Time to take the fear out of partnerships

The
Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union’s national officer John Lloyd
wrote in this column about the partnership agenda and asked if it was still a
slippery concept  (14 November). Good
for him. This subject needed airing and Lloyd is a great catalyst. What he
recognises is that there is no one way to partnership between employer and
employees – that solutions and formulae will vary from company to organisation.

I believe
that there is a need to explore what partnership demands in terms of commitment
and what it can produce in terms of added value. There is also a need to
overcome fear and create the opposite: a passion for and belief in what
partnership can achieve.

Tackling
the fear is the first priority – it freezes management and other employees
alike and is self perpetuating. Management is afraid to communicate  because it doesn’t have all the answers and
employees fear to challenge because management is not involving them. Their
belief is that they are not trusted and their ideas are not wanted. So
companies remain inefficient and the productivity gap becomes worse.

I attended
the launch of The Silent Stakeholders paper by Industrial Society recently. It
argues for UK legislation on employee consultation based on evidence that good
consultation leads to higher productivity and profits. I agree on the necessity
for consultation but I’m not sure about the route to getting there.

The CBI
argues against more legislation and regulation because of the perceived burden
on business. To me it is about effectiveness. Will extending the compulsion on
consultation create the enthusiasm in industry to make it work? The business
case is strong, the application of consultation and partnership is weak.

Partnerships
that work do so because the participants believe in them and have redefined
their roles and arrived at a solution that fits the enterprise.

What is
unarguable is that involvement leads to high productivity and profit and a
potentially sustainable business. The companies and unions that have practised
effective partnerships have achieved this. Lloyd is right. Each one needs to
arrive at the solution that suits and needs to go through a process, learning
best practice from peers, both management and unions.

This is happening
at the centre for thought leadership on the shore of Rutland Water. Management
and unions are meeting at the Whitwell centre to participate in joint training,
facilitated by Whitwell Learning and Ruskin College. People are looking to
learn, participate, contribute to research and explore the partnership agenda.
The aim is to dump costly adversarial approaches and create wins that secure
jobs and futures.

So what do
you think, Lloyd? Do you want to join us? 
You and your colleagues are most welcome, as are CBI members and other
employers.

By
Professor Clive Morton

Independent
HR consultant, chairman of Whitwell Learning, author and former vice-president
of the CIPD

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