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Works & Employee Council

Our previous blog was about the reasons to consult or not to consult colleagues (on the shop floor or support staff). This was written from the perspective of employee participation. After reading this blog, you might wonder: shouldn’t management and HR ask employees these questions? That’s also what we think. The Works Council’s role is more process-related; the business management determines the content. The Works Council is responsible for understanding and taking the employees’ perspectives seriously.

This post is related to the (Dutch) WOR article 17 (1)  for organizations and other forms of participation in sectors such as healthcare and education. What do our clients, such as Unilever, Royal HaskoningDHV, the Municipality of Breda, the Dutch Probation Service, etc., consider good reasons to do (or not do) something? One is that some of these people are members of the Works Council, and they “should know everything on behalf of their colleagues, they must have a feel for the organization, and have many contacts in all parts of the organization”. In response, our clients often say: “You don’t know what you don’t know, and you have to show all the employees that you care about all of their opinions, not just the opinions of some of them”. This blog focuses on which questions you should ask. Every situation requires a tailor-made solution: for subject matter, consent, initiative, or advice. Customization means that your employee consultation sometimes consists of one question, and sometimes of several questions, with sometimes closed, often open questions.

The WOR has laid the foundations for your employee consultation with your colleagues:

“… the organization enables the Works Council and its committees to consult the persons employed in the company and allows them to collaborate.”

In my experience, in the Works Council of the Ministry of Finance, employee consultation was separate from the relationship with the director. The lines were apparent. But that’s not always the case: in some organizations, the Works Council can be felt pressured not to consult the employees, with senior management stating “you only need the Works Council”. In my opinion, and the WOR backs me up on this, that is not correct. Fortunately, we often see collaborations between management, HR and the Works Council. The questions and timing of the employee consultation and the specific target group will be discussed. Discussing things with the director is one thing, but the Works Council is an independent body that makes its own decisions.

Article 17(1) states that all employees must be allowed to participate and express their views. And that the director must cooperate. In other words, support them and even encourage them! Modern leadership requires that directors and HR listen to employees better. Not only to keep them involved but also because a large group knows more than a small group, and they can compensate for their own limitations. This large group must be as large as possible: it must represent all the employees, not a small group. There must always be a direct link to the employees on the shop floor and in the field. Read here how Philips Director René Schoenmakers does that. CircleLytics makes it easy for everyone to (quickly) join in. As an employee, you don’t have to download an app (fortunately), and you don’t even have to be at the office or at home on a computer. It doesn’t matter where people work: whether they work in the factory, are busy at the distribution center, on the road, providing bedside care, in the classroom, etc. Everyone can join the online dialogue via a link or QR code.

Because you have to play a proactive role, not (just) a reactionary one, it is essential to know the WOR and your rights and responsibilities well. Therefore, a thorough WOR training is your basis. This includes important case law (such as the Enterprise Division of the Court of Appeal). Organizations such as Metamorfase, Maatschap voor Medezeggenschap, OR Succes, SBI Formaat and WissemaGroep provide this important foundation. They also apply other forms of consultancy, conversation, Deep Democracy, conflict management, etc., such as Sandra Bouckaert’s dialogue concept Let’s Connect.

You will learn, among other things, what your active role is based on, and where employee consultation can be relevant:

  • advisory subjects: article 25 (1)
  • implementation of decisions: article 25 (5)
  • Works Council initiatives: article 23 (3)
  • subjects requiring consent: article 27
  • improvement of working conditions: article 28 (1/2)
  • diversity & inclusion, discrimination and position of minorities: article 28 (3) and the updated Corporate Governance Code
  • environmental concerns: article 28 (4)
  • appointment/dismissal of directors: article 30.

 

The Works Councils applying the CircleLytics online dialogue have conducted employee consultations for all these items. These councils make decisions for groups of 100 to 70,000 employees. The director and HR greatly appreciate the Works Council performing its role professionally and intelligently. The online dialogue improves the speed and quality of the advice, initiative or consent advice, and later on, it prevents problems when implementing decisions. Employee Consultation now prevents issues later. Leadership and HR know their limitations

Employee consultation goes beyond and works better than sending out a survey, organizing a poll, setting up a Teams session, or making phone calls. The CircleLytics online dialogue lets you submit:

  • open questions
  • statements
  • closed questions
  • a combination of closed questions with open answers

You can send this out to any group size, whether a department, business unit, region, groups of managers or all employees at once.

