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Marketing Management

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Case 1.


As markets become increasingly competitive it is essential that employers and employees have a good working relationship and are pulling in the same direction. The employment relationship can have a major effect on productivity and the success of a business.

It is just as important in the public sector where services are provided through the government - including health and education. Increasingly, all types of organisations refer to how they aim to treat staff, in descriptions of their overall ambitions. This helps them communicate respect for staff, to people inside the organisation as well as to customers and potential employees. A reputation locally as a fair employer is very important in attracting and retaining good employees.

Recognising that an independent, impartial third party can help the relationship between employers and employees, the government set up Acas in 1974 in the aftermath of a period of troubled labour relations. Over the last 30 years

Acas has built up an unparalleled reputation as an 'honest broker' and expert adviser. Acas' ambition is to 'improve organisations and working life through better employment relations'.

The organisation's role is described by its full name Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (now rarely used).

This also describes its statutory duties:

Advisory - it advises on good practice in developing effective workplaces that are efficient producers of high quality goods and services because the employment relationship is right.

Conciliation - it finds common ground between employers and employees, helping each side to see the other's point of view so they can solve a problem or resolve a dispute.

Arbitration - independent arbitrators listen to both sides and put forward a solution that they will both either adopt (binding) or consider (non-binding) in a dispute.

Service - the organisation works together with all parties, from a neutral position and seeks to provide the highest level of service itself.

Mediation is becoming the general term used to describe processes like conciliation and arbitration - it is an alternative way to settle a dispute. The aim is to resolve problems without going through a formal legal process such as a tribunal or court.

Many people associate Acas with large industrial disputes, but as this Case Study shows, its role is much broader. Due to its independence and impartiality, Acas is trusted by both employers and employees in workplaces. It is directed by a Council whose members reflect the views of employers, employees and independent interests. For example, there is usually a member from both the CBI (employers) and the TUC (trade unions).

Acas is able to use that trust to work with organisations to improve employment relations and, if there is a breakdown in the employment relationship, to seek ways of resolving it at an early stage.

Working towards effective workplaces

Acas believes that effective workplaces are determined by the right behaviour, supported by policies and procedures. As part of its aim to improve workplaces, it has recently published a clear description of its view of an effective workplace - The Acas Model Workplace. Acas is working with organisations to move towards the Model.

Acas believes the key features of an effective workplace are:

* Formal procedures for dealing with disciplinary matters, grievances and disputes that managers and employees know about and use fairly.

* Ambitions, goals and plans that employees know about and understand.

* Managers who genuinely listen to and consider their employees' views so everyone is actively involved in making important decisions.

* A pay and reward system that is clear, fair and consistent.

* A safe and healthy place to work.

* People who feel valued so they can talk confidently about their work and learn from both successes and mistakes.

* A good working relationship between management and employee representatives that in turn helps build trust throughout the business.

* Fair treatment for everyone including being valued for their differences as part of everyday life.

* Work organised so that it encourages initiative, innovation and people to work together.

* An understanding that people have responsibilities outside work so they can openly discuss ways of working that suit personal needs and the needs of the business.

* A culture where everyone is encouraged to learn new skills so they can look forward to further employment either in the business or elsewhere.

A company's performance is determined by that of its employees. They will be most effective if they know where they stand (e.g. their duties, obligations and rights) and feel involved in the company's future by taking part in decisions and being well informed. This is particularly important when dealing with change.

Communication and consultation are essential to an effective workplace (as described) and:

* improve organisational performance - time spent communicating at the outset can avoid any misunderstanding later

* improve management performance and decision making - allowing employees to express their views can help managers arrive at decisions which can more readily be accepted by employees as a whole

* improve employees' performance and commitment - employees will perform better if they are given regular, accurate information about their jobs

* help develop greater trust

* increase job satisfaction - employees are more likely to be motivated if they have a good understanding of their job and how it fits into the organisation as a whole.

These are two-way processes. Channels can include joint groups, team meetings, electronic, written, one-to-one, displays, etc. Alternative Dispute Resolution Even the best-run companies can have problems with employment relations and Acas is developing its services to help organisations resolve these at an early stage - the 'prevention is better than cure' approach that Acas is keen to spread. Disputes can be costly - especially in staff time, disruption to the business



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