Labor & Employee Relations

In today's political environment, change is the only certainty. How are you preparing? What steps are you taking to build a strong workforce?

At IRI, we understand that in every institution it's the people who drive the results. We know that successful organizations have a direct, positive relationship with employees. And the most successful organizations are those that encourage open communications, an engaged workforce and a productive culture.

IRI's Labor and Employee Relations services help you promote positive employee relations while navigating a rapidly changing labor landscape. As your partner and resource, IRI helps you identify the areas in your organization that need development. Our experts work with you to build strategies, implement solutions, and achieve measurable results. We use a broad-based, holistic approach that extends beyond traditional labor relations consulting to provide a full range of tools to help you build and maintain a strong, constructive relationship with your employees.

If you're operating in a unionized environment, you need the right tools to manage your workforce while remaining agile and cost competitive. Conducting labor negotiations and crafting contracts that balance organizational imperatives and employee interests requires experience, intelligence and skill. IRI brings the right tools and resources to the table to help you manage effectively in any situation.

With a deep reservoir of experience, resources and tools, IRI will help you navigate any aspect of labor and employee relations. To learn more about our services click an item in the list below.

Contract Administration

High-performing organizations make the best use of their human, physical and financial resources. In non-union workplaces, that can be challenging.

We help clients equip supervisors and structure work systems and policies to operate effectively under labor contracts by understanding the rights, responsibilities, constraints and opportunities in those contracts. Properly constructed, labor contracts should give managers wide latitude in assigning work, communicating with employees and maintaining a positive work environment. But much depends on your ability to administer your union contracts efficiently and effectively.

The efficient administration of contracts is even more important in organizations:

  • With several different bargaining units
  • With multiple unions representing employees on the property
  • Considering a merger, sale or any significant strategic change that will affect staffing and work conditions

IRI's contract administration services help organizations optimize productivity to the full extent permitted by collective bargaining agreements, and avoid grievances and unfair labor practices, which put a tremendous strain on an organization's resources and negatively affect employee morale.

For more information about Contract Administration, contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.


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Dispute Resolution

There is no perfect contract, no labor agreement that can prevent differences in interpretation, grievances and disputes. One key role of strategic contract administration is to structure a process by which disputes are managed fairly, efficiently and promptly.

Based on the unique structure of your workforce and collective bargaining agreements, our consultants can help you identify contract areas and situations most vulnerable to dispute, as well as explore alternative dispute resolution procedures that minimize work disruptions and expensive arbitration or litigation.

Dispute resolution procedures are also important in non-union workplaces, where a mechanism that gives employees a fair hearing and a voice in workplace disputes will go far to ensure positive workplace relations.

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Employee Surveys and Assessments

Frequent and accurate assessments of employee opinions and satisfaction are critical to maintaining a healthy workplace and minimizing labor disruptions.

Our best-in-class workplace diagnostic tools have helped hundreds of organizations make measurable improvements by identifying and ranking issues that affect employee performance, morale and productivity.

Unlike typical survey methodologies that rank responders’ comments on a simple scale, IRI employee surveys and focus groups provide you the ability to not only identify issues that drive employee satisfaction, but also identify why those issues have surfaced and how embedded they are in the culture.

As part of our survey and assessment process, we also help clients with key issues relating to communicating results to managers and employees, to help employers get the maximum value and impact from the information they’ve gleaned.

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Legislative and Regulatory Compliance

Working in tandem with your legal counsel, IRI consultants conduct proprietary training programs and techniques to help you build a corps of managers, supervisors and organizational leaders who understand the complexities of labor law and ensure your organization is in compliance.

Labor Law Compliance product sheet

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Manager Training

Supervising under a collective bargaining agreement poses challenges unique to unionized workplaces. To manage effectively, supervisors must understand their rights and responsibilities in their work with represented employees.

Union business and procedures add a significant layer of complexity and challenge to the workplace, with the added costs and burdens of collective bargaining, contract administration, grievances and potential work actions. Therefore, the key to best-practice management is the ability to maintain a clear focus on organizational performance.

Unions routinely train stewards to leverage work rules and legal processes to aggressively represent their members. Your goal is to make sure that supervisors are similarly equipped with a full understanding of the contracts, and the considerations that will allow you to maximize organizational performance and maintain positive employee relations. Targeted training helps managers to not only be more effective in their jobs, but also enlists them as proponents and advocates of the company’s vision and strategic goals.

