By: Julie Thorpe

Workplace Social Dialogue

Structuring and Training Workplace Social Dialogue and ‘SHE’

It is often assumed that ‘social dialogue’ is a phenomenon restricted to the industrialised world where industrial history has given rise to a range of specific institutional relationships, a negotiation culture and a legal framework that supports them.  The advantages of an internal dialogue process for dealing with issues of production and grievances in the factory as near as possible to the point at which they occur have proven sufficient to encourage far-sighted companies to extend this approach far wider.

Just Solutions as an institution has been engaged at the forefront of this effort for over a decade and has helped develop dialogue-based transformation in the global workplace with global brands, inter-governmental agencies and independent social organisations. As individuals we have a lifetime of experience in the practice of industrial relations at national, regional and international levels.

Our experience has shown us that the path to realising our potential – both as people and as organisations – lies through a wider transformation in business philosophy and practice.  The dynamic organisation must constantly push existing boundaries, yet balance this against people’s natural desire for stability and familiarity.

The enabler for success in this environment is a climate of trust and confidence.  Respect and social justice in the workplace are pre-requisites for developing the trust that will encourage the whole work community to cooperate in building a sustainable future.  These are the values for which we work wherever we engage. The following show contrasting approaches found in the workplace:

‘x’-style Traditional Management

  • Assumes people are inherently lazy
  • Personal initiative is discouraged as disruptive
  • Human Energy is blocked and de-motivated
  • Asserts firm discipline to drive productivity
  • Profit and productivity goals are the paramount values
  • Rules and regulations are the drivers
  • New drivers/punishments must be found to maintain productive effort

BUT human energy within this system is locked into a one-way communications model; the needs and aspirations of people remain submerged and unrealised; familiarity breeds contempt for the system and productivity declines.

The Balanced Organisation
‘Free-Flow Manufacturing’ Model

‘y’-style Management

  • People respond best to meeting the organization’s needs if their own needs are also met
  • Dialogue is needed to surfaced what those needs are
  • Internal structures are needed to ensure those needs are met
  • Human Energy is encouraged to express itself and to thrive
  • Innovation and preparedness for change are positive values
  • Productive output is sustained so long as dialogue is maintained
  • HE shifts to SHE – Sustainable Human Energistics

Our organisational restructuring and training courses are designed to encourage managers, supervisors and workers to cooperate in building a balanced, harmonious workplace that respects the aspirations of its members and allows both formal and informal space for those aspirations to be expressed and fulfilled.  At the same time, this training is firmly linked to the achievement of organisational goals and key performance indicators.

For practical examples of our work in extending social dialogue check out these case studies:

Social Dialogue in Vietnam

Social dialogue is especially difficult in countries where there is single party rule, and a trade union structure that is entirely subordinated to the ruling party. This is the case in China and Vietnam, throughout most of the Middle East and in some […]

Migrant Workers in Mauritius

How to lift morale and to develop a spirit of community and engagement among several thousand migrant garment workers, separated from their homes and families sometimes for years at a time? This was the problem that faced UK high-street brands Next and Arcadia in their dealings with a major […]

Worker Engagement and Wellbeing

Worker Engagement and Wellbeing In it’s 2016/17 Sustainable Business Report, global sports brand, Nike, sets out its belief in the power of worker engagement as follows: “We believe that a skilled, valued and engaged workforce is key for growth and [...]

Pioneering Workplace Social Dialogue in Bangladesh

Pioneering workplace social dialogue in Bangladesh The problem Successive waves of mass industrial action in the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) industry over poverty wage levels and poor treatment of workers, caused disquiet among many global brands who had been steadily [...]