The current blame culture has overtaken the common sense approach of handling conflict, with many unnecessarily ending up in litigation, which is both expensive and demoralizing. Having front line managers who could nip potential situations in the bud would save time and inconvenience (having to advertise, interview and appoint a replacement member of staff, for example). So how can strategic members of staff acquire these skills?
Mediation is a process where a neutral third party will structure a process to facilitate a settlement between the participants. The mediator is impartial and shouldn’t give advice or offer opinion on what might happen if the issue went to court. He/She should help both sides realise that coming to a mutually acceptable solution is preferable to a protracted legal process. This should mean both sides walk away satisfied, with dignity intact. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service in the UK (an independent and impartial organization) has seen the level of company disputes requiring legal or tribunal action has dropped significantly, as more companies are using dispute resolution. Because of these statistics, more firms are sending one or more members of staff to undergo accredited training courses, as the cost is more than recouped through resolving issues quickly.
As HR directors and managers are concerned with employee welfare, they are the most logical choice for becoming qualified mediators. Indeed many larger organizations are already seeing this as a ‘best practice’ choice. Mediation is most effective when it’s brought it at the early stages of a conflict, which requires effective communication and reporting from line managers to HR. Unfortunately, it’s possible for disputes to be overlooked in larger corporations, which is where skill training for the wider workforce would be advantageous.
Mediation Skills in the Workplace
Basic, key mediation skills are typically delivered as one-day training seminars, which could be conducted in-house or externally. If an organization has a qualified mediator, they could potentially create and deliver the content using a flexible learning management system such as Totara Learn. As part of the training requires students to take part in mock mediations where they assume the role of participant and mediator, the seminar must be interactive. If you have trainees on different sites, the mockups could take place via Skype, which removes the need for everyone to be physically present for training. It’s also important for employees who completed the training to keep up with CPD, as it’s easy for unused skills to become weak. This could be effectively delivered in micro-learning chunks, enabling employees to access content at a time and place convenient for them.
If more managers understand the benefits of using even rudimentary mediation skills to diffuse tense situations before they escalate, it should lead to an increased feeling of wellbeing, which in turn could lead to a more contented and productive workforce.