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The Future of Employee Relations

  • June 6, 2017

At the CUE Spring 2017 Conference, we were treated to a presentation by Ricky Turner, Senior Director of Employee Experience at Whirlpool. How does an organization with 30,000 employees create an engaging employee experience?

As a consumer product manufacturer, Whirlpool has a team of experts who know how to market to customers. They understand how to drive emotional connections between their products and consumers. With over 85,000 followers on their KitchenAidUSA Twitter account, they have built a loyal and enthusiastic customer base.

Ricky leveraged this expertise to create similar emotional connections between the company and its employee base.


Get to Know Your People Better

The Whirlpool Marketing Department has a wealth of data points about their target customer base. Whirlpool’s peak sales season is June through August, because families begin to prepare for holiday gatherings over the summer. Outside of that season, buyers are usually in distress when they buy their products because it means that an appliance is broken.

The company performed extensive research to understand exactly how the customer feels in that moment of distress. They also take advantage of the vast amount of customer data that is publicly available. For example, data can be distilled into trends within a zip code that show average household size, types of magazines read, TV shows watched, typical vacation destinations, and home debt. As consumers, we trigger that information and data collection when we sign up for online services and apps.

Organizations collect a lot of data on their employees. We can watch their badge swipes to tell us when they arrive, take lunch, go to the gym, and how they move through our facilities. But we don’t always use that data. Given the tight job market, Ricky knew that he had to understand how to sell jobs at Whirlpool as well as – or better — than they can sell stand mixers.

Ricky realized that the HR Department could collect similar data points about their employees through:

This moment would not be possible without a KitchenAid stand mixer.

  • Engagement surveys
  • Pulse surveys
  • Interviews (Exit, 90-day New Hire, and Leader)
  • External market data from demographers and ethnographers

Most HR practitioners believe that we should treat our employees the way we treat our customers. Ricky took this to heart and began to analyze data from Whirlpool employees as if they were customers. Just like marketers, you can take that data and transform it into a few personas that represent your average employee.


Travel Your Employee’s Path

Take a moment and think about the best gift that you’ve ever received. It was probably very thoughtful, but most of all it was personal. The person who bought it for you knew enough about your style, taste, and needs to get you the perfect object. How did they know what to buy? They listened for understanding, and used empathy.

If you’ve ever chaired employee focus groups, you probably know that the first 20 minutes are gripes. Be patient, and then you’ll get to the good stuff. This is when the conversations get more emotional, and it becomes more about their friends at work than personal gain.

So, the next time you’re talking to your employees, make sure you take the time to listen to:

  • Understand their hopes and dreams…and fears
  • Why this job is important to them
  • How they see themselves in the world

At Whirlpool, employees are encouraged to bring their whole, authentic self to work every day. This allows the company to get the best ideas from their employees since they’re not afraid to be themselves.


Take a Fresh Look at Processes

If you’ve ever done global process mapping, you know it’s important to engage all stakeholders in the process to have a successful outcome. People can get territorial about their existing systems and processes, so it’s important to get buy-in and consider processes from all angles.

Think about the first contact an applicant has with your application process. Is it a compelling and engaging experience? What does it say about what it will be like to work for your company?

Whirlpool has a large field employee population, and those employees tend to be production workers. However, the Whirlpool applicant tracking system (ATS) was designed for exempt employees. As with most companies, Whirlpool made a significant investment in the ATS and HR was reluctant to change it.

Many of the applicants for field positions don’t have resumes or computers, so it was difficult for them to apply for jobs. Through process mapping, the HR and operations team realized that the ATS was fine for corporate, but didn’t work for the field, so they created a new process for field applicants.

So, the next time you think about your processes, make it personal. Ask yourself “Based on what we know and believe about our employees, does this process create a compelling and engaging experience for this employee?”


Change the Process

At Whirlpool, Ricky urges his colleagues to think about how process changes will impact the culture, environment, and available tools. He applies design thinking and empathy since he executes projects with the end user in mind.

Ricky tells a story about a hospital CEO who wanted all of the nurses to have iPads. After a significant investment, the iPads were deployed. But they weren’t used because the nurses didn’t have a place to put when they were working with, and touching, their patients. Just like the ATS example, this was a process that was built for someone other than the end user.

