Manage Employee Relations

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BSBWRK520 – Manage Employee Relations

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1. Develop and deliver training to individuals in conflict-management techniques and procedures. (114 words)

2. Identify sources of conflict or grievance according to legal requirements, and where possible, alleviate or eliminate them. (112 words)

3. Clarify issues in dispute by evaluating documentation and other information sources. (112 words)

4. If required, obtain expert or specialist advice and/or refer to precedents. (112 words)

5. Determine and document the desired outcomes, strategy and timeframes for the negotiation. (112 words)

6. In negotiation, advocate the organisation’s position to obtain agreement. (114 words)

7. Certify, the agreed outcomes with the relevant jurisdiction. (112 words)

8. Follow up on the agreements, and where groups or individuals fall to abide by the agreements, take remedial action. (112 words)

Guides.pdf

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Develop and deliver training to individuals in

conflict-management techniques and procedures

Conflict management is the process of breaking down the conflict in a way that identifies the

issues, proposes opportunities for negotiation and results in positive action. It is not, however,

about winning or getting everything that you want nor is about standing your ground.

Whilst we would all love to avoid conflict, Australian workplaces generally look at conflict as

being a part of a diverse workforce with differing views, cultural needs and other forms of

diversity. Instead of focusing on the elimination we look, instead, at controlling it reducing the

reasons for conflict and improving our response with the right policies, procedures, strategies,

plans., communication methods and frequency, skills and knowledge and more.

There are three types of conflict management that are used in businesses, and this generally

represents the key levels of procedural planning – the first being internal, the second being

assisted internal and the third being assisted external. The fastest for everyone is the internal

unassisted procedure where the employee initiates action with their line manager and works,

using a system of policies and procedures, to resolve the issue with the appropriate staff. The

most expensive, time-consuming, slowest and least beneficial is an external assisted resolution

where the employee takes their complaint to another body for arbitration through legal

proceedings.

Because everyone wants to avoid arbitration, it is helpful to have a number of internal conflict

resolution mechanisms and good relationships with assistive services, unions and other employee

representatives. Internally you might try:

 Issue raising – an employee raises a problem with their line manager, and together

they investigate opportunities for resolution. They might use a root cause diagnosis

tool and work together or with the help of others in the business to workshop the

best solution. It is quick, easy, free and a win-win for everybody.

 Grievance procedures – as covered in previous topics this is the procedure, policies

and procedures for getting help in the workplace. Normally they are more formal

pathways to getting help and should be activated when issue raising does not meet

the needs of the individual, the matter is complex or private, there are health, safety

MANAGE NEGOTIATIONS TO RESO LVE

CONFLICT

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or wellbeing concerns involved or there is an allegation.

 Mediation – this can be an internal process involving independent people, normally

someone from human resources, or can involve people who provide this dialogue

internally. Mediation is assisted in that a third party helps the two parties talk through

a problem, break down the issues and solutions, ask appropriate questions and work

in a generally positive way towards a resolution.

We have all had to deal with some form of conflict in our workplaces or in our lives before, and

everyone has a different style. You may have met people who don’t raise issues until they are at

boiling point, people with short fuses, people who deny regardless of the situation, those that cry

and those that get so worked up they can no longer communicate – and these same people may

now be in position of management where they are faced with conflict with employees on a

regular basis.

One of the biggest barriers to staff participation in conflict management mechanisms is their lack

of skills, knowledge and training in this area; fear of getting the process wrong, saying the wrong

thing, being put under pressure, having to compromise or not having the solution are all signals

of a this.

Staff who are required to manage conflict within their roles may need skills in:

 Questioning including clarification, paraphrasing and summarising

 Investigation and problem diagnosis including root cause analysis

 Problem-solving and evaluation of options

 Communication including active listening and mediation and negotiation

 Identifying internal and external support people and services

When you investigate training options, both internally and externally, it is useful to find programs

that:

 Identify leadership and conflict styles and provide direct strategies for each of these

 Target specific skills

 Blend with or complement internal training, policies and procedures

 Give the opportunity to practice through case study, role play and project

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 Involve informal or formal assessment and feedback from a third party to improve

skills

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Identify, and where possible alleviate or eliminate,

sources of conflict or grievance according to legal

requirements

There are certain areas of conflict that are required to be eliminated by law – immediately you

might think of health, safety and wellbeing concerns, discrimination, harassment and bullying and

unfair pay. Not surprisingly, these are some of the most reported sources of friction in Australia,

and they are the most costly financially and to productivity.

