Original Date: 07/21/2003
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Discipline Process
Fair, consistent, and equitable treatment of employees is a major management objective at Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point Facility. This is particularly true in the disciplinary process where supervisors subjectively can compromise consistency and equity. To prevent this from occurring, management delivered and implemented a uniform standardized process to ensure supervisors use the same process in taking disciplinary action.
Ensuring that discipline is consistent and fair to all employees throughout the facility is a major focus at Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point Facility (EBQP). However, with more than 100 supervisors and nearly 2,000 employees, it presents a difficult task. EBQP believes the three cornerstones of an effective discipline program are equity, communication, and administration.
EBQP’s disciplinary process historical database (spanning the previous ten years) documents all disciplinary actions, and all new and potential disciplinary actions are “bumped up” against this database to ensure consistency and equity in application. To complement this proactive approach, EBQP implemented a Dispute Resolution Policy (DRP) requiring the resolution of workplace disputes involving legal claims through the DRP. The DRP is working as expected, and disputes are being resolved fairly, quickly, inexpensively, and to the satisfaction of employees. Provisions of DRP are intended to resolve claims involving trademarks, business secrets, business technical know- how, and intellectual property. DRP does not prevent an employee from filing a claim with the EEOC or any other governmental agencies. Also under the provisions of DRP, an employee or the company can apply to court for interim injunctive relief for claims involving intellectual property, trade secrets, business technical know-how, non- competition, non-solicitation, and fiduciary or confidentiality obligations. DRP allows spouses or significant others to attend mediation or arbitration proceedings.
EBQP was reminded that the second cornerstone of an effective discipline program is reliable communication specifically, the effective and consistent delivery of discipline. It was during the course of the first few DRP challenges that EBQP realized its program was faulty in this respect (e.g., forms were inconsistent, verbiage was inaccurate, and the program could be compromised). As a result, the company developed and instituted a two- pronged approach. First was the development, communication, and implementation of a discipline policy which, for the first time, outlined critical methods for administering and delivering discipline. Next was the development and implementation of standardized discipline forms which were placed on a shared electronic drive. The latter effort ensured that all discipline forms were consistent in presentation and format, and that discipline was delivered and communicated in a timely manner. In the past, supervisors could not independently access these forms; instead they had to wait for assistance from administrative assistants who were only assigned to the first shift. With the placement of these forms on a shared drive, all supervisors, regardless of the shift or administrative support, can immediately access a discipline form, update it, print it out, and deliver the action the same night, after first consulting with a representative from Human Resources.
The third cornerstone, experience, proved that the effective administration of discipline can only be achieved through effective training. In the past three years, a significant number of new supervisors were hired. Although they received generalized training, it was apparent that more specific training was needed in the discipline program and its proper administration. To meet this need and further strengthen the program, a Discipline Training Program was developed and delivered to all supervisors. During the training, the new discipline forms were introduced and a training evaluation form was developed to assess the program’s effectiveness. Feedback regarding the program itself was overwhelmingly positive. The result is that discipline is now being administered more consistently and in a timely manner, thus strengthening the connection between behavioral and procedural deficiencies and the need for improvement. During the development of the standardized disciplinary forms, a recognition form was also developed for supervisors to use as a means to recognize employees in a timely and meaningful manner.
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