By Max Clarke

Managing workplace grievances takes on average fourteen days per case in management time, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) research, Managing Conflict at Work (2011). This cost, combined with the new Government’s proposals to implement employment tribunal charges and extend the time period in which employee’s are protected from unfair dismissal from one to two years, means the issue of managing workplace conflict is now top of the agenda.

The CIPD Conflict Management Conference has been developed to prepare HR professionals, line managers and those dealing with disputes and tensions in the workplace, to manage conflict and tackle difficult situations with confidence. The recent policy shift towards managing disputes in-house and reducing financial costs means that more responsibility falls to HR and line managers.

The conference will offer practical, hands-on advice from experts and give delegates the opportunity to practice conflict management skills, develop techniques in mediation and dispute resolution scenarios and learn from expert case study examples.

The chair of the conference, Keith Mizon, Director, Individual Dispute Resolution, Acas, will give the opening speech and briefly summarise individual conflict management and dispute resolution issues.

Further highlights from the day include speakers, Jackie Keddy and Clive Johnson, Partners at The Janus Partnership and authors of Managing Conflict at Work. Their session will discuss early intervention, how to manage and control conflict and will offer delegates examples of resolution techniques to use. Also a practical case study from David Liddle, Founder and Director, The TCM Group and Carole Russell, Head of Employee Relations, BT Retail will provide practical insight into the effectiveness of mediation, while helping to develop the skills of HR professionals and line managers.

Mike Emmott, CIPD Employee Relations Adviser says, “HR needs to develop more positive strategies for dealing with workplace conflict. Once a disagreement goes down the path of formal action, it can become increasingly difficult to secure a satisfactory outcome and the legal ramifications can be both costly and time-consuming.

“Government plans to increase the qualifying period for bringing an unfair dismissal claim to an employment tribunal is unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the volume of claims. Organisations, therefore, need to manage workplace disputes better and seek to resolve them early on. HR has a fundamental role to play in this process, and a responsibility to ensure line managers are suitably trained and supported. CIPD research has shown that, where attempts to resolve the issue by informal discussion have not been successful, mediation can be highly effective in improving relationships and reducing the costs of conflict.

“Our conference offers the insight and practical know-how to help organisations lead the way in conflict management. We will also be launching a new survey report at the conference on Managing Conflict at Work, which should give powerful support to HR professionals who want to produce a convincing business case for introducing a mediation scheme into their workplace, and provide the evidence base needed to help gain buy-in from the entire organisation.”