People love to blame the industrial relations laws for poor outcomes in their enterprise negotiations, but I think that is a cop out. To succeed in any endeavour you need certainty and clarity. You need to be 100 per cent sure of your objectives. Union organisers’ are full-time negotiators and they are good at what they do. Know that you are up against seasoned professionals and prepare accordingly.
Unfortunately, many managers see EBA negotiations as a distraction and do not work hard enough at the ritual of negotiating. Don’t blame the legislation if you are out-negotiated. If you want to get the best outcomes from your enterprise bargaining process, you need to take the time and effort to plan for success.
The Abbott government
The new government has announced a Royal Commission into the behaviour of unions and matters relating to corruption. An enquiry by the Productivity Commission into the Australian industrial relations framework has also been flagged.
This year is shaping up to be an interesting one but will it be an easy road for employers? No matter what the outcome of the Royal Commission or a Productivity Commission enquiry, one thing is certain and that is that these investigations will not solve the day-to-day industrial relations problems faced by employers.
Preparation is essential
I’d argue that companies should not be waiting for the federal government to save them. We are all responsible for our own destinies. The best way to get the outcomes you want in any industrial relations environment is to be committed and prepare well in advance.
Preparation and communication provides the right environment to facilitate internal stakeholder engagement and buy in. Without this internal ownership and back up, the confidence and capacity of your negotiating team will seep away under the harsh pressure of the negotiation.
Having a solid business case for your company log of claims, along with a clear mandate signed off by the chief executive, are required elements for success. These elements take time to develop and our experience shows that the earlier these matters are finalised the better. That mandate properly prepared and signed off gives negotiators definite authority at the bargaining table.
If the negotiator has a mandate, there should be no need for a more senior person to be brought in to “rescue the day”. These events are not uncommon and often cause the local managers and HR support to be left looking worse for wear and totally undermined for future effectiveness in the day-to-day running of their area of responsibility.
I believe we need to take responsibility for our own future. This requires a willingness to be innovative, strategic and to plan early when we are often busy with the immediate and urgent problems of our daily responsibilities. I have seen fantastic results where managers get the outcomes they need for more productive workplaces.
What is it that these managers all have in common?
They plan early and carefully and take the time to talk to their employees. It is often as simple as one person talking to another.