At a recent VADR presentation on Workplace Dispute Resolution, Fred Wright, Rodney McBride and Sue Ackerly spoke about their dispute resolution (DR) work with the public sector. Focussing on triage rather than direct DR processes, their work is data driven – this struck an immediate chord with me as it connects to my passion for evidence-based practice.
The findings of the 2010 State Services Authority’s implementation guide: Developing Conflict Resilient Workplaces and its companion guide for Managers and Teams were drivers of their work. These reports (part of the ‘Taking the heat out of workplace issues’ project) have inspired me to investigate the findings more closely.
This research holds interest for me, because it has a direct and strong connection to my work in DR. But the research has relevance and significance far beyond those of us practising in the DR field. It has something to say to every business – from the largest to the smallest. How many of these businesses (time poor like we all are) will make time to review the findings and explore their business relevance? I think we know the answer.
This is an important example of a broader issue and a recurring challenge.
Is it enough for us – dispute resolution (DR) academics, pracademics and practitioners – to investigate the research and share it with each other or should we be doing more? Do we have a responsibility to pass on this knowledge to the business community intimately affected by the findings? It is a question I see raised continually in research.
In particular, do we need to find a more accessible way to support businesses to recognise the need to deal with conflict early? Does that mean reconstructing how we approach education about DR processes?
Today, eight years after the reports were first published, I wish to discuss three points.
- What evidence do we have about implementation of the recommendations provided in the 2010 guides?
In the workplace environment, I have seen a move away from more adversarial, ‘grievance based’ processes (often triggered only when they have escalated to a point of ‘no return’), to promoting more informal processes (like conflict coaching, facilitation and mediation) to deal with workplace issues as an early intervention tool. This supports the triage process recommended in the Report.
This suggests to me that we are on the way.
- How do we support those who are implementing these ideas to pass the message on to others?
Those organisations who understand the value of early intervention and support it together with more formal processes are a vital resource in education about the benefits of ADR. The DR community needs to provide them with evidence-based support and encouragement that they are ‘on the right track’. We can do this by continuing to collect data on the success of this existing research and publishing the findings. We can also showcase these businesses in case studies and success stories.
- How do we promote these ideas to workplaces who are not yet on board?
The current business environment gives weight to and is influenced by evidence-based practice. Our community continually publish literature and presents at conferences about the benefits of ADR for other DR professionals. The blogposts available via the ADR Research Network are a significant example of how we provide accessible information about the benefits of the different available DR processes.
The question now is how to provide these to the wider community? The practitioners amongst us are sharing this information as part of the ADR processes and professional development we provide.
Many of us have access to other industries- either because of the focus of our research or because of the careers we held prior to entering the ADR space. Although some of you are already doing this, I encourage the rest of you not only ‘preach to the converted’, but to seek a wider audience with which to share your expertise.
For my own part, I plan to find an industry conference where the audience can be introduced to the value of early intervention through the evidence-based research in which my colleagues and I have been engaged.
I invite others to share their ideas about making ADR research accessible to the wider workforce.