In addition, supervisors in unionized workplaces must have a baseline knowledge of the National Labor Relations Act and the “Do’s & Don’ts” of managing in a union environment in order to ensure full compliance with labor laws and avoid grievances and unfair labor practices.

Our training and workshops focus on real-world workplace issues, including:

  • The rights of union stewards to attend employee meetings
  • The role of “past practice” in creating precedence that supervisors must follow
  • When employee complaints can be resolved outside the grievance process
  • How to maintain flexibility and productivity when contracts limit an employee’s scope of work

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Negotiations Support and Research

With the right approach, collective bargaining can be a genuine opportunity for an organization to address industry challenges, competitive threats and operational goals.

Because of the operational and financial importance of negotiating an effective contract, we believe that bargaining should command the attention not only of an organization's employee relations or human resources departments, but its senior leadership and executive teams as well.

Moreover, in an era of fast and easy communications and skilled union communicators, it is increasingly likely that the issues that arise at the bargaining table and the rhetoric that accompanies negotiations will travel far beyond the walls of your company and into the public domain. This means that the tone and tenor of your labor relations has a direct and potentially significant impact on your reputation and employee morale.

IRI Consultants works with clients to establish effective negotiating strategies and improve employee relations. Our work helps clients craft a multi-pronged approach to negotiations with a focus on:

  • Aligning labor contracts with operational performance
  • Building management cohesion and confidence
  • Effective problem-solving and interest-based bargaining
  • Coordinating employee and stakeholder communications to support the negotiating strategy

Union leaders increasingly are skilled and strategic in making use of the media and allies at other union shops in order to "make an example" of employers during contract talks, and to promote agendas that are often far broader than the contract issues at hand. In modern-day contract negotiations, both sides often "bargain over how to bargain," craft complex communications protocols, and involve mediators and facilitators. Some unions use contract negotiations as a platform to carry their message to other workplaces they'd like to organize.

IRI's approach relies on research, training and the development of an effective labor relations team to direct the bargaining process. We guide clients through creating negotiations strategies that support organizational goals, as well as helping them explore the costs, timing and possible outcomes of different approaches.

Preparation and training are the most critical keys to establishing effective employee relations. Our negotiations services will guide your efforts to:

  • Prepare the committee to bargain effectively
  • Establish effective negotiations protocols
  • Identify alternative approaches to conflict resolution
  • Evaluate and cost out proposals
  • Anticipate the risks and likelihood of protests and work stoppages
  • Establish appropriate contingency plans
  • Achieve settlement and ratification

Also key to this process is helping clients educate their workforce and outside constituencies on business realities, in order to help them understand the company's challenges and objectives in crafting a contract that will serve the best interest of the organization and its employees.

Finally, clients have access to IRI's extensive database and library of collective bargaining agreements and union backgrounders, as well as our research service that provides custom reports on union leadership and finances, contracts, negotiations history and NLRB filings.

Through our library, clients also have access to exclusive reports detailing recent bargaining trends, settlements, organizing efforts, alliances and insider information that's valuable to organizations preparing for contract negotiations or facing a corporate campaign.

For more information about Negotiations Support and Research, contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.

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Employee Advisory Groups

Employee Input

Great managers are wired into employees’ views and voices as a way to get feedback, communicate vision and values, and establish goals.

One of the most effective workplace tools to promote engagement and manage difficult issues, Employee Advisory Groups (EAGs) can be used in any organization to provide focused, non-binding employee input, helping to guide organizational decision making and improve problem solving.

As forums for employees to voice concerns or issues that affect them in their workplace, EAGs help management understand employee concerns, solicit ideas and input, anticipate and understand the effect of management’s decisions on employees and learn how to communicate more effectively with employees.

Through this effort, EAGs also serve as channels for communication up, down and across the organization and allow management to address the issues and dissatisfiers affecting employees.

How it Works

An EAG is an employee team assembled to provide insight and perspectives in any department or on any issue facing an organization – whether a merger, downsizing, labor relations issues or implementing new programs and policies. The process is both flexible and creative; EAGs can be established to address only those issues where management wants input, with the group’s charter and scope limited to certain topics, or the issues addressed can be more employee-driven.

