A&A Blog – Rational Commentary on Employment Issues
We Are Hiring! IR Management Consultant – Sydney & Melbourne
05 September 2017
We require two energetic and innovative individuals with practical skills in IR negotiations. If you get a buzz negotiating top Enterprise Agreements and can see beyond the current rigid and repetitive IR practices, then this may be for you.
We need people who believe they can make a positive difference to businesses by designing and assisting clients in building modern IR strategies which change their EA negotiations experience and at the same time improve employee engagement. If you are a confident individual who can communicate with workers, managers and leading executives, then you may be that creative person we are looking for, who can deliver future focused IR solutions. It’s a given that productive and growing businesses need committed and motivated employees and managers. EA's therefore need to be sufficiently flexible to allow for this.
Who are we?
Adelhelm & Associates are a top IR management consulting and training company operating across Australia & New Zealand. Our consultants operate out of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Auckland. All are experienced negotiators who actively work with clients in search of new and innovative agreements. We work with some of Australia’s best-known companies and cover both the private and public sectors. Our aim is to make clients totally self-sufficient in EA negotiations, by giving them the latest information, new techniques and the practical skills to do this. By taking ownership of their Enterprise Agreement negotiations clients take control of their businesses future!
The ideal candidate needs to be:
- Experienced in Enterprise Agreement negotiations
- Enjoy the dynamics of collective communications
- An enthusiastic workshop facilitator
- Confident and outgoing
- Totally aligned to Good Faith practices with unquestionable integrity
- Ideally you are already established as an independent IR Consultant, looking to compliment your current earnings as an Associate with A&A
- Flexible work hours and days, which allows you to add to your existing work stream
- An association with a national consultancy
- A supportive environment allowing for sharing of ideas with likeminded professionals
- Comprehensive training in our negotiating methodology and workshop programs
- Scope for personal and business growth
If you are interested or simply want more info kindly contact Rebecca Morrison on 03 9387 9279 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our top 5 must have's for your EA Negotiation preparation
08 August 2017
Successful negotiators know a bit of preparation goes a long way when it comes to influencing a successful outcome in their EA Negotiations. The act of getting ready, from nailing your strategy to landing your communications approach inspires confidence and enables you to approach bargaining strategically and as effectively as possible so you can get the most out of, let's face it, a pretty difficult process. Imagine being able to face into negotiations knowing you've done all you can to prepare yourself, versus being dragged to the table, in reactive mode, and scrambling to respond to the claims flying at you, let alone salvaging time to think about what the company might want out of its Enterprise Agreement this bargaining round.
So let's dive into our top 5:
1. How will the EA support the company's wider strategic direction/ goals/ mission? It's a vision thing. Start with your Why.
To be able to build an effective EA Negotiation Strategy you need to understand why it is you are pursuing the claims you are, why do you want the changes you are seeking, and are those why's in alignment with your organisation's mission critical goals and vision?
- For example, if your organisation is pursuing an agenda of financial sustainability, it may be that building some accountability for hitting productivity or continuous improvement targets is something you desire to see in the EA, just like savings for achieving a reduction in printing/ paper wastage or targets set around the reduction in annual leave liability might be worth pursuing (as well as a myriad of many other things) as part of your EA bargaining agenda.
- Understand the People and culture direction, what are you hoping to achieve in this space, how will the EA Negotiations progress that? If you are seeking a more agile responsive and adaptable workforce, perhaps you are seeking functional flexibility.
The point being you it's difficult to build where you want to go in your EA negotiations without considering how the bigger picture and the Company's why aligns with that.
2. Benchmarking yourself - Take a look around
Understanding what the bargaining trends are in your industry is important, look at any other issues that are on the horizon that could impact upon your negotiations so you future proof your Enterprise Agreement as much as possible to be able to have the flexibility and speed to adapt accordingly. No one wants an EA that kills your ability to respond to new challenges dead in its tracks whether that be by being able to outsource an inefficient and costly parcel of work or change the way people work.