Change management is always hard, especially with HR processes that people are invested in. For example, Ricky is working hard to change the way Whirlpool thinks about its job posting process. Right now, managers get to review the performance scores of the top candidates for internal promotions and transfers. Managers get to know everything about their potential employees.

Yet, employees know very little about their new prospective manager when they apply for promotions and transfers.

Why not change this paradigm, and also post the manager’s effectiveness score on the job posting? This would add a layer of transparency to the process, so employees could better understand the type of leader that they might be working for.



Change is hard, and it takes time and empathy. There are many HR trends that are popular right now. There’s also a ton of data available to explore. Focus on your top three priorities, and invest in your employees’ experience. Some people may call this “HR Math” since it’s hard to calculate the ROI, but you can’t put a price on empathy that promotes positive employee relations. 

Ricky Turner is the Senior Director of Employee Experience at Whirlpool Corporation, where he leads an outstanding team. Ricky and his team are responsible for ensuring that the relationship between Whirlpool and its employees is durable, productive and engaging. He oversees Policy Development, Employee Investigations and Litigation and Governmental Compliance Reporting. His team also supports Performance Management and Leadership Development. Ricky holds a JD from Rutgers University and a BS from Tuskegee University. Originally from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Ricky resides in Chicago and is married to his smoking hot wife, Gwendolyn. They have two energetic and charismatic little boys: Asa James is 7 and Beau Hendrix is 4.


Guest blogger Liz D’Aloia founded HR Virtuoso to help companies optimize their employment application processes. HR Virtuoso creates customized, company-branded short form employment applications that work on any mobile device. This allows companies to get far more applications, and also keep their existing applicant tracking system. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso, Liz rose through the ranks of transportation, retail, and mortgage companies as a Senior Employment Attorney and VP of HR. Liz is a nationally recognized blogger, speaker, and HR practitioner. Liz tries to spend as much time as possible creating new sweet treats with her KitchenAid stand mixer. Her signature cookie is the Thin Mint, but you’ll have to contact her at liz@hrvirtuoso.com to discover her secret ingredients.


Local Legislation to Watch

  • May 12, 2017


It’s critical to keep up with local legislation.

President Trump can influence, but certainly can’t control, issues and legislation at the state and local level.  Local issues rose in importance during the Obama administration, when gridlock in Washington forced states and cities to address minimum wage, scheduling, paid family leave, and overtime legislation.

National Pay Issues are Local Issues

Here’s a story about how a national minimum wage proposal played out at a local level.

In February 2014, President Obama proposed a national minimum wage of $10.10/hour and signed an Executive Order that required this new minimum wage for federal contractors. Federal contractors became subject to the $10.10/hour minimum wage on January 1, 2015.

In April 2014, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel was up for re-election. An alderman from the south side of Chicago, who was previously a community organizer and had SEIU backing him, pushed Emanuel into a runoff. Shortly thereafter, Emanuel ran on a platform of a $13/hour minimum wage for the city.

Similarly, mayors in Kansas City and St. Louis both unveiled new minimum wage issues to avoid having a primary run from the left of the party. Both cities now have $15/hour minimum wages. In New York, Bill de Blasio won as an SEIU candidate. Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges used to be against a local minimum wage increase, and preferred a state or regional minimum wage. But she changed her position and is now speaking at Fight for $15 rallies to win re-election.

The Fight for $15 won’t be going away anytime soon. Nineteen major cities have mayoral campaigns around this issue in 2017. And although the 2016 election is in the history books, don’t forget that every minimum wage ballot measure passed in the last election. As of today, every major metropolitan area and 29 states have minimum wage laws that exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Paid Leave Expansion/Pay Equity Legislation

Movement in these areas continues unabated at city and state levels.

The paid leave issue began in 2-3 cities, with the support of roughly 500,000 activists. Paid leave is now in 30 jurisdictions and is growing organically. It is becoming a mainstream, non-partisan issue, and according to Align Public Strategies, it enjoys an 80% approval rating.  Jurisdictions that already have paid sick leave will amend legislation to include paid family and medical leave. This has already happened in Washington, DC, and this bill will become the template for more cities.

