Why employers will benefit from using ASM Plus’s employment, workplace and investigation services
- We offer comprehensive joined up service from an ‘emergency triage’ of the dispute, through facilitated meetings, mediation, investigation, root cause analysis and training. All available in one place.
- ASM Plus’s very competitive fee structure ensures that real savings will be made. These savings will be reflected in employers’ budgetary improvements and increased levels of motivation, performance and efficiency. Our focus is on responding promptly, addressing issues at the first available opportunity and giving the best possible advice to ensure early, cost-effective and time-saving resolution of individual complaints and disputes.
- The ASM Plus 1-hour independent triage service prevents the dispute from spiralling into something that can impact on wider departmental or organisational performance.
- Currently the UK employment tribunal that prior to Covid was already experiencing considerable delays is functioning well below full capacity. Accordingly, at a time when it is also very difficult to organise face to face meetings and training sessions our online service means that employment and work-related issues that might have otherwise gone unaddressed can be resolved in a matter of days or weeks.
- The delay factor aside, the true cost of a case that goes to a tribunal or court, could be many thousands of pounds. An early-stage mediation or facilitated meeting means that aggrieved people get to speak face-to-face, or indeed on-line, before they become too entrenched. This goes a long way to helping to get matters resolved early and enables employers and managers to focus their time on areas that will create added value.
- ASM Plus’s mediations and facilitated meetings have an excellent success rate which is consistent with a 2018 report that identified a 90% success rate. Not all cases resolve but the vast majority do. In practical terms this amounts to significant savings of time and money.
- Our team members are strictly impartial. Rather than tell people what to do or what to think, they guide and help the channels of communication to remain open. People get to both listen and be listened to, something that helps to ensure that long lasting, viable settlements are achieved. Because ASM Plus’s mediations, facilitated meetings and neutral evaluations are conducted on a confidential, without prejudice basis, there is ample opportunity for those attending to be frank and open about matters and to voice concerns about work issues, working relationships, behaviours and conduct.
- The substantial amounts of time and money saved through ASM Plus’s input can be put to good use in tasks such as maintaining administrative procedures, generating new business and improving profitability.
- We offer a personalised service. In each and every instance we offer the option of an initial free, without obligation telephone discussion so that the best possible option can be considered. No case is considered to be too big, too small or too complicated.
- The “third eye” approach that ASM Plus’s critical thinking (CT), training, investigation, neutral investigation and coaching services offer will help to identify operational and other issues before they become problematic. The better system of working that our input engenders means that conflicts and disputes are less likely to arise in the first place and because lessons will be learned there is much less chance of history repeating itself.
- We at ASM Plus are not in the business of making work for ourselves. In our experience, in the vast majority of instances, workplace and employment related concerns and complaints can and should be dealt with internally. We consider that employers should not be too quick to activate complaints procedures, particularly in circumstances where a simple explanation/apology is all that is required. Internal members of staff such as HR personnel may not always be seen as truly independent. Using a timely, cost effective external expert will often be the difference between matters being promptly and satisfactorily addressed and not being resolved at all
- ASM Plus’s accomplished associates have backgrounds in law, human resources, business consultancy, education, engineering, training, internal auditing, training, coaching and counselling. Accordingly, they are very well placed to assist with the whole variety of issues and difficulties that beset employers on a daily basis.
- We offer the option of an initial free, without obligation telephone discussion in order to help employers decide if a mediation, a facilitated or another option is best for them for them and to answer any questions they may have. No case is considered to be too big, too small or too complicated.
Case Study 1 - A case of alleged unfair dismissal that belatedly went to mediation.
A case of alleged unfair dismissal that belatedly went to mediation. It was resolved because an employer took the opportunity provided to “think outside the box” but it could have been resolved much earlier. It also shows that on occasion legal insurance policies can be abused.
In this case three employees with poor work records were summarily dismissed. The relevant procedures were not properly implemented hence the employees, who had the benefit of legal insurance policies issuing tribunal proceedings claiming unfair dismissal. These proceedings dragged on for over a year resulting in both “sides” incurring very large legal bills. A belated mediation that the parties’ lawyers really should have recommended much sooner resulted in members of the employer’s management team being able to speak candidly and confidentially and to address and dispose of what in truth were three very spurious claims. It demonstrates not only that it is never too late to mediate but that confidential dialogue between disputing parties is much more likely to bring about a mutually acceptable resolution. than trying to do so in the context of ill-conceived Employment Tribunal proceedings. Equally, this case clearly demonstrates that mediation should not be seen simply as a vehicle for “compromise and giving in”.