3. Project plan and timeline
It sure does help to have a plan! A project plan is key to mapping out the critical phases of the EA Negotiation process, including all the activities in your pre-preparation, engagement/ communication stage, commencing negotiations, during negotiations, and concluding negotiations. A timeline is essential so you can begin to understand the timings involved in your EA Negotiation process and begin plotting the critical activities along the way - including giving yourself a buffer zone (ideal) for preparation and planning. For example, when do you actually plan/ hope to kick off EA Negotiations? The first meeting? When do you anticipate that to be? Once you know this you can plan for the issuing of the Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) - remember you are expected to commence bargaining within 14 days of issuing the NERR to your staff.
4. Your EA Negotiation Strategy
The EA Negotiation Strategy sets the approach for the EA Negotiations, whereas the Project Plan maps the what (activities), when, and how those are going to be delivered. A non-exhaustive list follows of what you might want to include your EA Negotiation Strategy:
- Consider your mandate - what are the parameters/ objectives for the EA Negotiations, at a high-level what you are seeking to achieve as an outcome? A simplified, streamlined EA, financially sustainable wage outcomes, a greater commitment to continuous improvement, for example?
- Nail the specifics - what are the Company Log of Claims?
- Commercial Considerations and Industry/ Benchmarking data
- SWOT analysis
- Risk Register - maps levels of risk and mitigation strategies
- Operational and Legal Contingencies plan
5. Your Communication & Engagement approach - How to NAIL it!
Having a solid communications approach is often overlooked as part of the enterprise bargaining process, but if you want to keep your hands firmly on the reins of the agenda - nailing this is critical. The reality is that preparing for negotiations starts long before you are sitting at the table to negotiate. It starts with your organisation's relationship with its employees. It's important to realise that the organisational culture permeates the EA Negotiations, employees bring to the negotiation table organisational baggage, a whole lot of history, biases, it’s a pot of crazy sometimes, and as we know there are always some strirers. So after you have nailed your why, and what in your EA Negotiation Strategy, it is worth giving some thought to how you are going to communicate your bargaining proposals in an engaging and persuasive way with your employees.
Want to learn more about the 'how to' of EA Negotiation Strategy and planning? Master your preparation in our Advanced & Strategic Negotiations Masterclass!
Your EA Negotiation Strategy - What's your Why? More importantly, how engaged are your employees with it?
10 February 2017
Whilst you can't script in advance exactly how negotiations will actually proceed, we can all agree that having an EA strategy is a must. A strategy becomes your road map to securing better quality EA outcomes. Specifically, those outcomes should ensure your business remains a productive, innovative, and sustainable operation with a highly engaged workforce into the future. A strategy forces you to think about, ideally well in advance of bargaining, the following:
- what you're bringing to the table (what do you want to achieve in this round of bargaining) and….why! Note, this is so much more than simply crafting a "log of claims."
- how you want to do that, and
- how will you participate in the negotiations.
However, before the strategy it's critical to spend some time thinking about the current environment such strategy is going to be executed in, and set yourself up as best you can for success by working on any trouble spots well in advance of the negotiations.
First, connect in with WHY and the bigger picture- it's not only about winning the hearts and minds of employees (although it is!), it's just smart tactics!
You need to think about HOW your EA Negotiation goals align with, or are supportive of, the goals/ objectives with your other business strategies. Connect your strategy in with the bigger picture! A good place to start is looking at those strategies, a strategy relating to one of the most important documents that govern the terms and conditions of the employment of your people (your EA!) cannot be developed in isolation to these strategies! So take a look at:
- Digital Transformation
- The Corporate or Annual Plan?
Look at the short term and the long term goals of these strategies.
Get excited and curious about your businesses operating environment
Look for trends, and how your EA negotiation strategy has to be cognisant of, and responsive to those trends.
Does your EA negotiation goals help or hinder service delivery?
Once you have thought about the strategic goals of your "what" and "why," of your strategy, you are ready to move to the next phase, identifying your:
- primary bargaining objectives (your must have / non-negotiable items); and
- additional bargaining objectives.
