Strikes, walkouts and unions may feel more prevalent this year, demonstrating a growing expression of employee power and voice in the workplace, according to an Oct. 16 report from Forrester.
Although employee power can scare or alienate leaders, it provides a strong signal about misalignments, safety hazards and other employee-derived insights, according to the report. To use this source of information, leaders can aim to create an employee experience that unlocks the positive aspects of employee voice in their companies.
“Leaders should keep an eye on strikes but should focus their actions on a broader employee power framework,” J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, wrote in the company’s blog.
“Employee power in all its forms provides you with a valuable signal,” he said. “It tells you that there’s misalignment between management and employees on key issues.”
So far this year, more than 453,000 U.S. workers have participated in 312 strike actions, according to the report. Walgreens pharmacists engaged in a walkout, citing understaffing that put employees and patients at risk, the report noted. Kaiser Permanente workers also held a strike over contract negotiations.
In one of the biggest movements this year, the United Auto Workers went on strike after failing to reach labor agreements with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. That, along with the Screen Actors Guild strike, might make 2023 the biggest strike year in four decades, according to the report.
In a broader workplace context, this shift in employee power resembles the rise of consumer power in recent decades, according to the report. With connected technology, more options and numerous avenues for communication, employees have better information and expect more from their employers.
“You might be concerned about the impact of strikes on the future of your workforce,” Gownder wrote. “We suggest looking at strikes as part of a bigger phenomenon — that of employee power, one of the four shocks reshaping the future of work in the next decade.”