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
Unless specified, all articles are summaries of articles gathered from various news publications. For full citations please click on the article heading.