Two experts have weighed-in with some advice for HR practitioners who have to deal with labour disputes.
“This may take longer and involve greater willingness on both sides to search for solutions which will benefit each other than the more common ‘zero sum’ approach where winner takes all,” said Russell Lansbury, emeritus professor, work and organisational studies, at the University of Sydney.
One of the first steps to completing a successful negotiation is in structuring communication channels in a way that is conducive to compromise and relationship building. These include:
- Conducting regular surveys to gauge employee concerns, and acting on issues immediately
- Establishing a well-defined and acknowledged system for responding to employee grievances
- Encouraging senior leaders to interact with employees, preferably in a worker setting
- Hosting regular meetings between managers and employees at every tier of the organisation
- Offering training to employees on negotiation tactics so they know how to address issues as they arise
- At first sight of conflict, engaging in dispute resolution practices with mediators who are trusted by employees and management
When labour disputes do become public, it’s important for companies to respond in a strong but respectable way.
“The initial message should acknowledge the situation and inform the public on the company’s sentiment surrounding the issue. The company should then explain the actions it’s taking to resolve the issue and highlight any parties it’s working with in this process,” said Nicole Reaney, director at InsightOut PR.
As long as senior executives keep actions in line with their stated sentiments, conflict resolution and reputation restoration stand a good chance for success.
In 2014, controversial labour disputes brought negative press to such established organisations as McDonald’s, Apple, and Amazon.