Like the Hazard Control’s that you might use to control risk in areas of health and safety you can

use the same process of immediate control with a long-term view to elimination. In the hierarchy

relating to general risk, we replace personal protective equipment with supervision.

Here is the hierarchy and some suggested actions working from the least effective to the most

effective:

Supervision  Have employees work in pairs or with an observer – normally a team leader whose sole function is to oversee work.

 Have employees report weekly to a mentor, coach or supervisor and unpack the productivity reports with suggestions for improvement.

 Induction / Probation periods Administration  Training in any format offered for self-

enrolment or to entire teams

 Signage / Diagrams

 General policies on hiring / firing / performing

 Checklists. Templates including interview / hiring / induction documents that check each person has been given the same information

 Single or minimal communication channels

 Feedback, reports, statements & analysis

 Budget / Spending on IR

 Dedicated HR or IR staff with formal training / experience

Engineering / Development  Procedures and processes

 Workforce planning and development

 Position Descriptions, Code of Conduct

 Monitors / Logs / Records

 Workplace organisation – i.e. design, equipment availability, layout of workstations

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 Team Development activities / budget Isolation / Substitution  Coaching / Mentoring

 Individual training, supervision or performance management

 Formal evaluation / surveying including problem-solving at the whole of business level

 Staff surveys, collection of internal data, formal and informal interviews for isolating problems

 Regular reviews on all other strategies including measurement taking and reporting

 Multiple feedback channels

 Pathways enablement for promotion, expanding roles, taking on extra duties (for reward).

Elimination & Termination  KPI’s combined with performance management

 Strong policies on retention, supervision and termination combined with routine manager training/coaching in what to do and when to do it

 Hiring for cultural and professional fit

 Regular relationship development activities including recognising and rewarding achievement and when someone exceeds expectations

 Grievance policies and procedures

 Regular reporting on all facets of business including the strength of the teams, workshopping of findings with other managers / CEO / Board

There will, of course, be times when regardless of the internal development and investment in

industrial relations, a business is likely to be perceived as unresponsive, uncooperative or even

oblivious to some disputes. Take for instance after a major safety incident – often people

become disgruntled because there has been a history of not acting quick enough or investing in

the best option in the early days leading to greater, unresolved conflict and certainly conflict with

multiple people simultaneously.

In Australia, we recognise a number of different mechanisms for employees to voice concerns

and have them settled assisted or unassisted at the local level. Earlier we mentioned that all

conflict is bad for productivity, but the following are some examples that will directly influence

productivity in unresolved or prolonged conflict:

 Strike action including picketing, participation refusal and absenteeism

 Work bans affecting one or more single processes / jobs

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 Go-Slow strikes where employees reduce their work pace

 Work-to-Rule where employees only perform the tasks in their position descriptions

or that are in certain areas of business procedure *NOTE: this can occur on an

individual level, not just on whole of team or whole of business disputes, with

employees systematically reducing their own investment in a job and reverting to

“position description” duties only. This can be a warning sign of conflict even before

the employee reports it!

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Evaluate documentation and other information

sources to clarify issues in dispute and ensure

completeness, balance and relevance

When dealing with conflict internally is it important to be accurate but not to the point of being

unsupportive or dismissive. This means checking documents, records and situations to ensure

that what the employee is saying and what is available are congruent. You are looking to support

the employees’ evidence with documented or witnessed evidence that will help you better treat

and prevent the problems occurring in the future. You are not undertaking an investigation,

gathering legal evidence or passing judgement and no one is being cross-examined.

Your first and primary source of information should be a formal complaint letter or template. It

is useful to set out a way that you want employees to raise issues so that they can be broken

down easily and to even provide an example. Whilst this will often raise the history and the

nature of the complaint, you should always break down each point into what the situation is,

what is being asked of the employee, what actions need to be taken and the intended result.