Restrictive Scheduling Legislation

This is a battle that the restaurant, hospitality, and retail industries are losing in almost every jurisdiction. New York City is about to pass a law that will be the template for future bills in other jurisdictions.

Wage Theft Enforcement

Once a city passes a $15/hour minimum wage, an enforcement mechanism quickly follows. This is usually in the form of a wage board that ensures that employers comply with the minimum wage. This is a strategy that was developed by the labor community to eventually create mini-NLRBs throughout the country. A wage board is the first step towards this vision. In the future, the wage board could ensure compliance with leave laws, scheduling and other wage laws.

Los Angeles already has a wage board. Hilda Solis, the former Secretary of Labor, is currently on the city’s Board of Supervisors and is pioneering the local enforcement model.

State Overtime Legislation

States will revisit overtime rules, especially if they have Democratic governors and legislatures.

Get Involved in Local Legislation

It’s critical for companies to get involved at the local level to protect their brands and interests. Employees already about the issues, since social media is flooded with them. Even the President can’t control these conversations through tweets.

Workplace policy is being created at the local level. Consider that the city of Seattle is writing rules so Uber and Lyft drivers can unionize. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo submitted a state budget that makes union dues tax-deductible.

History tells us that the labor movement declines after social goals such as insurance, safety, pensions, and Title VII protections are achieved. In many respects, when we attain these social goals, unions become irrelevant.

Employers of choice are way ahead of the war on talent because they understood and acted on these social goals long before they were widely accepted.  You can emulate these employers by:

  • Understanding what your values and vision really mean, and how they are acted upon every day
  • Choose a philanthropic goal that resonates with your workforce, and gives their jobs a bigger meaning
  • Take a position on local legislation. Better yet, get involved and help your local representatives draft legislation.
  • Teach your hiring managers how to articulate why you’re an employer of choice.


Guest blogger Liz D’Aloia founded HR Virtuoso to help companies optimize their employment application processes. HR Virtuoso creates customized, company-branded short form employment applications that work on any mobile device. This allows companies to get far more applications, and also keep their existing applicant tracking system. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso, Liz rose through the ranks of transportation, retail, and mortgage companies as a Senior Employment Attorney and VP of HR. Liz is a nationally recognized blogger, speaker, and HR practitioner. Please contact her directly at liz@hrvirtuoso.com with blog ideas, speaking engagements, and consulting requests.  Follow us @hrvirtuoso.


CUE: A 40th Anniversary Retrospective

  • May 9, 2017

CUE: A 40th Anniversary Retrospective

Thanks to all our attendees and speakers for making the Spring 2016 Conference a great event!








At the CUE Spring 2017 Conference in Newport Beach, we celebrated the organization’s 40th anniversary. Former CUE Executive Directors Bob Kinsella and Charlie McLane, as well as Emeritus LLAC Member Ed Levin, along with Jim Gray and Steve Wardrop of the CCAC shared their recollections of how CUE started out, how the organization has evolved, and what the future may bring during a wonderful retrospective session that opened the conference on Monday morning.


The panel began by reminding us that CUE is a pro-employee relations organization. The premise is that by being pro-employee, companies eliminate the need for employees to seek outside assistance of any kind. The founding members of CUE recognized that the best way to support their employees was to embrace civil rights, workplace safety, competitive wages, and progressive management styles.

Many people don’t realize that CUE started as an outlet of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) in 1977. Its original founders were industrial relations practitioners in manufacturers, and CUE was a logical subcommittee. Although CUE started out predominantly with manufacturing members, the association has expanded to include representation from all industries. In 1983, the official name was changed to CUE: An Organization for Positive Employee Relations.

In 1985, CUE separated from the National Association of Manufacturers and reincorporated as a separate non-profit. This resulted in the loss of a lot of NAM members, and also reduced the number of board members. After CUE split from NAM, the first priority was to reach out to people who could help rebuild the board and grow the membership.

The basic purpose of CUE has remained constant over the past 40 years.  Research, networking, conferences and publications focus on three areas: employee relations, labor relations and labor law.

 In 1980, the Board approved the addition of the words “An Organization for Positive Employee Relations” as part of its formal name. In 1983, the official name of the organization was changed to “CUE  An Organization for Positive Employee Relations” which is still used today.