Before the mediation the employees and the employer’s management team had effectively been shackled by the strictures of the legal process which had effectively a about the three employees to go to pursue what in most respects were spurious claims. A relatively straightforward case that should not have dragged on for over a year was resolved within a fortnight of the mediation being arranged.
How Mediation Changed the Outcome:
Quite simply, an employment tribunal case that had been quite unnecessarily dragging on for 18 months was resolved in an afternoon. It would otherwise only have been resolved after a lengthy, time consuming and costly Employment Tribunal hearing, some months hence.
Read more to learn exactly what happened and how ASM plus helped:
Abraham, Martin and John had worked for some years in the accounts department of a modest-sized organisation that was subject to quite severe financial constraints. Notwithstanding that Abraham’s last annual appraisal was inexplicably very favourable, in the last few years the standard of work of all three has been considered by their managers to be at best, less than adequate. They had been the subject of rerepeated written warnings, had poor attendance records and were considered by some in the organisation to be disruptive influences.
On top of any previous concerns these three co-workers recently embarked on a course of wholly unacceptable conduct including the downloading of inappropriate material form the internet. This resulted in them being summarily dismissed by a senior member of the organisation who wrote short, ill thought-out letters that simply referred to “gross misconduct”.
Most, if not all, people will take the view that the organisation was quite within its rights. However, the cursory investigative process that was instigated prior to the dismissals did not comply with either the requirements of the requisite statutory guidance or the relevant sections of the organisation’s internal guidance manual. Also, on at least two occasions, another senior manager spoke very inappropriately to Martin and John.
All three co-workers issued unfair dismissal proceedings in the Employment Tribunal. As well as highlighting the manager’s conduct and the defects in the disciplinary process, they claimed that their “alleged” gross misconduct was consequent on the organisation’s very lax managerial procedures which they claim had engendered a culture in which their behaviour was allowed to flourish. They contended that they were being scapegoated and, in this regard, Abraham referred to his recent appraisal.
The organisation initially confirmed that it would “vigorously contest” all three unfair dismissal claims. Although at that time its senior management was mindful that it could ill afford costly legal proceedings, there was concern that any indication of willingness to compromise on its part would be construed as weakness and that it would “send out the wrong message to the workforce”.
As the case progressed the correspondence between the parties’ solicitors became more and more confrontational. Even though it had been appropriately advised by its solicitors, the employer continued to refuse to entertain any concerns about its own failings. Equally, Abraham and his co-claimants continued to highlight these procedural matters and seemingly dismissed any thought about their own conduct. At one point the matter was referred to ACAS but both sides rejected any notion of settlement and until very recently the possibility of referring the parties to a neutral, independent mediator had never come up.
After a few months the organisation’s solicitors rendered a very large four figure interim bill and advised that if the case went to tribunal, the costs would in all probability double. The Chief Executive, Marvin, took personal charge and let it be known that he would not be averse to a modest settlement. Finally, eighteen months after the tribunal proceedings were issued Abraham and his co-claimants agreed to go to a mediation which Marvin attended on the organisation’s behalf.
Although he behaved perfectly properly, Marvin took the opportunity to speak candidly and at an early point in the mediation requested all the parties meet together. In that session he very politely and quite correctly conceded that there had been deficiencies in the organisation’s dismissal process and tendered an apology. However, at the same time, without any hint of menace he made it abundantly clear that he and his senior management colleagues did not in any way accept that Abraham, Martin and John’s wrongdoing was “culture engendered” and very firmly stated that there would be no question of him making any concessions.
Marvin also strongly suggested that if the case went to a final hearing, even though his HR department’s processes might be found wanting, the full extent of the wrongdoing on the part of the three ex-employees would be highlighted, and they would be humiliated.
At that point the lunchtime break was called and Abraham and his co-claimants were left to reflect. After lunch, Marvin conveyed an offer to all three via the mediator. They were offered £1000.00 each in full and final settlement with no reference. He made it very clear that his offer was put on a “take it or leave it” basis and that there was no room for negotiation. Realising that Marvin meant business, the three co-claimants decided to accept. The final agreement included a confidentiality clause which all parties have subsequently adhered to.
