Workplace Fairness Thought Community Luncheon - Tuesday - July 26, 2011, Calgary
Our topic for the second Workplace Fairness Thought Community Luncheon was around training: Is your money on communications/interpersonal skills/conflict resolution well spent? We asked:
How can we measure or determine if money spent on communications/interpersonal skills/conflict resolution is worthwhile?
How is your organization set up to support the transfer of this learning into future established work habits?
How else can you foster the improvement of interpersonal communication within your organization?
We had an interesting group of people, including conflict resolution practitioners, coaches and trainers with a wide range of experience in the public and private sector, in union, non-union, and uniformed environments.
Once again, we found ourselves circling around the question of evidence of workplace fairness. Can you measure it? How do you know your investment in training is well spent if you cannot measure workplace fairness? You may be able to measure productivity, and sick days; it is difficult to measure emotion. If a team defines the measure of success for a new initiative, for example training, before it occurs they will have a clearer understanding of achievements.
Workplace Fairness is also all about perceptions and strives to be an objective measure of a subjective issue or experience. Managers who “wear” all the challenges and do not empower employees to solve their own problems may foster a perception of unfairness. Employees must also have some accountability in how they exercise their own communication and conflict resolution skills. Transparency in the organization is also critical –which employees receive training and why?
We also discussed the perception of lack of control over the conflict management (or grievance) process. When the process cannot be changed how can people feel in control to manage their conflict? This perception of helplessness in apparent in many organizations and creates tension and discord that overflows into other issues.
The culture and values of the organization regarding conflict management quickly filter down and become apparent to all employees. If managing conflict is not important to senior staff why should it be important to other employees? Organizations need to strive to create a safe environment where everyone’s opinions are valued and respected and discussed productively.
There is evidence of workplace fairness in an organization when employees feel heard and acknowledged, know they can make a contribution, and have managers who empower them to contribute to their own solutions to challenges. Transparency is key. Employees will believe they are being treated fairly when they know not only what decisions are being made, but understand the whys of the decision as well.
Michelle Phaneuf, and Marjorie Munroe, Alberta Workplace Fairness Directors