What do we want? Good goals!
When do we want 'em? Now!
Tuesday’s session between Times management and Guild members started with a much-needed chat on Standards of Performance (SOPs) in the Advertising department.
Times Vice-President for Advertising Mei-Mei Chan attended the talks to shed some light on the company’s thinking. Chan opened with remarks on the Times’ “aspiration to be a world-class sales and marketing organization.”
She stressed that the SOPs are a set of minimum expectations and a management tool to keep people accountable: “If you’ve got a better way, we’d love to hear it.”
We think that we do have some good solutions to the problems in advertising, and one of those solutions is one we got directly from Times management.
That proposal is aimed at making advertising goal-setting a more collaborative and transparent process. The language in our proposal is taken from a management memo of guidelines, so it’s hard for us to see what their objection to this would be.
Another proposal would adjust a salesperson’s revenue goals and other expectations to account for absences due to vacation, illness, or other leaves.
Right now, when you’re out of the office for a week, you’re still accountable for the same level of sales as you would be if you were working, and we don’t think that’s fair.
Guild Administrative Officer Liz Brown made the point that the disciplinary grid for failure to live up to the SOPs has more psychological impact than any actual discipline itself.
“Being labeled a ‘low performer’ is so upsetting to people that it makes top salespeople start looking around for other jobs,” Brown said.
Chan said she didn’t think the goal-setting guidelines need to be in the contract, because she’s asked her managers to have those conversations with people.
Members Denise Peterson, Sheri Williams and Bob Johnston made the point that while this may be top management’s intent, these discussions are not happening on a clear and consistent basis throughout the department. Or in some cases, managers talk with salespeople, but the goals that sales staffers are given don’t reflect the content of those talks.
Commission Sales Representatives
We’ve also proposed a set of changes to improve conditions for Commission Sales Representatives.
Commission Sales Reps are paid on a commission-only basis. They receive no hourly wage, paid vacation, or sick leave, and aren’t reimbursed for their expenses.
What that means is if they don’t sell, they don’t eat.
These positions were designed so that Commission Sales Reps would be motivated to go out and find new business. In fact, after they’ve had an account for 20 months (or 1,000 inches of lineage), they have to turn it over for maintenance to a salaried rep.
Our proposals for the Commission Sales Reps seek to remove restrictions on where and to whom they can sell, to turn them loose to bring in more ad revenue, which can only be a good thing for everyone concerned.
Commission Sales Rep Kathy Nielsen stressed, “We’re here to sell, and that’s the bottom line. I want to move forward and I want to make money for the company.”
“No one wants to bring in more money for The Seattle Times than a Commission rep,” Commission Sales Rep Bonnie McSwain echoed.
Another thing we’re seeking is that this group be exempted from the Standards of Performance that other ad salespeople work under. Because they’re constantly chasing new accounts, their revenue stream is highly unpredictable. While the rewards can be great in good months, they can spend several months working on prospects before they pay off. But those months before the payoff can get them into trouble under the SOPs, and could result in discipline or firing, even though the reps have had absolutely spectacular months as well.
Guild members were heartened to hear that Chan understands that there are differences in the sales cycles of different reps that need to be taken into account, and that she’d be taking another look at the current standards.Exclusions
The remainder of the session was spent on new positions in marketing and advertising that the company proposes to exclude from the bargaining unit.
In marketing, these are events manager, media research specialist, research manager for circ and readership development, research special projects manager, marketing production manager. Advertising positions excluded under the company’s proposal include media planning specialist, marketing database specialist, direct-marketing specialist, senior data reporting specialist and product performance revenue analyst.
Guild bargainers Paul Morgan, Sheri Williams and Bob Johnston questioned why these positions should be excluded from the bargaining unit, and whether all new positions were being placed outside the unit.
Times Labor Relations Analyst Martin Hammond pointed out that some new positions were added into the Guild unit as well, citing the pay-scale classifications of some of them.
If you have thoughts on whether those positions should be excluded from the bargaining unit, please let us know as soon as possible: firstname.lastname@example.org