The answers to the open questions are submitted to the participants in the unique and motivating second round. They can assess them by rating them from -3 (no support) to +3 (full support). This means you no longer have to spend hours or days trying to process the answers in an Excel sheet. It saves time and, above all, prevents human errors. You need to learn how thousands of employees think about the answers others have given; their opinions are indispensable. The themes from the first round only become relevant in the second round. Or not. The latter can come as quite a surprise, but that is how people operate: after reconsideration, people might change their minds, especially when they learn how other people see things. That’s all very normal, which is why this second round is crucial.

In summary, the second round has five critical consequences:

– respondents learn that other opinions are better and do not get stuck on being right

– everyone gets the same opportunities: the loud ones, the fast ones and the slower ones

– 20-40% change their opinion: this gives you more accurate information than you would have gotten without a second round

– all scores are included for the ranking of all opinions: the acceptance or rejection of themes and opinions by the group are directly visible in your dashboard and are ready to use

– you don’t have to waste time struggling with an excel sheet (which also affects the quality).

When you consult the employees, several important things happen. Of course, this applies to the Director and HR, but if they don’t, that responsibility lies with you. Not only based on the WOR, but also because you want to keep your employees involved. Consultation increases employee involvement and retention. It ensures that:

– your visibility increases because you ask for the opinion of the entire department or even all colleagues

– your decisions improve because you gather intelligence from everyone

– your work is more fun: you learn a lot, and employees appreciate you tremendously

– your relationship with the director improves because you know exactly what people find essential.

About this last point: even when you are (sometimes) put under pressure, you have the law on your side and your role to fulfil. You need to handle that pressure and the related emotions well. A good relationship with the director is not a prerequisite for being a visible, influential, healthy Works Council. However, good consultation is. Good, prompt consultation ensures that the advice, initiative or consent is well-founded and transparent. Content is king, and the director will thank you for your efforts, which will positively influence your relationship. Read what Royal HaskoningDHV and Unilever have to say about this.

Next, we will share some questions you might want to ask during consultations. This list is based on the thousands of questions that Works Councils have asked thousands of employees in the Netherlands in recent years using the CircleLytics Dialogue. Our White Paper teaches you how to ask solid and open-ended questions, formulate challenging statements, introduce dilemmas and create combinations of open and closed questions. The document shows you the 18 best practices to formulate your questions.

Consultations at your fingertips: initiative

You can conduct employee consultations at different times. If you want to start an initiative, as described in article 23 (3), you can do so whenever you want. However, we recommend you do this before you present the director with a written proposal, including an explanation.

Initiatives can be based on:

– rumors or more concrete signals you receive (such as absenteeism, conflict, complaints, etc.)

– follow-up of research such as employee research that is (often) postponed

– review of consultations from previous quarters or years

– monitoring how the decisions are implemented and whether an adjustment is necessary.

Initiatives can cover many topics. The questions below are examples. A dialogue usually consists of 1-5 questions, in principle always with a unique second round during which the participants rate each other’s answers and can adjust their own position. Employees want to participate in this process: over 70% of employees read/rate over 15 contributions from others! You may want to add a closed scale to an open question; you can combine the two question methods. This is often a smart move: the numbers will be supported, and your justification will be proven with numbers.

These examples (or other questions from our question library) can be adapted to your situation. In the second round, you can also ask employees what they recognize/support or not in what others say or what would be their advice for improvement, besides merely rating things. This additional second-round follow-up question is not always mentioned in the examples below.

Is there a concern/risk you want to bring to our attention now? What is that, and why?

What about working from home is something you or colleagues are worried about, and why?

How enjoyable and productive (1=not, 10=excellent) can you perform your job at the moment, and can you explain this in your own words?

How does our organization progress with [……….]  (1=bad, 10=excellent), and can you share with us what could or should be better according to you?

The Works Council has the following items on its agenda for the next 12 months. Please choose one item that you think should be given the highest priority and explain why.

Which item do you think is missing from the Council’s list, and why should we work on this?

We will work hard on the following topics in the coming months. Choose the three most important topics for you. Next, you can explain for each of these topics why it is so important to you.

What is the most valuable of the following (negotiation) points regarding the new Collective Labor Agreement and why?

What is the least valuable of the following (negotiation) points regarding the new Collective Labor Agreement and why?

 If you have to choose between [……] and [……], which one would you prefer and why? (In the second round, employees can see and rate the reasons of others and change/finalize their preferences)

What would you like to see change regarding [………….] and why?

How likely are you to still be working here in 3-5 years, and can you tell what motivates you most to stay?

How likely are you to stop working here within the next 1-2 years, and why you would (consider to) leave? (In the second round: what do you recognize/acknowledge from what others say and what is your recommendation to change this?)