An EAG is not intended to replace existing structures to solicit employee input, only to enhance the overall level of employee engagement throughout

the organization. With an EAG, employees work in partnership with management to continuously improve the work environment.


Employee Advisory Groups strengthen the workplace by:

  • Improving two-way communication about issues on decisions that affect staff and the overall efficiency of the organization
  • Gaining recognition and resolution for employee concerns
  • Increasing employee involvement and commitment to organizational goals
  • Soliciting staff input on overall organizational direction and human resource policies
  • Boosting overall employee satisfaction and organization performance

EAGs can be used to build better workplaces, including employee recognition and involvement, job enrichment and education, communication, quality enhancement and organizational performance.

IRI Consultants’ field-tested methods for setting up and sustaining an Employee Advisory Group make EAG implementation quick, simple and effective.

For more information about Employee Advisory Groups contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.

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Fastrack Teams

Rapid Resolution

In most organizations, change comes only with difficulty and a long road to adoption. Employee surveys, intervention programs and other organizational development tools take time to research and implement. Yet in many cases, a performance issue or operational adjustment requires immediate attention and action.

Fastrack Teamssm is a rapid resolution process that provides measurement-driven results in a compressed time frame and within a clearly delineated budget. Fastrack Teamssm offers a powerful change process that examines a specific, urgent issue and helps organizations implement timely corrective action.

The key ingredient in the process is tapping into the right people in the organization who can assess the situation, explore the issues and implement solutions quickly and effectively.

Why Use Fastrack Teamssm?

Fastrack Teamssm is the ideal intervention process to:

  • Solve persistent problems
  • Reduce staff anxiety and dissatisfaction
  • Assemble productive, goal-oriented teams
  • Achieve measurement-driven results in a condensed timeframe

What to Expect

Fastrack Teamssm provides immediate results, allowing organizations to make a high-level commitment to action and involve and engage employees along the way – one of the most effective ways to ensure employee buy-in and improve results. The process is appropriate for small groups of 8 to 12 members, including managers and employees.

Fastrack Teamssm works best when it is sponsored by leaders with the authority to provide resources and remove existing barriers. Members are selected by their role in the organization, their formal or informal power and influence and their ability to make decisions. The group is charged with the task of reviewing a problem and implementing a solution that will enhance the performance of the organization. This empowers the members to create a “must solve” mandate and integrate solutions into their ongoing operations and communicate the change and results.

For more information about Fastrack Teamssm contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.

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Labor Law Compliance

Effective management training is a cornerstone for organizations working to create a comprehensive labor readiness strategy.

IRI Consultants works with clients to train managers and supervisors to identify signs of union organizing and understand their responsibilities to comply with the restrictions and requirements of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Our training programs are based on our belief that leaders learn best by doing; interactive sessions are part of a comprehensive curriculum designed to meet the specific needs of clients based on the organization’s vulnerabilities and culture.

Training, offered in half-day or full-day sessions, typically include role-playing exercises, small group discussions, a mock union organizing meeting and issue identification exercises. Custom programs also provide in-depth training on federal labor law and educate supervisors about the tactics and techniques unions use in organizing campaigns.

A typical one-day program includes:

  • How to educate employees about union card-signing campaigns
  • Early signs of union activity
  • How unions organize
  • Why employees seek unions
  • Profiles about unions active in your industry
  • How a union contract impacts a supervisor’s role
  • Inside a union organizing meeting and union persuader activities
  • Free speech rights of management during the organizing drive
  • How to eliminate and avoid unfair labor practices
  • A supervisor’s key role in small group meetings and one-on-one discussions
  • How to communicate effectively with employees
  • Building a foundation for positive employee relations

Through programs that simulate a typical union organizing meeting, participants get a realistic look at the approach and messages unions use to influence employees and recruit members.

The program also incorporates simulations and role-plays to illustrate best practices managing in a union environment, reinforcing the burdens on management and importance of legal compliance and positive employee relations.

As unions become more sophisticated in their organizing tactics, organizations must be trained and prepared to respond quickly, correctly and successfully. Supervisors and managers are a critical component of a readiness strategy. An investment in training managers is an investment in the organization’s success.

For more information about Labor Law Compliance contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.