We'll tackle that, and how to create a clear compelling, influential narrative around the why of what you are pursuing in your upcoming EA negotiations in forthcoming articles in this series.
Besides, If you start with answering *why* you are looking to achieve what you are looking to achieve this round of bargaining, it will invariably connect back in with business parameters.
How engaged are your workforce with your why?
Once you've determined your narrative or story around your *Why*, time for a stocktake or audit of how well you think those business parameters are understood by your workforce.
Because those business parameters will become bargaining parameters in the forthcoming negotiations.
How engaged are your people in them?
Whist the theatre of bargaining can be a difficult place to authentically story tell, if engagement is lack lustre, that is a poor environment to execute your strategy in. Think about what you can do to gain genuine engagement with employees on the business imperatives well before EA negotiations hit. This could involve a variety of tactics including road shows, working groups that work specifically on a project that might fall out of a wider business strategy (innovation or a people based strategy on achieving functional flexibility or agility in the organisation as a random example), to team talks that speak in non-spin, plain and transparent terms about what is happening and why.
Employees as a baseline need to understand the narrative of where the business is going, and ideally be value adding to that vision every day. Start answering the engagement puzzle and you start to unlock and open up innovation - a critical culture to embed to survive the turbulence of change. You can't stand still in this environment. You can and will get flattened.
What bargaining approach best facilitates the execution of your WHY?
It would be not the highest return on investment in building genuine engagement around business parameters if all that hard work is undermined by a bargaining approach that disengages, baffles and confuses. That is why it is important to take this pre-preparation time to think about how you will participate in bargaining. Will you look at taking elements of a common interest based bargaining approach for example where the bargaining parties start with declarations of their interests instead of putting forward proposals, and work to develop agreements that satisfy common interests and balance opposing interests. Interest-based bargaining is also called integrative or win-win bargaining - more on this approach in a future article. It's important to test whether the business is ready for a radical approach to achieve radical results and outcomes, instead of something that doesn't fit or serve the business.
Finally, once you're ready to craft your EA negotiation Strategy, Don't set and forget, stay open minded and be strategically agile!
Strategic agility itself is the ability to continuously adjust and adapt your strategy and your strategic ambitions for bargaining to changing circumstances. It is the ability to look at innovative ways to achieve your desired EA outcomes, to open your mind to new ideas, and methods. It is pursuing the question of, what would it look like if we looked at it this way, and being alert to opportunities to pivot, and, if need be, renew your strategic objectives at all times.
Planning for an upcoming EA? Have a confidential Free strategy chat with one of our consultants today about how we can help – we are the leaders in IR training in this area and have helped employers large and small, across a diverse range of industries with EA Negotiation Strategy and Development. Partner with us for success!
Nicole Walsh – Consultant – Adelhelm & Associates Pty Ltd
Read Nicole’s Bio here
EA Negotiations - Know the Agenda!
08 November 2016
Their agenda, your agenda, our Agenda?
There are many aspects to the preparatory phase of EA Negotiations that we don’t have scope to cover in this article, (look out for future ones in this EA bargaining series), however, knowing what is driving the competing agendas at the bargaining table is critical.
Before we go and cloak the term ‘agenda’ in some kind of dark twisted mysticism, it is worth remembering that ’agenda‘ doesn’t always have to have a negative connotation! Remember at the end of the day, the literal meeting of ’agenda‘ is a list of things to discuss at a meeting. When you are feeling overwhelmed by ’agendas’ break it down to its simplest meaning or form and proceed accordingly.
Knowing all three agendas (yours, theirs and ours) in play in the theatre of negotiations is critical to securing better quality EA outcomes. Why? Because you are stepping into a more EMPOWERED space, you are not just ‘reacting’ to employee claims and the agendas of their representatives, you are driving your agenda proactively and collaboratively.
Let’s break down what we mean by three agendas:
Knowing your own Agenda:
- What are your key bargaining objectives? What are the key MATTERS you are looking to address in your EA? Some of the critical objectives for example can be around things like
- Scope (the coverage of the EA types of employees AND locations)
- Service delivery (is there anything impeding it in the current EA?
