VLADIMIR, EARLY RESPONSE TEAM. PHASE-2Russia's first Adjustment Committee(Early Response Team). The Russian Federal Employment Services pilot project at the Laekensk Textile plant outside the city of Vladimir. The pilot project to test the Canadian Adjustment model, under Ken Johnson's facilitation, as a strategy to move from the communist structure to a market economy.
The focus of the second visit to Vladimir is to assess the status of the ERT which had been established in December '92; and to provide the necessary interventions to assist the committee to continue its activity in support of the employees. A second purpose of this visit is to introduce Anne Hemsworth to the ERT, with her transitional program as a possible model which will facilitate the change for the employees who may be identified as redundant in the next 6 months.
Russia's Adjustment Committee(Early Response Team). At the Laekensk Textile Plant outside of Vladimir, Russia with Ken Johnson (upper right) next to Vera, the counselling specialist from The Vladimir,Oblast of the Russian Federal Employment Service.
We were accompanied to Vladimir by 4 Federal Employment Service personnel; Olga Nicholaeva, Eliana_________,Leanna_______, and Sergei____________. their role was to clarify and assist the committee and local and regional employment centre staff with regards to the support available from the FES; and to review the status of the committees activity to date and to assess its effectiveness and ability to continue on its own.
We met with the director of the Regional Employment centre Zenaida ______, and her representative on the ERT, Vera______. We explained the purpose of my visit as outlined above and indicated that we would be available for consultative support to address any issues which the committee may have come to an impasse on. The Regional director indicated that there may be interest in strategy development concerning interventions for the existing workforce, as well as possible training opportunities.
The ERT intends to approach the Local Authority with a request for supportive funding once they identify future initiatives in training for the employees. Again this type of activity cannot be overemphasized in terms of building community support for the employees and the company in the area; which in our experience ultimately facilitates the transition to new jobs for those employees who actually become redundant in the future. The community is sensitized to the situation and response programs are put in place in advance to ease the transition for everyone concerned.
Positive news was delivered regarding the companies financial status, which has left them with no raw materials to carry out manufacturing. The financial support which had been lost in Moscow has not yet been found. However the enterprise proceeded to develop alternative suppliers and the first two shipments of materials has actually been received by the plant and processed. There are still some difficulties with continuous supplies because of new borders etc., but the financial issue has been assisted by the development of these alternative resources . Whether the FES had an opportunity to intervene on behalf of the committee as requested in the previous report, or not. The successful outcome strongly supports the role of the committee in raising the issue successfully.
Further activity review by the Regional Employment Director indicated that early in January there was a Russian National Television commentary regarding the Laeken's Committee activity. It pointed out the potential benefits for companies and unions in addressing the needs of their situations and allowing them a way to constructively address the difficult transition they were experiencing. The Laekens plant union chair was interviewed for this program, and felt the presentation allowed her to illustrate the kind of control the company and its workers could undertake with the ERT committee structure.
A related experience was a visit to the plant by an individual who had run for the Russian Presidency in the past year. This visit stimulated some interest from the foreign press. The French news media on television interviewed the committee during his visit. This activity seemed to again strongly reinforce the identity and activity of the ERT, early in its development.
Finally, we were presented with the committees first newsletter which included two major articles outlining the establishment of the committee and describing in detail how it came about and what its focus would be based on the five sub-committee activities. 1500 copies of this paper were printed and distributed to as many employees as possible. The general response from employees was said to be satisfaction in having received the information given the fact the facility was shut down for most of the month of DEC.
The Factory Visit:
A portion of the committee was not available because of other commitments at this time , however the chair proceeded with a review of the two coordinating committee meetings that had been held in my absence. In terms of the Productivity improvement activity the firm has developed an exchange with two Moscow firms for thread products, that helps their material supply situation. They also have entered into a contract with a German firm to supply raw materials and they will manufacture finished goods in return. Both of these activities have potential for stabilizing the enterprises activity over the short term and giving them a window of opportunity to develop alternative strategies for their workforce, as the market shifts.
COMMUNICATIONS SUB-COMMITTEE ACTIVITY:
The survey questionnaire was delivered to 135 employees(as a pilot of the survey tool),and an explanation pamphlet was circulated to these employees as well. The committee also held small group sessions with the employees to answer questions or concerns raised by the employees over this process. 100 of the surveys were returned indicating to the committee that the approach had generally been successful in soliciting the employees involvement. This level of response is significantly higher than we might experience in a parallel Canadian situation on the first try.
