The IPA’s new study, Sharing the Challenge Ahead: Informing and Consulting
with your Workforce, should be required reading for anyone who works in HR. It
shows UK employers are turning around their poor historical record on
consulting with staff and showing the rest of Europe how it should be done. Among
the organisations reaping the benefits of good consultation processes are
British Bakeries, Cap Gemini, the NHS, Pizza Express, Asda, Blue Circle Cement
and AstraZeneca to name only a few.
With an EU directive on consultation due to go to the European Parliament
soon this is good news, provided the directive allows for a range of
approaches. The study shows that UK employers are developing effective models
taking in mechanisms such as staff councils, joint union-employer taskforces
and consultation arrangements at local and national level.
HR people have been saying for a long time that strong staff consultation
and involvement are essential to business effectiveness and the study shows
that their efforts to instil this in UK organisations are paying off. There are
situations, however, where consulting with staff can carry risks for the
employer and staff alike. The key is to strike a balance between ensuring
employees’ views are taken on board and avoiding processes which could result
in the delaying of business decisions.
On this score, UK employers cannot afford to sit back just yet. The European
Parliament could reinstate sanctions which force companies to delay
implementing collective redundancies. And employers are best advised to make
sure they set up voluntary models now rather than risk having ones imposed
later that could reduce the scope for quick decisions.