Conversely, if the employee has taken their matter outside of the business, you may need to

collect legal evidence over a short period of time to either support the company’s position or to

make decisions about formal concessions and changes that can be made. It is important to

approach this task with an open mind that perhaps the company is wrong.

It is useful to include in your policies and procedures a checklist for helping you to clarify issues,

but as this list would vary between different types of disputes, it is useful to work with some

flexibility also.

Documentation might include:

 Records and logs

 Matrixes, tables, schedules and plans

 Administrative documents, templates and filing systems

 Client/employee records

 Invoices, statements, bills and financial accounting documents

 Emails, written correspondence, call logs and notifications

 Policies, procedures, templates, signage and tip sheets

 Legislation, regulation, industry code of practice

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It might also be helpful to work with people in the organisation informally or formally to gather

eye-witness accounts and to get feedback on a situation.

As you collect information you should record it in a number of ways to ensure that there is

transparency in what you are doing there is a chain of evidence, you have been accurate, the

evidence supports one or both positions, and you can use the evidence in time and place to

continue the dispute resolution process. A helpful document for recording evidence might be a

matrix in which you can record the issues, the company position, the employee position, any

legislation, regulation or industry code of practice that supports your position and the evidence

you will use to support that it is has been applied appropriately in the workplace.

In your collection process, it is useful to undertake any ordinary reviews of information to check

for accuracy and quality and to apply any normal adjustments provided for in your plans.

If at any time you are unsure about what should be collected, accessed or maintained throughout

a dispute resolution process you should get legal help from the company’s lawyers, through the

FairWork information service, from an employer representative agency or in accordance with

instructions from legal enforcement agencies.

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Obtain expert or specialist advice and/or refer to

precedents, if required

Even with the most up-to-date training, all staff involved in the supervision, hiring, firing or

management of people in the workplace may need help to resolve complex disputes. There are

specialists who do nothing but resolve or consult on particular areas of employee satisfaction,

and they are available at any time to support anyone in the workplace to resolve disputes

internally or externally.

Specialist services may include:

 Human resources consultancies

 Disability or Cultural advocates

 Evaluators / Research companies

 Rewards and loyalty programs

 Unions, employee representatives and employer representatives

 Government agencies and departments

 The Industrial Relations Commission for each state, territory or federally

 Legal representatives

 Independent mediation/conflict resolution services

It is important, before you contact any of these organisations, to be clear on the pathway that you

have agreed to follow on any current disputes, and that you have invested internally in gathering

evidence and documentation to help these services to help you.

Best practice suggests that you:

 Research the best service to support your needs – write down or record the details

for two or more services that you will approach.

 Prepare for a phone call with some key points, key questions and making copies of

complaints, policies and procedures available in one folder or place.

 You should always call the service first to ascertain their fit and their availability with

your timelines. You should provide a summary of the matter and tell them the

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questions you are trying to answer. You should ask for rough timeframes or

turnaround periods and enquire about the processes they will undertake.

 Compare multiple service options where possible to choose the best fit for the job.

You should look specifically for services that can turn around work within your time

frames, which are available, that represent quality, that have a complex or thorough

approach to consultation and have a working knowledge of either your industry, area

or state.

 If the matter is brief, and there is no payment involved you should take notes of

responses during this phone call.

 If the matter is more complex, you should get details to send a cover letter and copies

of documents and any objectives for the consultation including your questions or

required formats. If there is a fee involved you should try to pay this upfront or

provide a letter of authority to invoice or purchase order.

It is important that you are clear about your timelines when engaging the help or support of

people externally as these can become crucial to the positive resolution of employee conflict. In

any case, you should advise the employee as matters progress and of any expected timeframes

each action. For example: when you have contacted an agency and sent the paperwork you

should let the employee know that you have done this and when you expect to get an answer, or

if you have received contact from the specialist but need time to analysis the results you should

tell this employee this too.

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Determine desired negotiation outcomes,

negotiation strategy and negotiation timeframes

Negotiation is often described as a tug-o-war between two parties, but if you remember the

game, from your childhood, you might also remember that someone always exerts more power in

the long run and effectively “wins” by pulling the other party across the line into their side. This

is not, at all, the intended effect of negotiation which is more about persuasion and compromise.

