Maintaining effective communication and consultation arrangements
Employee communication and consultation policies and procedures need regular monitoring and review. In particular monitoring should take place to ensure that:
- communicators and those participating in consultation committees know their roles
- employees are regularly consulted on matters of interest to them
- appropriate information is made available and reaches everybody
- the information is accepted and understood
- communications and consultation brings desired benefits, particularly in the form of better industrial relations
- practice matches policy.
The results of any monitoring exercise should be discussed with employee representatives and, where appropriate, recognised trade unions. Where the monitoring process exposes weaknesses, it is essential that remedial action is taken.
Regular monitoring and review also enable an organisation to assess the cost effectiveness of its communications and consultation policy. The ideal in terms of time, method or content has to be balanced against what is practicable and economic. The direct costs of communicating have to be balanced against the less easily measured costs of not doing so.
Monitoring is largely dependent on feedback from employees through both formal and informal channels. But the effectiveness of communications and consultation can also be assessed by the following indicators of the:
- extent of employee co-operation
- quality of decision making by managers
- level of involvement by senior management
- absence and labour turnover levels(14)
- industrial relations climate.
A full review of communications and consultation policy and practice should take place periodically according to the size of the organisation. A communications audit is often a suitable way of carrying it out and can be done 'in house' by specially trained employees and managers working together; a joint working party can be a particularly effective way of carrying out such an audit. Although communications audits are generally more appropriate for larger organisations, even small concerns should make some regular assessment of their practice.