Some of the challenges faced by organisations that have set up employee forums or works councils include:

  • An agenda full of the basic “tea & toilets” issues
  • Employee representatives bring a wish list of requests from employees
  • Few employees stand for election as representatives
  • Employees are disengaged from the process
  • Managers are unwilling to fully participate
  • Employee surveys don't show an improvement in satisfaction, even though employees have been given a “voice”.

The first stage of training for employee representatives is designed to address these challenges - in the case of established employee forums - or prevent them from arising in newly set up forums.

To develop a positive and strategically-minded employee voice, it is necessary to begin consultation with employees from a management-driven strategic agenda focussed on the major changes that are affecting the workplace. The process also needs employee representatives who are able to understand the strategic agenda and ask the questions necessary to make organisational decision-making more transparent to the workforce.

To achieve this objective, the stage 1 training for employee representatives includes the modules below. The detailed content of the training is tailored and based on the role and remit or constitution of the client organisation's employee forum:

The role of an employee forum and the role of an employee representative within it

  • Understanding when the organisation has a duty to consult
  • How to bring employees closer to the decision-making process through the strategic narrative
  • How to provide information that will enable employees to understand and respect decisions
  • How to make the decision-making process more transparent
  • How to develop an understanding within the organisation that enables employees to feel they are fully informed
  • How to provide high quality communication and an accurate “temperature check” of feeling within the organisation - which includes the engaged employees as well as the disengaged

What consultation is and what it isn't

It is always important to contrast consultation with negotiation as there is often a confusion in perception. It is critical that representatives and managers work as a team rather than developing an “us against them” mentality.

Best practice consultation                                      

Option-based consultation is an aspiration for employee representatives and managers to work towards as it focuses on the need for discussions to produce high quality communication. Option-based consultation is the exploration of options which could meet a business objective before a final decision is taken, or if that is not possible, by “retrospective scrutinisation”.  This makes the decision-making process more transparent and employee representatives are able to communicate the reasons for management decisions clearly.

How to achieve the benefits of effective consultation

The IPA has developed a tool for use by employee representatives called the 15 Key Strategic Questions.  These have been developed to ensure that information gaps are filled.  The training will coach the employee representatives in how to use these questions, which can also be put to other uses such as:

  • Building an effective counter-proposal
  • Avoiding the “wish list”
  • Evaluating ideas from staff
  • Engaging with line managers

The skills & behaviours needed to be an effective representative

This session uses practical exercises to demonstrate the behaviours that are needed to create an engaging consultation process. An output from the session can be a skills development plan for each employee representative.

Action Planning

Finally, an action plan for the employee representatives as a group is developed with the following aims:

  • Engaging the senior managers
  • Developing a Meeting Fact Sheet
  • Creating a “Hot Topics” request
  • Referring individual issues to the line managers
  • Using the informed employee voice to bring forward innovative ideas

"...thanks so much for your contribution today – I’ve had lots of very positive feedback from the team and confirmation that they now have a much better understanding of their role and how they will engage with their constituents and the management team." HR Manager, HS2

To find out more...


Sarah Dawson, Head of Operations

E          [email protected]

M         07713178699