Businesses must minimise exposure to conflict, both from within the company and from outside, if they want to maximise success. Dealing with issues quickly and effectively is vital. Focus on these 10 areas for better mediation...
1. Management. Do any of your directors or managers have a combative style that interferes with measured conflict management? This is a crucial area if you want to reduce strife at its source.
2. Relationships. Consider how your key relationships work—those involving staff, board members, shareholders, customers, business partners and other stakeholders. Are the people involved looked upon as human beings with legitimate needs? Are they regularly engaged and communicated with in a meaningful way? Poor handling can result in simmering discontent.
3. Procedures and resources. Are clear agreements, contracts and procedures in place? Do systems and equipment support or hinder your efforts? Lack of clarity and poor resourcing can lead to trouble.
4. Old remedies. Disciplinary procedures and tribunals are often deployed to tackle issues with the aim of "winning". They have their place, yet these processes can take a long time to conclude; soak up too much management time; create high anxiety; cost a lot of money; and destroy relationships along the way. Even a victory can prove hollow. This is not ideal, so mediation often proves an attractive option.
5. Better procedures. An impartial mediator can tailor procedures without breaking rules. Mediation is flexible, confidential, consensual and focused on the future, so the parties involved are allowed to have their say in a safe environment. Consider a wide range of settlement options, decide possible outcomes and assess how they can be enforced.
6. Cost benefits. The speed of mediation enables the costs in resolving issues to be "significantly lower" than traditional remedies, said a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development survey in March. The government wants more mediation in civil, family and employment cases to save money for those involved.
7. Help for managers. Mediation can reduce sickness absence, staff turnover, loss of key staff, and lost management time. It can also help to protect reputation, retain customers and boost productivity.
8. Improving the culture. The key people benefits of mediation include: easing the burden of formal procedures; improving relationships; and helping morale, creativity and productivity as part of a strong people management culture.
9. Mediation on steroids. A blended service, involving mediation, executive coaching and enablement, together with organisational stress management techniques, is a powerful way to cope with conflict. It's especially useful for teams and boards, or when changing company culture.
10. Want to cash in? Mediation is growing in popularity. It's good value, speedy and effective, with a success rate of between 80 and 90 per cent, and can be applied to a wide range of business and personal contexts. Take a moment to think how your organisation could benefit.
Julian Evans is director of mediation company Littleton Evans: Building Bridges