 The first forty years were filled with challenges.  The next 40 years will be just as challenging — AI, robotics, the gig economy, and how to maintain positive employee relations during a significant shift in the workplace and our employees are just a few of the issues that CUE is working to assist our members with right now. CUE will continue to focus on our core mission of building positive employee relations and taking care of our members, just as we have the past 40 years.

The Labor Lawyers Advisory Committee

It’s remarkable when we reflect upon the social, economic, and political changes that have occurred in just the last 40 years.

In the late 1960’s there were many social justice issues raging, along with the Vietnam war.  Title VII was recently enacted, and unions resisted minority membership to preserve segregated seniority tracks.

At the time, unions had high penetration levels in the trucking, retail, manufacturing, and grocery industries. Employers only won 60% of all elections, and the unions were gaining momentum. For example, in 1968 New York experienced a teacher’s union strike that lasted for two months that pitted the community against each other due to racial overtones. Detroit also had a prolonged newspaper strike. Companies that fled from the north began to have organizing fights in the south (Norma Rae was based on a true organizing event in North Carolina in the early 1970’s).

The 1970’s brought a lot of turmoil. In 1970, Richard Nixon gave federal employees the right to organize, which brought a lot of money to organized labor. By 1971, we had raging inflation and Nixon imposed wage and price controls, so collective bargaining was basically regulated. The 1973 oil embargo impacted everything in the US. In 1974, the NLRB got jurisdiction over non-profit health care, which coincided with the rise of the women’s movement. All of these factors led to CUE’s founding as part of the National Organization of Manufacturers.

After CUE was founded, it immediately started to grapple with fundamental shifts in government, the economy, and politics. Jimmy Carter deregulated the trucking industry in 1980, which led to the rise of owner-operators and industry consolidation. In 1981, Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers for going out on strike, which many experts point to as the beginning of the decline of the US labor movement. The Labor Lawyers Advisory Committee (LLAC) was founded to help members navigate these changes, and has been a vital resource for CUE and its members ever since.

The CUE Consultants Advisory Committee

 In 2004, the Board created an individual membership category for consultants who provide services to employers in the areas of Employee and Labor Relations. In 2005, the CUE Consultants Advisory Committee (CCAC) was formally approved by the Board. The CCAC continues to provide a vital resource to CUE and its member companies.

 The Future

The Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times” as a curse. For many of us who practice labor law and employee relations, these are interesting times, but they are also a blessing. As practitioners, we can learn from the past as we grapple with the challenges of our time.

In a business environment that has changed so dramatically in the last 40 years, CUE has maintained its unwavering commitment to its founding principles of building positive employee relations in the workplace. This is a powerful affirmation of the vision of the founders of the organization. In the next 40 years as the business world continues to change, CUE’s leadership and resources will play an increasingly important role assisting employers to develop new and more effective ways of maintaining an environment where employees and their employers maintain a direct relationship.

One thing we know for sure is that a storm is brewing for unions and legacy unionized employers who contributed to union sponsored multi-employer pension plans. These plans are underfunded by hundreds of billions of dollars, and are quickly collapsing since there are fewer active participants supporting a growing number of retirees, creating a major problem for the retirees and the unions that operate the plans. This is also a huge employee relations issue for some employers that could get caught up in the pension fund crisis, since even though they paid into the fund as required contractually, they may still be held liable for the underfunding.

Who knows how other issues like robotics, artificial intelligence, social media, big data, and other technology will change the country, and the workplace? How can we develop strategies to meet the needs of millennials and other new generations of workers? We’re living in fast changing times, and we don’t have the answers to these questions. That’s why it’s imperative that we stay attuned to CUE to share best practices and the latest updates from industry thought leaders.


Guest blogger Liz D’Aloia founded HR Virtuoso to help companies optimize their employment application processes. HR Virtuoso creates customized, company-branded short form employment applications that work on any mobile device. This allows companies to get far more applications, and also keep their existing applicant tracking system. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso, Liz rose through the ranks of transportation, retail, and mortgage companies as a Senior Employment Attorney and VP of HR. Liz is a nationally recognized blogger, speaker, and HR practitioner. Please contact her directly at liz@hrvirtuoso.com with blog ideas, speaking engagements, and consulting requests.  Follow us @hrvirtuoso.

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