Why do you think the absenteeism has risen/is so high in this department? (In the second round: what do you recognize, and what do you think is a viable solution in the short term?)

What is the cause of [….]?

What is the most significant improvement for [….], and what would impact it?

Recently, we scored low on [….]. Can you rate again what you think of [….] (1=weak, 10=strong) and what would be your advice to improve this score over the next 3-6 months?

Recently, we scored high on [….]. Can you rate again what you think of [….] (1=weak, 10=strong) and why you think this is so high? (In the second round, you ask for their support for arguments from others and what their advice is to make this more sustainable).

How do you rate your organization’s training offer (1=no match, 10=perfect match), and can you explain this as clearly as possible? (In the second round, you can ask them to rate the explanations of others and give advice)

What element of department [….] should be better trained (or developed) and why?

Does our organization meet your expectations after your first 3-6 months here (1=not at all, 10=excellent)? Can you explain your score?

How do you rate us as a Works Council for [….], and can you tell us why? (You can ask the low-scoring employees for advice and high-scoring employees to provide examples)

How safe do you feel in situation [….], and can you explain that based on a recent example? (In the second round, you can ask for advice on the scores people give others)

How well does our organization handle [….] safety, and how can it be improved?

How do you currently handle the working pressure (1=badly, 10=well), and what is your advice for others?

 

Read more here…

 

 

Works & Employee Council

(This is part 2; read part 1 here)

Employee consultation for consent

When looking for consent (article 27(1)), you are dealing with proposed decisions to adopt, amend or repeal several regulations. These arrangements are listed in said article. You may have to rely on taking the initiative, article 23 (3). For example, when you detect or receive signals (or even without signals, and you want to know it first hand) that something regarding the subject is not going well or if you want to know how things are going.

Items d, e, f, g and l have become particularly important since working from home became the norm since the pandemic. Training, assessment and working methods are being influenced by working from home, and people are still finding their way. The question of how many days you want to work from home is pretty straightforward, but the subject itself is much more complex and uncertain. You need to consult employees regularly to keep a finger on the pulse. The letter m is essential, now more than ever, with topics such as mental safety, #metoo and (sexual) misconduct being high on the agenda (or at least they should be). It may mean that you consult the employees and then exert pressure on the director, but it may also be, and that is what Article 27 is about, that the director will submit something for your consent. Employee consultation is, in our opinion, one of your most essential tools for fulfilling your role seriously, simply and with a solid foundation. We see more Works Councils putting consultation (dialogue) on the agenda and implementing it regularly, such as Royal HaskoningDHV.

 

Examples of questions:

Please read the accompanying draft arrangement via this link …. Do you support this arrangement? Please explain your position in favor or against it. (In the second round, they can change/finalize their position and express their support for the explanations of others or not)

Together, we want to define the criteria by which we will consider the consent. What criterion do you think is most important to set and why? (In the second round, they can support criteria that others mentioned by ranking them, and you can ask them to explain their scores)

The Works Council wants to use the attached set of criteria to consider consent. Which one is most important to you and why?

What criterion on the previous list [….] for consent do you think is missing and should be on the list?

What do you think is a (possibly surprising) risk of the proposed new arrangement for [….], and why do you believe that? (In the second round, you can ask if they have tips about the risks others have mentioned and they support and about what the organization can do to mitigate those risks)

What do you think is a (possibly surprising) positive effect of the proposed new arrangement for [….], and why do you think that? (In the second round, you can ask if they have tips about the effects others have mentioned and they support and about what the organization can do to achieve those effects)

What do you think is a smart way to monitor how the new arrangement will work for different groups within our organization?

What exactly do you expect from the Works Council regarding this proposed decision?

What is your reference point (e.g., from a previous/other organization) to assess this arrangement?

What is the impact of this arrangement on your motivation to stay with this organization for a long time and why? (You can have them choose from multiple choice answers such as ‘no effect’, ‘negative’, … and in the second round, they can learn from other people’s explanations and then determine their final position on the matter)

Do you expect this arrangement to have negative consequences for you? If so, can you indicate which one(s) in particular, and what is the basis of your expectation?

Do you expect this arrangement to have positive consequences for you? If so, can you indicate which one(s) in particular, and what is the basis of your expectation?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect your colleagues, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect employee retention, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect your colleagues’ involvement, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect our competitive position in the labor market, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect a more sustainable relationship with customers, and can you explain this?

 

Consultation & dialogue for advice (request for advice)

Thirdly, you can consult during an advisory project or for consent. You may have to deal with a process under time constraints and/or where ‘confidentiality’ is a limiting factor. This confidentiality often applies to listed organizations, but even then, an employee consultation is possible and necessary.

