Archive for July, 2009

Mediation as part of an ER Strategy

16th July 2009

NDA-Skills-and-Capability-Strategy-November-2008Since the publication of the Gibbons Review in March 2007 and the subsequent passing into law of the 2008 Employment Act the activity level around workplace and employment mediation in the UK has been on an upward curve.  There are no statistics available but ‘word on the street’ matches our own experience – mediators are busier in the workplace than they have ever been and those providing training are seeing greater numbers of HR professionals on their courses than ever before.

This is encouraging.  Mediation saves money and time for organisations and protects the people involved from stress and distraction.  An investment in good mediation delivers a much more positive message about an organisation than a passive approach to disputes or a reliance on litigation ever will.  We just want to make a plea for a little strategy before we all leap into too much activity.

The lesson of history

Mediation and coaching are radically different skills but they are both new(ish) solutions to old problems.  They share a lack of universal qualification for those delivering the service and, because they both take place in a confidential environment, they both require a leap of faith from the commissioner.  The early days of coaching adoption in business was haphazard, un-costed, and imperfectly integrated into other activity. Well sold, but perhaps less well purchased.  In context and as part of a proper development strategy, coaching is a great tool for the right people at the right time. So it is with mediation, and perhaps we can learn from the early days of coaching when it comes to implementing mediation into the business.

Mediation – a tool in the bag, not a sticking plaster on a broken leg

There is no doubt that the tribunal system is broken and mediation has a big future but where does it fit in your ER strategy ?  As ever, the answer is ‘it depends’ but here are some thoughts:

  • Consider your culture.  How much education will your management teams and staff need ?  What will be acceptable to them – ‘big bang’ or case by case ? How prepared are your senior managers for what it will require of the business ?  Don’t just write a policy and expect it to work – this requires a proper change management approach.
  • Consider which cases you will pass towards mediation.  It doesn’t work for everything.  Decide your criteria and be prepared to modify them as you gain experience.
  • Choose your provider with care.  If you use an external provider to mediate or to train your internal mediators, choose one which is fit for purpose and one you can work with.  Look hard at their model and make sure that it supports your aims.  There are a lot of different ways of working out there and they won’t all suit you.  Look for a partner, not a life raft.
  • Be cautious about who you train.  Don’t leap into training your HR teams – they might not be right for the role.  Consider managers.  Consider staff representatives and unions.  Consider your HR team.  Consider a blend.
  • Make sure that your internal mediators are given the tools for the job.  Give them time away from the day job.  Make sure your partner can support them. Make sure they can be given experience before they are let loose.  Mediation is hard work and your internal people will need plenty of support – form them into a community of practice and help them to learn together.

For those businesses that have applied a little thought, workplace and employment mediation is already paying dividends.  Just chew your pencil a little to reap the rewards.