Making Labor-Management Relations Integral to the Management Process: The Interagency Labor Relations Forum (ILRF) Seeks a Dialogue among Federal Labor Relations Practitioners and Other Interested Parties. (Labor-Management Relations)

Article excerpt

This article is the first in a series that represents KI the collective thoughts of senior labor relations practitioners who attended two ILRF retreats in Shepherdstown, WV in July 2000 and January 2001. Ken Smith, currently the deputy director, Workforce Relations Division, Internal Revenue Service, and previously a labor relations advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, is cited as the "principal author" to recognize the time and effort he gave in drawing together his ideas and the collective thoughts of those who attended the ILRF retreats. However, the views in the paper are not necessarily those of any one individual or of any federal department or agency.

The ILRF is an independent organization of management labor relations representatives that fosters collegial dialogue on federal labor relations matters, serves as a forum for developing and promoting policy and program issues, furthers cooperative labor relations between labor and management, and encourages the professional development of participating members. It is in its role as a forum that the organization seeks a dialogue on important issues among federal labor relations practitioners--management and union representatives alike--and other interested parties.


The genesis of this article was an intense discussion among federal labor relations professionals on how best to create an effective two-way strategic linkage between labor relations strategy and the broader organizational strategy. The participants explored approaches for melding the labor relations function with organizational operations and examined various labor relations structures and skills in both the public and private sectors that enhance organizational effectiveness. Participants examined the current role of labor relations in the federal government, how labor relations can maintain its effectiveness amidst frequently changing organizational strategies, and optimal organizational placement of the labor relations function.

The Placement and Role of the Labor Relations Professional

The most important asset of the federal government is the people it employs. The federal government must ensure that the best people are acquired and that their value is enhanced. Enhancement is fostered by, among other things, strong and effective leadership, a work culture which expects excellence, work that is perceived to be important and valuable, work processes that make sense, establishment and maintenance of a positive and family-friendly work environment, and effective and efficient personnel policies and practices.

Enhancement of Human Capital

Agency management has the responsibility for ensuring that this enhancement of human capital is accomplished. For this to happen, an agency must see to it that human capital policies, programs, and procedures are properly aligned with the agency's strategic vision, organizational goals, and core values. This makes sense from a business standpoint since the human capital asset comes at a very substantial cost and is a very large portion of every federal agency's overall operating expense.

Effective and efficient human resources management is critical to management's success in meeting its core responsibilities. Human resources managers must possess the competencies necessary to improve management's planning and decision-making processes. They must be an integral part of the management team by being intricately involved in the planning and decision-making processes. These human resources management professionals, as part of the management team, must focus on integrating human resources management principles and practices into the overall management strategic plan. This strategic role moves them from simply performing the administrative support functions of managing personnel processes and ensuring compliance with rules and regulations (the traditional "gatekeeper" role which often leaves the impression that those in "personnel" are the comfortable, complacent, custodians of the status quo [[C. …