Relationships by Objectives: The Experience at Petro-Canada

If Canadian industries are to compete successfully in the new economy, unions and management must move away from their traditional adversarial relationships. This study analyzes a conflict resolution method, known as Relationships by Objectives (RBO), that directs unions and management away from conflict and towards cooperation through joint problem solving. RBO was part of the Preventive Mediation Program provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labour beginning in 1978. Although the Ontario government repealed this program in 1995, it continued to be offered in several provinces in Canada, and in the United States.

This study discusses the rationale for such programs and provides a comprehensive view of the process involved in a RBO program. The second half of the study examines the impact of RBO on the union-management relationship between the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, Local 593, and Petro-Canada’s Lubricants Centre in Mississauga, focusing on the short- and long-term impacts of the program. This case study includes extensive interviews with members of management and the union. Various industrial relations and economic indicators are also used to judge the effectiveness of the RBO program in promoting industrial peace.

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Training in the Team-Based Organization

Team-based organizations are growing at a rapid pace. Recent research estimates that ’40 to 50 percent of the workforce could be in some kind of empowered work team environment by the turn of the century’ (Manz et al. 1997, 4). In addition, as global competition forces organizations to become more productive ‘there is growing consensus that training must be at the forefront of their attempts to do so’ (Martocchio and Baldwin 1997, 7). It has been suggested that the way forward for individuals, organizations and economies through all the changes and enormous skill gaps is through training (Bentley 1990, 7). It has been found that in successful team-based organizations, new team members or leaders spend 20 percent of their first year in the team involved in training activities (Fisher 1993; Wellins 1992).

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Team Training: A Brief Look at the Options

Training is increasingly being recognized as integral to the effectiveness and performance of teams and to the satisfaction of team members. While the methods of team training vary depending on the developmental stage of the team and the reason for the training, most team training falls within the following types: in-house, off-site, simulation/role playing, peer-to-peer, and multi-team training, as well as self-directed learning.

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Self-Directed Work Teams: A Brief Description

Faced with global competition and rapid technological change, companies are forced to develop new organizational structures to meet the challenges facing them. One alternative that has gained popularity in recent years is the team-based organization. While there are varying approaches to the designing of a team environment, one common approach is the self-directed work team (SDWT). The SDWT is responsible for a relatively whole task, not just part of a job, and each of the team members possesses a variety of skills relevant to that task. As a result, the SDWT has behavioural control and decision-making autonomy at the work group level (Manz 1992). This increase in autonomy, however, does not preclude the need for leadership and direction. Two very important roles in the SDWT are the team leader and the team facilitator.

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Labour Management Relations in Canada: A Survey of Union Officials

Although several recent articles have underscored the importance of human resource management (HRM), employee involvement (EI), and labour-management cooperation (LMC), there has been very little research addressing these topics from the perspective of organized labour. In my meetings with union officials and employees, questions that frequently arise include: What are other unions doing? To what extent are other unions adopting LMC? Can unions cooperate with employers yet still meet employee and union goals? What are the risks/rewards of moving toward greater cooperation with management?

The present study is aimed at providing some practical information about labour-management relations across the country.

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Strategic Human Resources Management: Challenges and Opportunities

In this interview, IRC Senior Research Associate Mary Lou Coates talks to Dr. David Weiss about the challenges and opportunities in strategic human resources management. Dr. David Weiss is a Partner in the international organizational change and human resources consulting firm of Geller, Shedletsky & Weiss and a Senior Fellow of the Queen’s University Industrial Relations Centre.

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Team Training: Does It Increase Satisfaction and Improve Performance?

In the global environment of increasing technological change, companies are looking for alternatives to traditional hierarchical organizational structures in order to maintain the competitive advantage that is necessary for their survival. Increasingly, they are turning to self-directed work teams in pursuit of high performance. But building team-based organizations requires challenging behavioural changes and a well-designed program that provides training not only in technical but also in personal skills. Based on her study of seven work teams in five Canadian organizations, the author provides detailed advice on how to design a training program that will succeed.

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Building a Foundation for Change: Why So Many Changes Fail and What to Do About It

A surprisingly high percentage of organizational changes are doomed to fail. According to recent surveys, reengineering efforts have about a 33 percent chance of success, mergers and acquisitions succeed 29 percent of the time, quality improvement efforts achieve their goals half the time, and new software applications hit the mark in less than 20 percent of the cases.

What often goes wrong: Bright people develop a plan that includes a sound business reason for the change. The objectives are clear. The plan includes time lines, bud­gets and staffing requirements. The plan seems on target. And, the plan is good — as far as it goes. But, it’s what is not in the plan that creates problems. What most plans lack are strategies for building sup­port for the change.

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Exploring Alternatives to Downsizing

Market pressures force organizations to change rapidly. Given this unrelenting pace, leaders find they no longer can mull over decisions before taking action. Organizations must be nimble in considering and acting on changing needs in staffing. Leaders must ask:

  • What mix of skills do we need today?
  • What skills are we likely to need in the future?
  • Do we have the right number of people employed today?
  • How will these numbers change in the future?
  • How do our staffing costs compare to others in out type of business?

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Whither the Trade Unions?

The trade union movement in Canada, as in many other industrial countries, is in the throes of change. Among other things, it is grappling with pressures stemming from the rapid pace of economic and technological change as well as shifts in business practices, employment patterns and social attitudes. This report briefly examines some of the challenges facing trade unions on the eve of the new millennium.

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