An objective outsider would quite rightly question why matters went as far as they did. However, what this case clearly demonstrates that because mediation is a confidential process, provided those participating in a mediation conduct themselves properly and do not threaten or intimidate they can take the opportunity afforded to speak candidly without being constrained by the niceties that are invariably observed in the course of legal correspondence.
As is demonstrated above, Abraham, Martin and John’s employers were able to save considerable sums of time and money. A subsequent short internal review resulted in some helpful amendments to the organisation’s guidance manual. ASM Plus also provided a short training session during which senior members of staff were briefed on how better to deal with potentially difficult employees and to avoid the repetition of past mistakes.
Although most will agree that Abraham, Martin and John had behaved very badly, in some respects the treatment that they received from their managers fell below the required standard. This was to some extent acknowledged in the financial settlements that they received and they were able to withdraw gracefully without completely destroying their future job prospects.
Case Study 2 - An Internal Staff Dispute resolved via an ASM Plus convened facilitated meeting.
The scenario outlined below is quite a common one. It concerns a personality clash between two employees with very different points of view working on the same team. The mediation process outlined below was instigated by the employees’ HR manager who was very concerned because the ongoing dispute between her two colleagues was impacting on the effectiveness of their team and had resulted in other members of staff expressing concern and threatening to lodge formal complaints.
Following the facilitated meeting, matters are resolved to the satisfaction of both the employees and pertinently, their managers. The rifts in the team are repaired and the less stressed, more productive working environment that ensues leads to an improved turnover of individual cases and an increased level of client satisfaction.
How a facilitated meeting changed the outcome:
The effects of a potentially very divisive dispute that might otherwise have caused irreparable damage both to the team in question and the charity’s reputation are mitigated. The considerable amounts of management time that would otherwise have been put into disciplinary proceedings are put to better use and employees’ contracts are amended so as to allow for disagreements and disputes that arise to be addressed through mediation or facilitated meetings.
Read more to learn exactly what happened and how ASM Plus helped:
Veronica and Victoria are two capable, very well motivated welfare rights advisors. They both work on the same team for an advisory service although at times, they work on different shifts. They each have separate caseloads but because of the shift system, there is some overlap and on innumerable occasions they have had to provide advice and assistance to each other’s clients.
Veronica who is ex-homeless and for many years was a benefits claimant herself, is much older than most of her colleagues. She is highly experienced but has no formal qualifications. She meticulously adheres to stipulated procedures and although her managers have had no grounds for complaining about the standard of her work, she is seen as being a little “old school” and on occasion has been guilty of not thinking things through.
Victoria who is considerably younger than Veronica has an impressive array of paper qualifications but has little in the way of work experience. However, she is well-regarded by her managers and has achieved quite a lot in a short space of time. In contrast to Veronica, she is rather more upfront with clients and outwardly appears to interact much better. She also has a number of what she terms “new ideas” that she is very keen to implement and considers herself to be much more proactive.
Because Veronica and Victoria work in different ways, conflict has arisen. Victoria considers that Veronica is old fashioned. Veronica considers that Victoria is “all ideas and no substance” and they have clashed at team meetings. Difficulties have arisen because individual clients feel that Veronica and Victoria are giving them conflicting advice. This has led to further arguments, some in the service’s reception area in front of clients. Attempts by the charity’s management and human resources (HR) departments to try and help Veronica and Victoria to work together more effectively have failed and because it now appears that other members of the team really have been taking sides the situation has become critical.
Management advises Veronica and Victoria that if they do not resolve their differences, the first stage of the charity’s lengthy, quite complicated disciplinary process will be instigated and it is strongly suggested that they go to mediation. The ASM director suggests that the best way forward would be a facilitated meeting. The parties agree and the HR director who makes it abundantly clear that they should take the opportunity to resolve their differences without managerial input, makes the arrangements.
During the facilitated meeting, although Veronica initially appears to be indifferent, both she and Victoria separately inform the facilitator that they acknowledge that the current state of affairs cannot continue and are concerned that their clients may suffer. Equally both are very mindful that they run the risk of formal disciplinary proceedings with all the attendant uncertainty.
