15 Feb, 2013

People management

As an increasing number of employers are turning to mediation to resolve workplace issues*, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Acas have come together to produce updated information for those considering using it within their organisations. Mediation: An approach to resolving workplace issues, is being launched to coincide with an Economics and Social Research Council seminar taking place today at Swansea University on managing individual workplace conflict.

A survey of employers, published by the CIPD in 2011, found that more than half (57{6060b2de664e4eaa3e7b7e86961ce2c4bbd7a29b6c1097abf8257a4e5b07383e}) of respondents said that they made use of mediation. Of these, fewer than one in five relied on bringing in external mediators to their workplace. The rest used mediators from inside their organisation, drawn not only from the HR function but also from line managers and other employees or employee representatives. Recently published Acas research has also provided an example of where the introduction of an in-house mediation scheme was found to have had a transformative effect on the culture of conflict management in the organisation**.

With mediation increasingly recognised as an effective means of dispute resolution in the workplace, this joint publication by the CIPD and Acas aims to help employers, trade unions and employees in deciding whether and in what circumstances mediation may be suitable. The publication draws on examples of good practice and offers some practical advice for employers seeking to utilise mediation in their organisations.

Mike Emmott, Employee Relations Adviser at the CIPD, says: “The number of employment tribunal claims in the UK is not far short of 200,000 a year, and can result in serious financial and non-financial costs to both the claimant and employer. However, businesses’ concerns about receiving a large number of claims can be alleviated if they have an effective strategy for managing conflict in place. Getting simple things right, such as training your managers to hold ‘difficult conversations’ and building mediation into the employment relationship could make all the difference.

Mediation is most effective when it is part of the organisation’s wider approach to people management, and reflected in its policies and processes. In this way, it is more likely to be seen by both managers and employees as a legitimate means of resolving conflict.  Mediation focuses not on punishing misbehaviour but on finding mutually agreeable solutions to problems. As such, it’s not suitable in every situation but it can play an important role in protecting and rebuilding relationships. It can also have spin-off benefits for workplace culture and the quality of line management.”

Andrew Wareing, Chief Operating Officer at Acas said: “We are pleased to launch this practical advice with the CIPD to help resolve workplace issues through mediation.

“One of the greatest barriers to the more widespread use of mediation in the workplace is a lack of awareness of when, and how, it can be used to greatest effect. This is especially true for small and medium-sized organisations. This research, describing successful practice, makes an invaluable contribution as it can help employers thinking about adopting mediation to learn from those with more experience.”

*CIPD Conflict Management survey, 2011

** Saundry, R., McArdle, L. and Thomas , P. (2010) Transforming Conflict Management in the Public Sector? Mediation, Trade Unions and Partnership, Acas Research Papers, London: Acas.

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