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Positive Employee Relations Audit (PERA)

Positive employee relations create a competitive advantage in the marketplace by promoting employee retention and improving organizational performance.

IRI Consultants' Positive Employee Relations Audit (PERA) was developed over several years based upon our work in labor relations. Grounded in the premise that positive employee relationships can reduce employee dissatisfaction and increase organizational effectiveness, the PERA process gauges clients' strengths and liabilities with regard to employee turnover, performance, work attitudes, absenteeism and union organizing efforts.

At its most basic level, the PERA provides an efficient and dynamic organizational "gap analysis" to evaluate and diagnose the strength of a company's employee relations culture and systems. PERA can be administered over the course of three to four weeks, depending upon the size of the organization, its number of functions, hours of operation and the level of client support.

The PERA Process

PERA produces a snapshot of specific organizational components and compares them to best practices and structures that help develop and maintain positive employee relationships. Where possible, the system also produces metrics to monitor and manage systems that produce quality employee relationships.

PERA looks specifically at human resources policies and practices, compensation and benefits, management development, working conditions and organizational communications in producing results.

The PERA snapshot is then carefully assembled using a comprehensive range of data and information, including the following:

  • Management interviews
  • Document review
  • Evaluation of organizational measurements, including employee turnover, management training levels and benefit utilization
  • Analysis of organizational communications
  • Union organizing vulnerability
  • Employee perceptions

The Assessment

PERA findings provide a thorough evaluation and report based on the strength of employee relations, looking at interrelationships in the organization and identifying opportunities for improvement. The report also includes a timeline, communication plan and, where possible, metrics for ongoing monitoring and review of the employee relations support systems.

For more information about Positive Employee Relations Audit contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.

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Supervisory Status Analysis

Careful preparation is critical to a successful strategy to counter a union organizing campaign. In light of recent National Labor Relations Board decisions, likely passage of the “RESPECT Act” and a clear trend toward expedited union elections, early preparation is now more important than ever.

IRI’s Supervisory Status Analysis is a proactive determination of which employees would be classified as a “supervisor,” and an essential part of an organization’s comprehensive labor preparedness program.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) defines a "supervisor" as an employee with the authority to "hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or to responsibly direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action." These criteria apply if a supervisor’s authority requires the use of "independent judgment.”

The NLRB’s Kentucky River and Oakwood decisions clarified the definition of “supervisor.” But a more dramatic shift will be passage of the union-backed RESPECT Act (Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers). This bill would limit which workers can be classified as supervisors and therefore ineligible as union members under a collective bargaining agreement.

Through the RESPECT Act and other challenges to current law, labor’s goal is to strictly narrow the definition of “supervisor” in order to expand the pool of employees eligible to vote in a union representation election.

Our Supervisory Status Analysis is a process in which we work closely with Human Resources to review written job descriptions and responsibilities to ensure that supervisory duties are clearly and adequately defined to comply with NLRB guidelines. The analysis then goes beyond the HR manual and job description, using interviews to identify what an employee in a particular position actually does and the work they perform in that role.

As part of this Supervisory Status Analysis, IRI structures and conducts supervisor interviews – or, alternately, trains clients’ HR professionals in the process -- to review the full range of their responsibilities, document their authorities that qualify under NLRA criteria for a “supervisor,” and establish their use of independent judgment.

These interviews are designed to document each supervisor’s:

  • Hours
  • Compensation
  • Position in the staffing structure
  • Number of direct reports
  • Job responsibilities
  • Accountability
  • Autonomy
  • Acting authority
  • Disciplinary authority
  • Managerial duties

We then provide an analysis based on past cases, legal precedent and past union challenges to determine how a hospital can build the strongest case and protect the supervisory status of its key managerial employees.

Building a Foundation for a Strong Case

The Supervisory Status Analysis lays important groundwork for any organization facing a potential union organizing campaign, either in preparation for an NLRB hearing under current law, or the kind of rapid-fire campaign and voting process that might be the standard if labor law is changed, as expected, to include provisions for expedited elections. Additionally, the process presents organizations with what may be a limited opportunity before the law changes to strengthen job descriptions and duties for supervisors and train them as valuable members of the management team.

For more information about Supervisory Status Analysis, contact IRI Consultants at or by calling (313) 965-0350.

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