For most decisions, delays of weeks or months are undesirable. Subsection 2 says: “The opinion must be requested at a time such that it can have a significant impact on the decision to be taken”. But if the situation is under pressure, it is vital that you handle that pressure without compromising the quality of your employee consultation and your advice. So, you must decide quickly on what to consult about and communicate with the director, informing them that you will start and complete it in the short term. Using CircleLytics, you can conduct consultations within two days to two weeks; the results can be processed within one to a few hours, creating a document, PDF or PowerPoint presentation, regardless of the number of participants.

There are four logical moments for advice or consent consultations:

1 at the beginning of a term

2 during a term, when you are working on the draft advice, have sent more information (if you have identified that as a need) and are looking for partial support or insights

3 at the end of a term if you want to submit your draft advice to employees to get final approval or a final point from the colleagues

4 after the decision, to monitor implementation and (unexpected) effects.

 

All the questions that we have shown above are – with some adjustments – usually also useful for advisory projects.

Additional questions are:

What is your first response to hearing the proposed decision?

What is a foremost concern when hearing the proposed decision, and why?

After hearing the proposed decision, what opportunities do you see for your career with this organization?

Now that you have received more information from us (or management), what do you think about possible care: what is your greatest concern and why?

Now that you have received more information from us (or management), how do you think about the positive impact/opportunities: what do you think is the greatest (positive) opportunity and why?

What opportunity do you see for the organization as a result of the proposed decision? (In the second round, you can ask how employees rate the opportunities others have mentioned and what their advice is to make that a success)

What should the [department/organization/….] do less to prevent ‘stacking work’, and to make implementing the proposed decision successful?

Is there anything you want to tell the Works Council, whatever, when studying the proposed decision and advising the director?

What information do you need to understand better what it is about?

What effect do you see in the short term of the proposed decision that you want us to be aware of?

What effect do you see in the long term of the proposed decision that you want us to be aware of?

What effect do you see in the short term of the proposed decision on [….] that you want us to be aware of, and why would you think that effect exists?

How do you think this proposed decision contributes to our strategy for [……]?

How do you think this proposed decision contributes to [……]?

What do you think is an alternative to the proposed decision and what do you base on it?

What is necessary to prevent this proposed decision in this way?

What do you think is the most crucial reason – of the reasons the board has mentioned – why the organization wants to make this decision?

After we sent you the additional information requested by you this week: have the consequences for you been clearly described? Which ones were not clearly described?

Are the reasons provided by management for this decision convincing for you? Which were not convincing?

What do you think is a possible reason for this decision, which is not mentioned in the documents?

What do you need to have clarified to give you an idea of the proposed decision?

What is your opinion on the level of ambition of the proposed decision? Should it be higher, lower, or different otherwise?

Together, we want to define the criteria by which we will consider the consent. What criterion do you think is most important to set and why? (In the second round, they can support criteria that others mentioned by ranking them, and you can ask them to explain their scores)

The Works Council wants to use the attached criteria to consider consent. Which one is most important to you and why?

What criterion on the previous list [….] for consent do you think is missing and should be on the list?

Please read the enclosed draft advice carefully and indicate whether you support it or not. Please explain your point of view. (After the second round, employees can change their yes or no)

What is missing from the attached draft advice on the issue of [….], and how would you reformulate it?

What is the strongest argument for [….] in the attached draft advice, and why do you think that?

We would like to know whether you agree with the attached advice that will be sent to the director shortly. Please provide your point of view and motivation. (After the second round, and scoring/weighing of other motivations, they can finalize their point of view).

 

Employee Consultation in connection with section 5:

How can we measure the implementation as well as possible (and adjust it if necessary)?

What do you expect from the Works Council in monitoring the implementation?

What would you consider the best timeframe for the Works Council to check how the implementation is progressing and possibly adjust (this can be placed on management’s agenda)?

How do you think the implementation of decision [….] is progressing in practice: can you name a positive change? Can you describe this in concrete terms?

How do you think the implementation of decision [….] is going in practice: what are you critical about or even negative and why? (In the second round, you can ask if employees would like to give their tips on the opinions of others whom they support)

What do you think has changed (significantly) in [….], which means that the decision of [……] has to be reassessed?

 

Risk Inventory & Evaluation (RI&E)

Among other things, article 28 (1) and (2) focuses on improving working conditions. The Health and Safety Act also determines what can be expected from the employer; as a Works Council, you monitor this. You may need to take the initiative or, in consultation with the manager/HR, have the RI&E implemented. CircleLytics Dialogue can be used to conduct a complete RI&E investigation. In the event of changes in internal or external circumstances (such as the changes in working from home), the RI&E may need to be reperformed (in part). It can be supervised through your occupational health and safety expert or external advisor or through our partners.

