Companies in the United Kingdom face what many would consider to be increasing legislative burdens under the new Disability Discrimination Act and the Information and Consultant of Employees regulations. Yet, even though there are costs associated with compliance to legislation, businesses may find that, in reality, it can be a good thing and not so burdensome.
Research by the Gallup Organization and a number of others has revealed that if you want to have happy customers, particularly in a customer-facing business environment, then you should be doing your utmost to make sure that your employees feel happy and that their opinions are valued and respected. In this manner, they become integral to the company and more loyal as a result. The benefits of employee involvement are wide-ranging, and this includes a significant reduction in absenteeism. It can also increase the productivity of your employees:
"Fully engaged customers deliver a 23 percent premium over the average customer in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth," say John H. Fleming, Curt Coffman and James K. Harter in their Harvard Business Review paper, Manage Your Human Sigma.
Consider the opportunities afforded by the recent Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations. The regulations are based on a directive by the European Community that was agreed upon in 2002 and in effect as of April 2005 that give employees new rights to be informed and consulted about issues that affect their employment and the prospects of the business. Your company can demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility in practice, as well as good customer relationship management. Why? You’ll have realized that your staff are your best asset for creating loyal customers. By including customer-facing staff in the decision-making process, you can drive the business forward and help develop a greater understanding of the customer.
Without a motivated workforce, what do you have? Nothing. Money can fuel many projects, but you need people to add value to the business, to drive up company revenue while pleasing shareholders and customers, alike. So companies and organizations need to look beyond the burden of the "red tape" and start to realize the benefits that CSR and good corporate governance, including good industrial relations, can give them.
The non-profit Involvement and Participation Association, which specializes in workplace partnerships, also welcomes the new regulations and provides insight into how they can either work well or fail in its white paper, High Performance Workplaces; Informing and Consulting Employees, The IPA’s Response to the DTI’s Consultation Document (2003). The pros and cons are revealed in the following table from the report.
What works well and why?
Why do information and consultation fail?
|Working together to build a shared view of the business and its competitive environment||• A lack of commitment from senior managers.|
|• Sharing information widely to enable all participants to have a shared grasp of the context within which decisions are being made||• A failure to consult at an early enough stage and before the key decisions are made|
|• Consultative processes which enable the workforce both individually and as a whole to contribute effectively to the debate on issues and to influence the outcomes.||• No dynamism€”keep going around the same issues|
|• A range of joint problem-solving techniques to address issues.||• Poor agenda|
|• Feedback systems enabling employee “voice” to be heard effectively and get messages back to the workforce.||• Little of no evaluation, which means that the participants lack clarity about what they are doing.|
High Performance Workplaces; Informing and Consulting Employees, The IPA’s Response to the DTI’s Consultation Document
|• Little or no training in information and consultation for participants (both managers and employee representatives)|
|• Too much pressure on time and resources for participants|
Technologies like online surveying and reporting software can help organizations take advantage of the opportunities presented by such legislation, while also reducing the hurdles and saving time and money. The British Council develops staff training and education programs and has to comply not only with the new legislation but also with the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act. is the British Council uses its surveying and reporting software to assess an employee’s knowledge of the acts and how they need to put them into practice.
The technology has helped the British Council reduce the survey-to-report-creation-and-analysis cycle from around three months to a matter of days or weeks. No matter where it operates and which of 50 to 60 languages they speak, employees can be consulted, informed and trained to ensure that best practice, however it is determined, is followed.
Online surveying and reporting can also be used to provide a real-time 360-degree assessment of other issues and to inform and consult with employees on a wide range of potential issues, particularly when the regulations are activated. This is happens when 10 percent of a company’s employees have petitioned to do so. Forty percent of all employees must then endorse any agreement for it to become valid. Otherwise, managers have the right not to enact any proposals that may have been agreed.
Michelle Wicker, solicitor and employment, legal and public affairs adviser of the Direct Marketing Association in the United Kingdom, adds, "Online surveying and reporting can benefit companies in that a survey can be sent directly to the employee. … The surveys should remain transparent throughout the process. "
With better informed, assessed, trained and consulted staff, managers will soon realize that the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s published fears, that the regulations would prevent managers from being able to manage, doesn’t necessarily have to be true. If managers are working more collaboratively with staff, they could even develop better marketing strategies and improved customer service, while increasing shareholder and overall stakeholder value.
So keep your staff happy by informing and consulting with them on a regular basis, particularly if you seek to please shareholders and maintain a database of happy and loyal customers.