Survey Results:-63 employees requested committee assistance
-37 indicated no help required; they could manage themselves
-28 showed interest in help to establish a business
-30 were returned anonymous and incomplete ( It was noted that anonymity created a problem in responding effectively to issues raised by some of these individuals. The committee felt that this must be addressed by encouraging identification with support for the confidentiality of the response.).
-Educational level- average was Special Secondary completed.
-Age level- average range between 30 to 45 yrs. with a few employees in their 20's and some under 20.
-Early Pension- few were interested, mainly because the age range indicated that retirement for this group not appropriate.
-Training - Most employees responded to this question with a description of the work they would like to do in the future, rather than an identification of the training they are interested in. ( This may be very useful information in helping them select appropriate future careers or training. The committee felt this question needed to be revised to get a clear training answer.).
-a large number of respondents identified that they were interested in counselling in a small group
-a few respondents indicated individual counselling would be useful.
The results of this initial survey will be published in the next newsletter in order to encourage discussion and future participation in the broader survey. A strategy will also be developed by the coordinating committee to address the responses that indicate certain areas of interest that should be responded to as soon as possible. The communications group intends to revise the survey to address the concerns it has identified and then intends to apply the survey to the employees that are presently not at work. The overall response to the pilot survey is that it seemed to be an effective tool to gain information from the employees that will help to develop a strategy to assist them in making the transition should they become redundant.
TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM SUPPORT:
The survey review led to a request to have Anne Hemsworth describe how the program she represented might address issues raised by the questionnaire. Anne proceeded to describe the intervention that the canadian adjustment program represented. She described a rubber tire company experience where very few employees had skills which could be transferred to other work; their family commitments and financial responsibilities prevented them from moving; and they needed assistance in determining what options they really had.
-small groups were established and participated in by the employees while the company was still working.
-a personal plan was developed for each worker
-the group is very important to the process, as a way of establishing that there is hope for the worker through this activity.
-employees experience a grieving process because their job is a fundamental part of their life. They are angry, upset and confused by the sudden , threatening change in their life.
-a good deal of the work in the initial phase is using the group and the coach (instructor), to develop a positive view of their future; and to develop self sufficiency.
-what is realistic to view as their next job based on:
-identified strengths, skills, transferrable skills
-they research and study what is involved in other jobs
-interest, aptitude, academic level tests are done
-and a section helps the individual to identify their own decision making style, to develop those skills further.
-there is encouragement for the involvement of the persons family as much as possible to support the commitment to the change process.
-an individual plan is developed by the person which clearly shows each step they will have to take in order to move on positively with their life.
-a job search skills component is included which assists in the completion of application forms; letters of application; developing a personal resume; and practising interviews with employers.
-the last stage is setting up follow up support through their group and the committee to assist them achieving their goal.
-the follow up element becomes extremely important for those individuals who may complete the program without starting a new job or training. The committees Action Centre plays a significant role in the continuing intervention and support by the resources it offers from the Employment Centre, possible counselling support; and informal information and contact with their peers as a support group to keep trying.
The above description generated considerable discussion from the committee about the type of training a " coach " would receive and how effectively and quickly such a program could be mounted. The detail of development is to be handled by Anne Hemsworth through the Human Resource/Employment sub-committee in the next few days. Considerable discussion was held around the application of the model for those individuals who may be difficult to employ given personal problems such as alcoholism, illiteracy, and ex-offender issues.
The days activities allowed the committee to revisit their activity for the past month. The exercise was an important one in that it clearly highlighted their successes with: a) the financial issue; b) issuing a Newsletter; c) completing the survey pilot; d) creating a new employment initiative with the Regional Employment Centres support; e) having developed some success with radio and television coverage for their positive efforts; f) completed two additional committee (ERT) meetings on their own initiative; and g) having the location for the Action Centre renovated and prepared for opening by the end of January.
The discussions clearly illustrate that given a simple structure to begin to address the redundancy problem; based on the people carrying out actions as a result of each meeting; a company and its employees may be able to develop a number of effective short and long term interventions to assist the affected employees and improve the companies future prospects, where possible.
