France is well known for its most visible strike recurrence, less for its extensive Labor Laws, which defines in many details the framework of the relationship between employee representatives and the management committee. Examining the current situation too lightly leaves the impression that this relationship is based on conflicting interests.
How shortsighted it is to think so when one rapidly realizes that both parties are committed to the same thing: a successful and sustainable company. Growth, competitiveness, financial performance, employability, skill development, and well-being are tightly interrelated, and pushing one variable at the expense of any other will unquestionably damage the overall economic equation.
Transforming what perpetuates the misunderstanding
Why, then, do management and employee representatives (ER) really think that fighting is part of the deal? Maybe because the dialogue is still obstructed by long-lived underlying myths, preconceived ideas, and shortcuts, such as:
- Management about ER: “They are a necessary evil, a hurdle to be overcome, or be circumvented.”
- ER about management: “Management is all about making a profit, even at the expense of people’s well-being.”
- Management about ER: “They will do anything in their power to slow down or delay any critical decision to blackmail us for additional social benefits.”
- ER about management: “Why are they trying to hide information from us? Do they think we are stupid enough to not know about everything in the company anyway?”
When employee representative councils have the courage to disengage from these stone-age-old reciprocal patterns of perception, they have access to reinventing their mission for the company. One that is rooted in their very raison d’être: representing and serving all employees, while contributing to and ensuring the sustainable success of the company, both economically and socially.
What becomes possible to imagine
Beyond the immediate benefit of saving the tremendous cost incurred by conflicts, one employee representative council we had the chance to work with identified new possible streams of value for the company, out of reinventing itself:
- Offering to the executive committee immediate access to aspirations and concerns of the employees when devising strategy;
- Radically speeding up the engagement and alignment of the whole social body on large-scale change initiatives, disruptive projects, and new business models;
- Partnering with Directors and decision-makers to have them take all social aspects and intricacies into account right at the source of the business thinking.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Human Resources was absent from Executive Committees. Imagine what having an employee representative contributing to defining the long-term strategy and key decisions would make possible for your company. What is your experience with this?