- Sustainable wage outcomes
- Continuous improvement, productivity and flexibility – provisions around capability building and up-skilling – ensuring the EA drives flexibility in the way work is delivered. You may want to increase the effectiveness of work production or customer focus
Why? What’s the story? Why are these items so important? Understanding what your priorities are as an employer will lead to a clearer bargaining strategy – (more on that in later articles!)
Knowing their Agenda (Unions and your people!)
- Get proactive about this! What are the unions claiming in your industry of similar companies? What is landing on their log of claims?
- What typically falls off the list?
- What are are the die in a ditch issues they are holding STRONG to?
- Not that I like to think of bargaining necessarily as a contest – but let’s admit it, there are some combative adversarial aspects to the negotiation process that can’t be avoided. You wouldn’t enter a battle without doing a bit of research on your opponent and what it is they want out of that contest, obviously to win, but how are they going about winning?
- Your people! Don’t wait until you are served a list of demands from your people about the upcoming EA before you start preparing to respond to their agenda.
- Connect with your people! Find out what is important to them YOU can find out through surveys, (for example, engagement survey), drop in sessions, team or tool box discussions, working groups for example on key initiatives that might form part of the EA.
- Be transparent with your people when you are in the planning process of the EA – that is, before you map out your management bargaining proposal you want to consider their feedback and give them an opportunity to input into that process. Please make sure you RESPOND to the feedback so employees don’t feel like they have had their time wasted.
You will need to build an employee engagement, communication and consultation strategy (a critical strategic piece in the picture of your overall EA bargaining strategy) – our team of experts can help you!
Knowing our Agenda
Finally, the most important agenda of them all. What are the items of common ground between the interests of employer, employees and unions?
This approach sometimes called ‘interest based bargaining’ encourages joint problem-solving in which parties collaborate to find a win/win.
Is this bargaining approach gaining traction? YES!
The recent Productivity Commission submissions have included suggestions for the Fair Work Commission to run interest based bargaining workshops to help facilitate better negotiated outcomes.
Knowing what ‘our’ agenda is and reframing discussions, where it is appropriate, focuses attention on items that can move the EA negotiations forward. Understanding and being able to leverage ‘our’ agenda is the key to you and your people coming out of the negotiation process basking in the glow of mutual winnings – a much better environment to meaningfully implement your EA!
So, to recap, in the spirit of keeping it simple:
- Know (as best as you can) the agenda well in advance of negotiations.
- Be prepared to advance your own agenda, discuss and respond to others, and find points of commonality, authentically!
Planning for an upcoming EA? Have confidential FREE strategy chat with one of our consultants today about how we can help – we are the leaders in IR training in this area and have helped employers large and small, across a diverse range of industries with EA Negotiation Strategy and Development. Partner with us for success!
Nicole Walsh – Consultant – Adelhelm & Associates Pty Ltd
Read Nicole’s Bio here
21 September 2016
All organisations can improve labour productivity, and if they are unionised then the best time to do so is whilst their EA is in term. We show employers how to identify and effectively implement quick wins? Thereafter, we share the secrets on how to get close to the front-line managers and supervisors so that they can implement a culture of continuous productivity improvement.
This very new, next level, half-day session will give employers a practical methodology, for delivering bottom line improvements and more effective labour management utilisation.
It’s unfortunate, but true, that very few workplaces operate with optimum labour productivity. Sadly, very few employers even measure it. There is almost always an opportunity to deliver benefits to the bottom line. This workshop shows employers how to approach this and it delivers a structured, commercial and effective outcome - regardless of industry sector.
We cover key issues, such as:
- The Productivity Metrics
- The Barriers to Productivity
- Identifying your Managerial Authority
- Front Line Leadership - The Key to Success
- Risk Mitigation - Managing Unlawful Industrial Action
- Results via Project and Change Management
- Non Traditional Labour Deployment Models
- The High Performance Workplace Culture for Long-Term Productivity Gains
For more details about this session: A New Look at Productivity
If you are in Operations or a Line Manager, and looking for quick improvements in labour productivity performance, then you may want to attend. HR and ER professionals who are looking for a practical framework through which to deliver better productivity and workplace change will find this workshop beneficial. Business owners dealing with the transition from small to medium workforces should definitely attend.