It is still very important to keep the activity reality based and recognizing that the employees will need to accept that all of them will not survive in their present jobs. In order that alternatives may be developed for them as soon as is practical, and where possible prior to the actual redundancy occurring.
The activity of the previous day was continued with a review of the survey questionnaire and discussion about what changes could be made to make it more effective. There is a need to identify the present job, and the related skills or experience. Future surveys of the employees will focus on gaining complete information from all employees including their names and addresses, in order that follow up can occur on questions which they may raise. It will be critical that the committee is able to convince the employees that their personal information will be handled completely confidentially by the committee.
The next survey will be directed towards 1000 to 1500 employees who are presently not working. This should provide a data base which will require more program support in the training available at the facility, and from the vocational training school. The intervention should assist in setting priorities for the activity of the Action Centre and developing employment - sub-committee activities.
There was some discussion about raising the concern of employees losing their jobs. It was pointed out that the best approach was to find out the concerns of all employees, and develop appropriate strategies for them considering variables such as: who is most likely to be redundant; who may be retrained in the enterprise to save their positions; which employees may be the easiest to retrain based on their career goal and the present job market; which employees will require more employment centre counselling support and unemployment benefits, etc..
The committee decided that its first priority will be in house training of employees on new equipment to create new opportunities for the employees. Related to this task the committee felt it would be useful to explore possible advanced training in Carpentry skills, seamstress work, and construction trades based on the request from employees in the first survey. There is still considerable reluctance from the chair of the committee regarding the recognition of the real job threat that exists and the development of a comprehensive strategy by the committee to prepare for this eventuality. There was , however good discussion by other committee members confronting this area and gaining support for a more aggressive offering of training opportunities to employees who were presently not working. The committee supported this tactic and proceeded to prepare three options to advertise to the employees in the "newsletter" of Jan.22/93.
The vocational school has had some recent success with the training of sewers at the Laekens plant as lace makers. This has provided them with a marketable skill as well as some independent home work which they are selling to supplement their 2/3 rbls. income from the enterprise. Other sewers have indicated an interest in training as a seamstress because of the awareness of the demand for good dress makers in the local market. The committee will check actual numbers of employees interested and the enterprise indicated that they would support that training on site at the factory.
The need to move quickly on some of these initiatives was discussed , in order to provide a clear message to the employees that the committees activity was really focused on providing good responses to their reasonable objectives. The approach also illustrates the importance of employment centre and vocational representatives on the committee, as resources for the provision of training and career counselling they represent to the committee.
There was discussion about carpentry and construction trades training because of the high demand in the present market. Further research will be done by the Human Resource/Employment sub-committee, on the viability of providing such training options . Anne Hemsworth will also high light those parts of her materials which would be useful in helping employees properly research these trades to gain a good understanding of the impact of the decisions they are making.
EMPLOYMENT SUB-COMMITTEE :
The survey results reinforced the need to develop the information which has been brought to the committee by Ann Hemsworth. The transitional adjustment program which is available through Anne's area of expertise is often the first step taken by an employee who may be identified as redundant , in the Canadian setting. The description of the program intervention is best described under a separate report from Anne Hemsworth.
The continuing progress of the ERT is illustrated by their positive approach to developing training options which have been identified as priorities by those employees who have completed the survey questionnaire. Specific initiatives which are in progress now include the training of 22 employees on 11 new machines used for a new process. This effectively has created 22 new positions for production of materials that represent a more stable market and secure these jobs which would have been redundant if maintained in their previous area. The training was made possible because of direct support from the Oblast employment service for the acquisition of the new equipment.
The committee has participated in another training initiative through the Local Employment Office. Twelve former sewers are now in the Lace Makers training program offered through the Employment Service in Sobinka. This will provide them with skills usable in the local cottage industry and in demand should they in fact become redundant with the privatization of the facility.
The process in Laekens is a classic example of the importance of the Communications and Human Resource\Employment sub-committees. They are the groups which develop the profile of needs identified by the employees in the survey and thus set the priorities for the ERT's activities in areas of training; Action Centre focus and staffing; and identify which employees may require the earliest intervention in order for them to be able to become gainfully employed in the future.
It is critical that both the employees and the enterprise gain confidence in the activity of the ERT in the early stages of its existence; because as the redundancy approaches there will be greater reluctance to identify the employees to be effected unless the ERT clearly represents a positive option to the employees.
