One of the reasons I enjoy my work as a marketing trainer/facilitator is that I get to present to a lot of different audiences, ranging from nonprofit managers to engineers-in-training.
It was this latter group that I met with recently when I spoke about “Management Tools of Engagement” (based on internal marketing) at SUNY’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry (ESF). My presentation there was sponsored by the Syracuse Pulp & Paper Foundation (SPPF) as part of a program to share management principles with students in Paper & Bioprocess Engineering. (Graduates of this challenging and prestigious curriculum are frequently on a fast track to management in paper mills and plants.)
With my background in service industries (mostly non-union), I was somewhat apprehensive about my presentation to these students. But after doing my homework – talking with a number of colleagues who worked in manufacturing – I learned that the challenges of effectively managing people are the same regardless of industry. The reality is how these future managers will apply their tools of engagement will depend more on the company’s culture than the industry itself.
In the Q&A portion of my presentation, we talked about working with unions. My suggestion of treating the unions as internal customers was met with considerable interest. After further discussion among the students, faculty, and staff, who shared their work-related experiences with unions (from both membership and management perspectives), we agreed on the need to build trust and mutual respect through effective internal communications and good working relationships.
Sounds simplistic in theory, although not in practice. At least these engineers/future managers have a clue as to what they’ll need to do.