It is a state of win-win instead.

In order to negotiate or compromise you must have clear and stated expectations from both

parties – in other words, in order to be flexible you must have something to be flexible with!

The best way to prepare for negotiation is to get a clear statement, preferably written or in

another way recorded, from the employee(s). You should then undertake research and

consultation internally to define the expectation of the company or the parties you represent. It is

important to remember that “people’s” expectations may differ from the policies and procedures

that are in place.

The process from here is clear:

 Review and analyse the expectations – where are the two parties expectations the

same, where are they different, why are they different, if they are the same what is

stopping you from resolution, what are the associated laws / regulations and so on.

 State what you can do immediately – if you have expectations that are the same or

similar, and there is minimal, or no barrier to resolution then tell the other party

exactly what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and in what time frame

to resolve the problem.

 State what you are willing to do with time – if you have expectations that are the

same or similar and there are major barriers to resolution then tell the other party

exactly what you are going to do, how you are going to do it and in what time frame

to resolve the problem.

 State what you can’t do because it is prohibited as a matter of law or regulation in

your state / country.

 Allow time for reflection – are there matters that, for the employee, are not fully

addressed by the resolutions already set, what are their new expectations, what are

their questions or objections.

 Repeat the process until a resolution has been achieved or until only matters of law

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are left. In the case of matters of law, you may need to refer the employee externally

to have the matter resolved at a higher or governmental level.

The persuasion or concession aspects of this process come in stating what you can and will do

without focusing on the negatives. Where you say “we are not willing”, “we won’t”, “we can’t”,

“it’s not possible”, “but” or “however” you are providing negative discussion points that take

away from the positive action that you can take. Where there are negatives you should:

 Leave them out of initial discussions and responses, especially those in writing.

 Try reframing instead –

o “We can refer you externally to…. to discuss … To do this, we will …..” or

o “We can release you from that duty / position / expectation, and this will

mean….. We will do this by…” or

o “We have to apply a fair and even approach to this matter, and we have done

so in consultation with ….. We will keep doing …..”

 Refer externally on any problems that are too complex to discuss or when emotions

are escalated. You should take a proactive approach such as setting up meetings and

consultations or providing the details to the employee at the time of any discussions.

In the event that you are resolving a complex matter where there is both personal and emotional

investment on the part of the employee(s), you should make available the opportunity to be

represented. This is an employee right in all matters although you may wish to provide a

framework for its productivity. Many Australian organisations that are aligned with a union

choose to make representation a union representative only option, especially in the early stages of

negotiation. Where possible use discretion so as to avoid being unfair to people who are not yet

members of the union or do not wish to be.

A negotiation is only an option when the two parties are willing and able to discuss their options

and when there is still the ability to move or bend in a position. You may find that you prepare

for negotiation but in the meeting with the other party, they are no longer willing to bend or be

flexible with their expectations. It is important, therefore, to set time periods for responses,

investigation and negotiation to ensure that you do not miss any windows of opportunity.

A good timeline is:

 Respond to complaints within 24 hours acknowledging receipt and thanking the

person for bringing the matters to you in the appropriate way

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 Gather additional evidence within 48 – 72 hours to help you to plan for a more

detailed response. If possible, meet with the person during this time.

 Investigate any impediments to timeframes such as planned leave, public holidays or

the whole of business functions and advise the employee of the timelines that will

apply to them.

 Try to respond with the first round of negotiation within 7 days. If you do not have

any resolutions or outcomes at this point, you should state this and what you are

going to do to get the information you need.

 Try to resolve 95% of all matters within 14 days – this means 95% of all complaints

raised, in general, and 95% of all matters raised by the employee in their complaint if

you cannot get final outcome within this time because of impediments.

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Advocate the organisation’s position in negotiation

with the view to reaching a resolution that aligns to

organisational objectives

As outlined in the previous section sometimes you, a manager or a human resources practitioner

will be required to negotiate on behalf of the organisation in order to achieve a win-win

resolution. There will be times when this is advocated to an external service provid

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