The Laekens ERT's rapid distribution of the survey and their quick move to action based on the results obtained set a very positive behavioral pattern for the committee. The survey was presented through effective small group info. sessions; local employment centre counselling service interventions were available for the employees; alternative work arrangements have been implemented for those employees still working( ie. Employees work 5 hr. days rather than 8 hr. days to keep the full shift complement working through the slow down); the Action Centre is in the final stages of renovation and will open by the end of January in a very visible and accessible point at the front door of the factory. Given the high profile of activity carried out by this committee there appears to be a high possibility that the enterprise and the employees will support committee interventions and alternative programs developed by the ERT.
In our review of the ERT's activity and strategy development it has become apparent that there is a major gap in available resources to assist in the identification of generic job descriptions that would be very useful for employees to examine which career options they may have. Resources such as the Canadian Classification and Dictionary of Occupations, John Holland's Self Directed Search; The Index To Canadian Occupations could be useful starting points for the Russians to develop appropriate Russian based resources to be utilized by the Employment Service in the field. The actual process using these resources in adjustment of employees in mass lay offs is described in Anne Hemsworth's report. The development of such resources was the responsibility of the Employment Support Service of Employment and Immigration Canada in Ottawa; it would seem reasonable that the Federal Employment Service would be the logical point to develop such resources for Russia. There was an indication that this resource may partially exist in the National Vocational Centres; there is a critical need for them to be distributed to the field before the mass redundancies happen. The employees and Employment Centre counselling staff, must have access to a mechanism for assessing realistically what occupational options are appropriate for them.
Our visit to the Laekens ERT occurred simultaneously with their enterprises meetings for privatization of the facility. This made it impossible for us to meet with all committee members, however the committee chaired the meetings with the available members, in particular those from the union, local and regional employment reps, communications, Action Centre, and Employment\Human Resources sub-committees.
The enthusiasm with which the Laekens group has pursued the objectives of each sub-committee clearly illustrates the potential activity which can occur through an ERT when the team is highly motivated and sets clear, realistic and attainable objectives.
The committee aggressively identified what they believe should be their next action based on the pilot questionnaire results. First they will revise the questionnaire to make certain all employees identify themselves, so that service can be accurately provided. They will then distribute the questionnaire to the remaining employees, to establish a larger data base for future action, through small group info. sessions. Additional training initiatives will be researched in areas of seamstress, carpenter, construction trades, and establishing your own business based on interests expressed by the employees. The target is to set up programs at the enterprise in the month of February , with employment centre and the enterprises support, if the numbers warrant.
The discussion within the ERT on these topics was very animated and creative in developing their strategy. There was a strong sense that they must respond to the employees needs and interests to maintain credibility.
A second newsletter will be developed and issued January 22/93. It will contain a review of committee activity to date and provide a general overview of the results of the survey questionnaire. there will also be a review of the types of courses being considered with a description and potential employment opportunities. It will also profile the coming Action Centre, and possible info. and services that will be available at the centre. The ERT's efforts to maintain good communications with the employees will continue to be a necessity in order to maintain the committees activity and credibility.
There also was excellent discussion regarding the need to take advantage of the time available before the redundancy hits, to provide training and counselling program options to all the employees who are presently not working. The Regional (Oblast) and local Employment Centre reps as well as the vocational school members of the committee provided excellent leadership and will be key motivators for the committees continuing success.
It became apparent to me during this visit that the committee has an excellent understanding of their role and that the local employment personnel are providing a proper consultative support. My recommendations to the regional Director of the employment service is that they continue their active role with the laekens committee. Encourage the action orientation of the objectives identified on an ongoing basis; ie.Newsletter issued regularly; new Questionnaire out to all employees and analyzed for action; and Action centre opened and services delivered. Specific Employment centre responses will include delivery of counselling services; training courses for effective adjustment; provision of Unemployment Benefits and client registration on site once the redundancy occurs. They must continue to work as motivators and facilitators of the consultative process. Finally they will continue as a critical link to Moscow; informing the FES of what works, what does not work, and what support do they require from the national level to address the situation.
The Canadian ConsultantKen Johnson celebrating the successful establishment of the first Adjustment Early Response Team in Russia in 1992.