18/01/2016Bargaining Strategy, Bargaining, Negotiation, Tactics

We explore 4 key, recurring points that regularly arise from our Masterclasses and In-house Intensives. You may be shocked.

As part of our 2-day Enterprise Bargaining Strategy and Tactics Masterclasses, and as the central part of our In-House Intensives, we analyse our clients' internal and external bargaining environment to arrive at key recommendations for their next EBA negotiations.

Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly depending on your previous experience and point of view, the following key issues stand-out, as to what has to change to stop employers repeating their past poor experience from enterprise bargaining negotiations -

  1. Its all about Communication...

    A recurring theme is our clients discover they are not effectively and consistently communicating their business imperatives to their employees. Research conducted by the Labour Ministers Council back in 1999 (the data might be old, but remains as relevant as ever) into why employees join unions, found that "an incompetent management structure and poor management communications devalue a worker’s feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction".

    Or in my words, "I work for idiots who tell me nothing about what is really going on here".

    The point is, how can you blame your employees for being led by 'dissidents' (often 'outsiders' such as unions), if you have't done enough to tell them why certain decisions are being made? Perhaps there is a misplaced sense of paternalism at play here ("they can't handle the truth"), but if your employees can't trust what you are saying because you - conveniently - only try to tell them bad news in the middle of your EBA negotiations, then don't expect a positive reception next time you try that approach.

    Some clients come to the stunning realisation that they have indeed disenfranchised their own employees by limiting important communications to elected representatives - why may or may not faithfully report back to your employees the same information they have been given by their employer.

    If you expect understanding and respect from your employees, then you need to build that trust relationship well before your EBA negotiations.
  2. Have a Strategy

    Don't confuse your strategy with tactics (more about tactics below). Tactics might change meeting to meeting (or even within a meeting), but your negotiating strategy should be a clear and simple (perhaps only a phrase or few sentences), and fairly immutable statement, of how you will succeed in your negotiations.

    An example of some (simplified) recent strategy statements we have developed with clients - "if we don't limit our labour cost increases to at or below inflation, we will eventually go out of business"; "we can get a better result from not reaching an agreement on the terms the union expects to achieve"; or a positive note, such as "we will communicate our clear vision for the future to overcome any mis-information they might be receiving, and walk the talk to show we mean what we say".
  3. Realise the "Other Side" Might be Competing with You

    If you are negotiating with a counterpart in your negotiations who is competing to achieve different goals than yours (and that is probably going to be most of the time), then they will probably use tactical devices to further their goals. Your job is to deal with their tactics appropriately (which might include ignoring or otherwise neutralising their tactics), whilst getting them to co-operate sufficiently to achieve your strategic outcomes.

    When considered in that way, it can become obvious that trying to be liked by the "other side" in your negotiation - perhaps by giving away concessions to them and getting nothing in return - isn't going to end well for your business. Negotiating in a principled way will at least be likely to earn you respect.

    Our website has a range of articles exploring competitive tactics used in negotiations - our Masterclass explores 6 different categories of tactics you might encounter, or even use yourself.
  4. Start Preparations Early

    If your negotiating counterpart is a union, then they are very likely to be negotiating enterprise agreements on a fairly regular basis - a lot more regularly than you are. If you are going to overcome their tactics, get through to your employees and achieve your strategy, don't expect you can "wing it" and achieve that result in the few weeks leading up to your negotiations. The other side almost certainly won't be.

    Start early, plan to succeed.

Our next 2-day EBA Strategy and Tactics Masterclass will be held in Sydney on 7 and 8 June, 2016.

Click here for Masterclass details or to register online. Early bird discount ends 2 May 2016.

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