 

Position of minorities and D&I policy

According to the Dutch WOR, article 28 (and the updated Corporate Governance Code), employee participation should play a role in diversity & inclusion. You can use a set of D&I questions to get this started, and in the event of incidents or when you receive specific signals, you can take the initiative based on article 23. When the advice is included in the Corporate Governance Code, the organization’s leadership must explain how it applies.

Examples:

Can you safely express your concerns to your supervisor (-3=not at all, +3=completely), and can you explain your score?

Do you feel that others have the same (career) opportunities as you (no/yes), and can you explain that?

To what extent does management play an exemplary role (-3=not, +3=very much) in D&I, and can you explain?

Do you feel that your ideas, criticisms and opinions are taken seriously? Please explain.

How do you appreciate the visible efforts of management to implement the D&I policy effectively? (1=low, 10=high). Do you have a recent example of your score?

Do you think the organization has a clear priority regarding a diverse workforce? Please explain.

Do you think that the organization’s recruitment and selection policy is aimed at recruiting and selecting a diverse workforce? Please explain.

 Do you feel that this organization provides a safe working environment? Please explain.

 Do you get sufficient support from your supervisor compared to others in the same situation? Please explain.

 

We have numerous questions (40+) ready for you to conduct your (occasional or repeated) consultations and to engage in dialogue with groups or all employees. At this point, it might be interesting to conduct consultations with managers only.

 

Environment (climate)

We have had several dialogues that focus on the environment. Since the climate can even determine whether employees like to work at the organization or want to leave, it is essential to take this information to heart as a Works Council. We expect this to become even more important. Read what one of our partners, Charlotte Extercatte of 100MonthstoChange, says about the role of organizations and the environment/climate.

Examples:

To what extent is management a role model (-3=not, +3=very much) in terms of climate and sustainability, and can you explain this?

 Do you feel your contribution to sustainability and the climate are taken seriously? Please explain.

 How can we make our driving behavior and (lease) car ownership more climate-conscious, or even carbon neutral?

 How do you rate management’s visible commitment to creating and implementing our climate policy convincingly? (1=low, 10=high). Can you name a recent example?

 Do you think that the organization clearly prioritizes the climate issue? Please explain.

How important is the climate for you as a factor to continue working here for many years?

Do you feel that this organization takes the climate issue seriously? Please explain.

Can the organization’s climate policy be more ambitious? Please explain.

 

Directors

We also have some examples of the role of the director:

If you read the attached profile for the role of the director [….]. What are the most essential elements of a new candidate, and why?

If you read the attached profile for the role of the director [….]. What do you think is the least important element of a new candidate, and why?

What should be included in the profile of a new director for the position of [….] and why?

Self-evaluation

One last point: a strong Works Council regularly evaluates itself. We see that happening a lot. They want to be visible and effective and be trusted by employees. And they want to know which of their actions were most important and most visible. This shows a number of things:

  • you are open to new insights and feedback; that is instructive and shows leadership
  • you use modern resources such as CircleLytics, which makes the Works Council more interesting for new candidates
  • you make employees aware of what you have achieved and it clearly shows your ‘success stories’.

CircleLytics is used to ask employees how they perceive the Works Council over a certain period of time. That period shouldn’t be too long, no longer than one year; that dialogue should be repeated annually.

Examples of questions:

How would you rate our performance over the last period: [….] (1=weak, 10=strong) and can you explain that? 

This question can then be applied to various aspects that you want to ask about. You can ask this during the second round.

You can add:

What is your recommendation for better, more visible performances?

How can we improve our communication?

This is a good list for you and for employee participation. Hopefully, it inspires you to think about consultations as:

  • easier than you thought
  • faster than you thought
  • better than you thought.

CircleLytics Dialogue contains more questions in your Works Council account. They are conveniently organized; you can use the platform for all question/answer variants, but the unique element is the second round, in which the results of the first round are weighed, and the support and effects become visible.

Our final tip: you can also use CircleLytics for smart consultations and to brainstorm, discuss and make decisions with your colleagues. You can use it for groups of ten people to many thousands of colleagues (in large organizations and committees). For example, you can apply CircleLytics one week before the physical meeting takes place.

We are happy to help you with your employee participation. And don’t forget to contact the partners we mentioned at the start of this blog post.

Plan your meeting, demo, training or question design session here.

 

 

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