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.