threat, and to set the organization up for long term success, as well. Once complete, they should leave the organization.

This identification of short-term and long-term solutions is where the Traditionalist and Cowboys fall short and sets the Ideal labor firm in a class of their own.