Stephen Sasse and Fred Adelhelm, both experts in the field of industrial relations and labour productivity will share their wisdom and practical experience with you.
It’s a great session guaranteed to put you on the right track. Interested, then Register Today or email me, email@example.com
The Wave of Change
17 May 2016
The mood around the bargaining table of companies affected by the resources sector downturn is notably sombre and a far cry from the fist thumping demands of boom times. More than a swing of the pendulum, some would liken it to a tsunami that has uprooted negotiating parties from the comfortable surrounds of the board room through muddy and turbulent waters to the barren view from the waste dump. A place where the low hanging fruit is well gone, nothing left to trim from the top of the tree and those who survived the upheaval are expected to help replant for the future with their own seeds of fortune.
In our new look resources sector, pay reductions replace pay rises, cost reductions are more important than productivity, workforce planning around labour shortages disappears and innovators are now modelling the lowest cost options to support a reduced labour force. When up to 45% of operating costs can be attributed to labour in some mining operations, it is little wonder bargaining outcomes are getting leaner (1.8% for December ’15 quarter), and miners are forensically examining the affordability of pay structures put in place when the boom demanded.
Already in 2016 more than 2300 mining industry jobs have been lost and there is little faith in any headline that suggests an end to the industry woes or a return to the bullish market conditions. An occasional spike in commodity prices is not shifting the mood as industry leaders set their sights firmly on cost reductions to transition through this period and remain globally competitive. The employer of choice is no longer a feature of creative HR departments; it is made by the share price, commodity price and how low competitor wages will go to survive the savage cost cutting.
Your bargaining committee this year gathers, albeit a smaller committee who survived the 1st round cost cutting. The world has changed and you take some comfort in the fact that nobody will dispute such claim. Surely! So how do you start that conversation with your union or employee reps that you have in mind an upfront 10% pay cut? Last time you probably spoke to the same group in 2012 it was 10% over 2 or 3 years and extra benefits thrown in to attract the best people and remain competitive in the booming labour market. Do you start with an “ambit” claim – the business needs a labour cost reduction of 10% ASAP, but you know the rules of bargaining, you should start higher and expect the negotiation to lead you to a compromise? But 15% sounds incredibly harsh and having never asked for a pay cut before, sounds like you are expecting the workforce to bleed for you. If your employees know anything about how you negotiated in the past, they are likely to expect you to compromise, give more when the heat comes on. It’s what you do.
How solid is the mandate from your leaders – will 10% be enough? What if things get worse, we sign off on 10% and the goal posts change again? Change is rapid, trust is low, fear is high and the tension is palpable. It’s a very different bargaining process and not many have had the experience of navigating their way through such difficult times and emerge with the same workplace culture. Pitfalls are everywhere as you try to protect those who have been loyal and consider creating a new, second grade workforce who enter your workplace on lower conditions reflecting the market of today, not the hangover of boom time conditions.
Reductions are on the bargaining table for many in the resources sector whether it is through removing of allowances, shuffling of classifications, changes to rosters, reduced travel time, wage freezes, and being less committed to wage increase in what the Departments calls non-quantifiable wage movements. 42.6% of all EAs lodged in the December ’15 quarter had such “non-quantifiable” wage arrangements in place, with reasons including CPI linked wage increases, employee or company performance linked pay reviews, or simply using the wage movement of the Modern Award. Statistics from the Trends In Federal Enterprise Bargaining (ref: December Quarter 2015) fail to account for the multitude of EA’s varied during their term that cut significant labour costs – these variations are technically not “agreements lodged”, but variations to existing agreements. Such agreements have achieved significant labour cost reductions by reducing shift loadings, base rates of pay reduced by 10%, removal of travel benefits [AG2015/7871] reducing leave benefits (AG2016/613), meal and other allowances (AG2016/331). This little hidden gem (Varied agreements) makes for more interesting reading than published trends.
