Talking about a resolution part two: The role of mediation

    In my previous article I suggested that grievance procedures are divisive and harmful and that many organisations are now seeking a new mechanism for resolving disputes – The Resolution Policy. The focus of this new approach being on resolution rather than retribution, peace rather than polarisation, dialogue rather than division.

    In this article, I will offer guidance to help you and your HR colleagues embed mediation into your organisation. I will focus on a tri-partite model for mediation that is delivering significant benefits for a great many businesses:

    1. The manager as mediator
    2. The internal mediator
    3. The outsourced mediator

    The manager as mediator

    Managers are the best mediators an organisation has, or ever will have. They are already tasked with delivering a wide range of complex HR and ER functions and do so often with integrity and compassion – hiring, firing, coaching, managing performance etc. For those organisations who have adopted the Ulrich model of HR, an increasingly complex number of HR activities are now undertaken at the line manager and the grandparent manager level. Here are the 5 key skills that every manager needs to help them spot and resolve conflict.

    • Facilitation skills – developing rapport and creating a safe space for dialogue.
    • Active listening – really hearing what is being said. Being curious and asking open questions to help people describe what they are seeing, what they are thinking, what they are feeling and what they need.
      • See.
      • Think
      • Feel
      • Need.
    • Emotional intelligence – the ability to develop empathy and be self-aware. Remaining neutral and non-judgmental whilst compassionate and engaged.
    • Reframing - the skills to transform a negative comment or situation into a positive opportunity.
    • Principled Negotiation – the ability to negotiate an outcome based on interests and needs rather than the positions that are adopted in conflict.

    I have a simple saying: “Give me a group of managers and I’ll give you back a group of mediators -some of the best mediators that your organisation could ever hope to have.”

    The internal mediator

    I have trained internal mediators in over 300 organisations: from small firms to major household names. Having access to a fully trained and accredited pool of mediators gives the organisation a powerful resource to tap into when a more serious dispute arises. By training a pool of mediator’s organisations such as TfL, BT, and the UN have seen a major fall in the time and the costs associated with workplace disputes.

    Internal mediators are drawn from across the organisation. Using the industry standard FAIR Framework™, mediations tend to last for one full day. The mediators receive a referral from HR and contact both parties to secure their commitment to mediate. Once this has been secured, the mediation happens quickly – usually within 10 working days. The process is rigorous and many organisations are reporting success rates in excess of 90% of cases resolved by mediation.

    The outsourced mediator

    By having access to external, professional mediators, organisations benefit by being able to refer the most complex cases to mediation. Outsourced mediators also tend to mediate in industrial relations, contractual or team and collective issues where the internal mediators may be conflicted or lack the necessary skills or experience.

    The most effective outsourced mediation models are well designed and integrated into the organisation. Being proactive and on-boarding a mediation provider before mediation is needed ensures that the systems and processes can be set up in advance of case being referred. Sourcing an external mediator via Google when a case hits your desk can mean that mistakes are made and the parties, many of whom already feel vulnerable and confused, reject mediation due to a lack of confidence in the process.

    A tri-partite model of mediation delivers the best results

    The tri-partite mediation model delivers real benefits and ensure that mediation is fully integrated into the organisation. In my next article, I will explore how HR professionals are developing fully integrated resolution systems and how they are embedding mediation into the the fabric of the organisation. 


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