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Leading Employment Relations in a Full Employment Economy

A couple months on from the Stratis Consulting Employment Relations Summit ‘2020 Vision’ we thought it might be good to revisit the day and share some key insights from the day with you.

‘Leading People Strategies’ is at the core of what Stratis Consulting is all about. The key purpose of the event was to bring together some of the leading experts in the Irish and international IR and ER communities to discuss ‘leading employment relations in a full employment economy’. We also focused on covering some key topical issues and challenges companies are facing, at a time when unemployment has dipped to 4.8%, including:

  • Meeting the challenges and leading transformation and change.

  • The journey towards a ‘world class’ workplace relations system – where are we now?

  • Challenging times for private sector pay – ‘The next phase of the journey’ for total rewards. Market based pay and the employee experience.

The event, which took place in The Shelbourne on November 28th, saw over 200 delegates attend including many leading employee relations practitioners, human resources professionals and business leaders. Vincent Wall, Business Editor with Newstalk, led proceedings on the day and those in attendance heard from an excellent line up of speakers including:

Ray Gammell (Senior Strategic Advisor to the Group CEO of Ethiad Aviation Group), Christian Welz (Senior Research Manager Industrial Relations, Eurofound), Kevin Green (Founder & CEO of What’s Next People and Strategy Consultancy), Brendan McGinty (Managing Partner, Stratis Consulting) & Kevin Langford (Partner, Arthur Cox), Ruchi Arora (Talent Management Lead, Willis Towers Watson), Brendan McGinty (Managing Partner, Stratis Consulting) & Jenny Smyth (Head of Talent & Reward Consulting Ireland, Willis Towers Watson), Patricia King (General Secretary, ICTU) and Kevin Foley (Chairman, The Labour Court) and Nicola O’Driscoll (People Director, Brown Thomas & Arnotts).

Some Key Insights from the Day

On Leading Transformation and Change

“It’s all about engaging and involving our people, only 30% are fully engaged at work! Think about the productivity if you increased that to 40%...try to find leaders who will make the tough calls and challenge organisational assumptions” – Kevin Green

“We have to ask ourselves as a profession why the role of the CFO is viewed so differently to the Chief of HR, we have to ask some hard questions about ourselves. As a function we have a lot of stepping up to do. It takes courage, commitment and risk to step up. When we step up there is the option of failure…but that is the expectation we have for every part of leadership in the business so why not HR”. – Ray Gammell

“Transformation is the case for change and the vehicle by which we build momentum, but transformation must be both purpose led and people led…”– Ray Gammell

On the Journey Towards a ‘World Class’ Workplace Relations System – Where Are We Now?

This was a four-way debate on employment relations reform, focussing mainly on the positives and negatives of our workplace relations system – five years after it was revamped in 2015. The debate at centred on issues raised by Stratis and its Managing Partner, Brendan McGinty in a ‘White Paper’ on the topic. It contains suggestions on collective bargaining, new industrial relations processes, new rules on industrial disputes, the creation of new national ‘oversight body’ and a plea for greater emphasis on workplace mediation. While welcoming the reforms introduced through the Workplace Relations Act 2015, Stratis says many employers believe that the balance on employment legislation has begun to “tip in the wrong direction”.

“Understand the word ‘respect’, if people operated from that basis we wouldn’t have half the turmoil…I never met a worker yet … who wanted to go on strike or who felt good about it. It has an awful effect in a workplace afterwards,” – Patricia King

“The best work places are where people are engaged respectfully in the workplace…Overall the system hasn’t done badly, with 87% of disputes referred to the (Workplace Relations )Commission settled at conciliation, and ‘99%’ of the rest accepted a Labour Court recommendation – that’s not bad… We should value what we have and keep on developing it”. – Kevin Foley

“Unlike the Labour Court, which has a clear set of rules which have a statutory footing, the WRC has a set of rules with no statutory footing. Under the new system, hearings are much faster…by the end of the old system people were waiting 18 months for a hearing before the EAT which was utterly unsustainable... The WRC engages to see how things can be improved but the main disappointments are that while cases are moving through faster, there is an inconsistency on how quickly we are getting decisions from the WRC procedures. And there is also an inconsistency regarding how decisions are arrived at, with little analysis in some cases. “– Kevin Langford

On the issue of ‘finality’ “In the multinationals who are doing business all over the world, there is a growing source of frustration that in our system there is less of an inclination to bring finality to matters. It’s the issue of the revolving door…I think we need to be honest enough to acknowledge that. The debate has started…we need to share these views, to get the debate going. I would be incredibly optimistic in that we have a very strong system. But in the cold light of day we need to look at what other improvements are needed to achieve a ‘world class’ workplace relations system.” – Brendan McGinty

“The respect theme…absolutely right. So many organisations are still in the ‘them’ and ‘us’ conversations…we need to start shifting the dial more to what the ‘shared interest’ is. It’s a huge challenge! But it presents a great opportunity.” - Brendan McGinty

On the Role of Mediation

There were some diverse views:

“Mediation should always be proposed with a responsibility on either party to justify a refusal to mediate.” – Brendan McGinty

“On mediation…most parties want disputes settled. There has been 200% increase in terms of people waiting to avail of mediation.” – Kevin Langford

“There are good and bad pieces of mediation. Overall, the relationship between employers and workers is an unbalanced one…Trade unions, where they exist, try through collective bargaining to relieve some of that and there are some very good collective agreements, both private and public…(on mediation), if the employer pays for it, the employer gets what the employer wants”. – Patricia King

On Challenging Times for Private Sector Pay

This session discussed the relationship between total rewards and the talent experience, issues of managing base pay with an increased focus on benefits whilst getting ready for greater transparency.

“Around the world employees, boards, regulators and governments are asking employers to demonstrate they are delivering fair pay…Employers need to know where differences in pay can arise, why they are happening and how to avoid them” – Jenny Smyth.

“Happy and engaged employees create better experiences, which leads to more satisfied and loyal customers and, ultimately, brand and company growth… Employee Experience focuses on tracing how employees think and feel during every single touchpoint of their journey through the company from recruitment to exit.” – Nicola O’Driscoll

The event was sponsored by Arthur Cox and supported by Willis Towers Watson and the Irish Independent were media partners.

Summit ‘2020 Vision’ White Paper

On the day we officially launched the Stratis Consulting Summite ‘2020 Vision’ White Paper entitled ‘The Journey Towards a ‘World Class’ Workplace Relations System – Where Are We?'. To download a copy of the white paper click here.

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