In my previous articles, I have suggested that traditional grievance procedures do more harm than good. I have set out a structure for organisations to consider which does more good than harm – The Resolution Policy. I have also argued that mediation is more effective at generating outcomes which are good for your employees and good for your business.
In this article, I will examine the role that HR professionals can play in embedding mediation within their organisation.
Let’s start by dispelling some common myths. Mediation is not a buzzword. It’s not pink and fluffy. It’s not the easy option. It’s about two or more parties having an open and honest dialogue with the help of a skilled third party. It’s about the parties taking responsibility for the situation and crafting solutions which are mutually acceptable and will work in a real life situation.
HR have a vital role in this new business reality. HR professionals who advise their managers and employees to talk and listen to each other; who provide support to enable the dialogue to happen; who are skilled at facilitating difficult meetings; and who can coach and mentor the parties once the dust has settled are giving their managers and employees the skills and tools that they need to resolve the situation constructively, and with the minimum disruption.
HR as enablers of dialogue
I would argue that the main function of the modern HR professional is to promote dialogue. Dialogue is the vital ingredient of the successful modern organisation. It promotes harmony, it underpins leadership, it gives employees a voice, it helps to retain talent, it makes people feel engaged, it allows stressors to be resolved and it fosters a culture of mutual respect. At times of conflict, change or crisis, dialogue is even more important. Yet it is at precisely these times where we commonly see a failure of dialogue. Why is this?
The Ulrich model has had many benefits for organisations who have adopted it, however, one of the main problems with the Ulrich model is a steady decline of the role of HR as an enabler of dialogue. I am surprised by this as my reading of Ulrich is that dialogue is key. Perhaps HR professionals confuse dialogue with transactional activities which they have delegated to managers. This creates a paradox and leads to confusion which may explain why we are seeing so many intractable disputes arising within organisations.
I would suggest that HR professionals need to rethink their interpretation of Ulrich and place value on the role that HR take to enable dialogue whilst balancing this against the need to focus on hard business outcomes.
Knowing when to bring in a mediator
Another key role for HR is knowing when to bring in an independent professional mediator. In the tri-partite mediation model set out in my previous article, mediation may be undertaken by an internal or an external mediator. HR professionals need to be able to triage disputes effectively and source mediation support quickly. Every HR team should have access to professional mediators who are members of a recognised trade body such as the Professional Mediators’ Association.
The role of mediation at appeals and adjudication.
Mediation works well at the outset of the dispute, it works equally well once a formal process has been concluded. Mediation awareness should be built into training programmes for disciplinary or appeals panels. Increasing numbers of organisations are now outsourcing the final stage of appeals and adjudications to organisations like my own. As a result, we are able to help the parties focus on a restoration of relationships as well as providing an independent adjudication of the situation.
Conclusion - Mediation works!
Mediation is great news for organisations. HR professionals need to make the case for mediation at the board level and persuade business leaders that the emergence of a culture of dialogue is good for their business. As I write this, my team of mediators are achieving a 100% success rate in the cases that Royal Mail are referring to mediation.
If Royal Mail have been able to integrate mediation across their business, perhaps there has never been a better time to integrate it firmly into your organisation also.