Approaching the challenge of reducing wages and conditions as part of your cost saving initiatives requires more planning than any other form of bargaining you may have tackled in the past. A wage increase makes most people happy most of the time. Achieving your goal of reducing labour cost is not likely to set your employee engagement survey on fire but with planning, a focus on strong communication and a higher level of disclosure than you may have been comfortable with in the past, it is possible to emerge with the reduction of cost you need and an accepting (rather than happy) workforce still appreciating the job they hold….until the earth rumbles again.
Christine Brown – Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org
Read her A&A bio here
What professions and in which industries will be the jobs of the future be in?
20 April 2016
How do you use broader information on workforce matters when negotiating with your employees? It is important for IR professionals to consider data on the future of jobs in Australia and what impact may be seen in the workplace you operate in. Will it put pressure on job numbers and wage expectations or change pressure to severance conditions?
A recent article in The Age explored the federal government’s review of the skilled occupations list that identifies professions and trades that appear almost future proof.
So, where the jobs will be and where won't they be?
Some of the jobs in growing demand are: glaziers, floor covering installers, aged care workers and accountants.
While some of the jobs in areas of shrinking demand are: doctors, nurses, dentists, primary school teachers and ship engineers.
Read more and use the interactive tool at: http://www.theage.com.au/business/workplace-relations/where-future-jobs-will-be--and-where-they-wont-20160329-gnt70a.html
At the same time, IBISWorld has reported encouraging news that employers in Australia are creating five times more jobs each year than they are losing.
Linda Nunn - email@example.com
Read her A&A bio here
Can the Senate Save Incompetent IR Practitioners?
17 September 2015
It would appear that Eric Abetz has had some success in convincing the Senate crossbench to accept parts of the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014, passed by the lower house in August 2014. In particular, the proposed revamp of greenfields agreements has been reported as accepted on 17 September 2015. The Bill proposes that the good faith bargaining provisions (S.228) be applied to greenfields negotiations; and more importantly, that an employer can refer a proposed greenfields agreement to FWC if a satisfactory conclusion is not reached after three months. Provided that the proposed new agreement “considered on an overall basis, provides for pay and conditions that are consistent with the prevailing pay and conditions within the relevant industry for equivalent work” the agreement will be approved.
Greenfield agreements are dominated by the construction industry – to what degree will the proposed changes assist in reducing the Australian construction industry’s abysmal labour productivity performance and reduce our construction costs – currently the highest in the world? Unfortunately one has to conclude that the proposed amendments will be no substitute for competent IR management. For example, ‘prevailing pay and conditions’ in the WA LNG construction sector will be the recent Gorgon settlement (September 2015) – so any employer who wants to significantly depart from those conditions will not be able to use the three month window and then have FWC approve something that departs from those conditions. The 23/10 roster, ‘bed bust’ payments, and overall wage rates that are completely disconnected from the market will remain in place (Refer FWC PR571540). Let’s not even contemplate the ‘prevailing pay and conditions’ in the offshore oil and gas sector.
An astute employer does not go cap in hand to the union and simply ask for a greenfields agreement without any additional leverage – all that results in is the last deal plus whatever the union (and in some cases the relevant employer association) can dream up. Rather, one goes to the union armed with a credible alternative mobilisation strategy and says very clearly to the union “if you want to be part of the project, then these are the conditions we require”. A case in point is Melbourne’s EastLink Project – completed 5 months ahead of schedule in June 2008 with the elimination of all of the restrictive work practices that had characterised civil construction in Victoria until that date. The unions agreed to major improvements in productivity because that was the price of participation.
Effective industrial relations management is not dependent on the legal framework or legislative rescue packages. Strategic industrial relations management must transcend the limitations of the legislation and deliver effective, productive and commercial outcomes to employers. Unfortunately these are skills that appear to be in very short supply.
Stephen Sasse – Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org
Read his A&A bio here
Unless specified, all articles are summaries of articles gathered from various news publications. For full citations please click on the article heading.