Following an initial hour-long session with the facilitator during which Veronica and Victoria remain civil but express themselves quite candidly and simply restate their previous quite different positions. They agree to a time out which lasts around 45 minutes. During this period the facilitator has a private discussion with each party and he encourages them both to carefully consider not only their own positions and viewpoints but also each other’s.
When the meeting is reconvened, although Veronica and Victoria are initially reluctant to make any concessions, the facilitator notes that gradually, they have become more relaxed and appear to be listening to one another. They begin to agree that they have things in common and in particular both stress their commitment to doing everything possible for their clients. Later on, in the discussion, each concedes that the other is well motivated and that there are strengths and weaknesses in their respective approaches.
After two hours or so of by no means unhelpful dialogue the lunchtime break is taken. Immediately after and much to Victoria’s pleasant surprise, Veronica acknowledges that her colleague’s approach to her work has “quite a lot of merit”. In turn, Victoria concedes that she has allowed her personal view of Veronica to cloud her judgement and suggests that they agree to disagree, go back to work and over time discuss how they can reconcile their approaches and ensure that they give their clients the excellent service that they deserve.
Although they enthusiastically shake hands, both parties feel that at this stage it would be premature to enter into a written agreement. They agree to “give it six months” with the proviso that if they cannot resolve their day-to-day issues, a further mediation can be convened. One year later, one of their managers anecdotally mentions during a senior management meeting that things between Veronica and Victoria have been cordial and that it is unlikely that a further facilitated meeting or indeed any formal disciplinary process will be required.
The charity is very relieved that it will not have to instigate disciplinary proceedings. Its management is also very pleased to note the overall performance improvements achieved by Veronica and Victoria’s team.
Read more to learn how ASM Plus helped:
The ASM Plus facilitator helped Veronica and Victoria come to the realisation that it was in their best interests to resolve matters and that they had much more in common than they had supposed. As regards disciplinary proceedings they came to appreciate and that even if no action was subsequently taken their mangers would view them in a less than positive light and that their career prospects might be damaged. Their stress levels have decreased and they have regained the trust and respect of their fellow team members
Critical Thinking (CT) offers employers, managers and HR teams the option of using an independent “third eye” that will help them to analyse how their businesses might be enhanced. Alternatively, CT can help when something goes wrong either in an individual case or where there are concerns about possible deficiencies in a company’s procedure or an underlying systemic difficulty.
The head of Critical Thinking ASM Plus, Roy van den Brink Budgen, is a world-renowned expert in this field. He has an excellent track record in enhancing the overall performances of the businesses that he works with.
See also https://www.asmadr.co.uk/critical-thinking/
ASM Plus does not offer a “classic” consultancy service that simply makes recommendations. Instead, the analysis and reasoning used in the critical thinking process ensures that matters are looked at from all angles and that those responsible for putting matters right, e.g., frontline staff, managers and directors are properly engaged and work together effectively. Critical thinking input can be provided promptly and because it tends to bring out the best in people, changes and improvements that may be identified and considered desirable can be implemented much more quickly than would otherwise be the case.
Clients can avail themselves of our online facility which means that in the context of the current health emergency, matters can be addressed on line
Case Study 3 - Critical Thinking brings clarity and a successful outcome for Brigitte to the perennial challenge of being overlooked for promotion
We see this so often; a loyal and talented member of staff is not only efficient and accurate in her work but she also goes that extra mile helping others to get their work done, yet she gets ever more frustrated as she watches others who don’t go that extra mile get promoted ahead of her whilst her efforts are either overlooked or not obviously appreciated.
With the application of Critical Thinking, Brigitte was awarded the well-deserved promotion that she had sought for years. In her new position she is able to contribute even more to the success of her organisation and is extremely happy and motivated. This avoided a potentially divisive and costly dispute and helped the organisation save time and the cost of future disputes.
How Critical Thinking Changed the Outcome:
In a meeting with the HR Director and Brigitte, our Critical Thinking consultant, through a combination of coaching and analysis, was able to help them identify, develop, understand and apply clear statement criteria for employee promotions and guidance on how these should be applied. This sustained focus on clear reasoning resulted in a more coherent policy for staff development, which avoided situations in which staff saw only a demotivating arbitrary procedure.
Read more to learn exactly what happened and how ASM Plus helped:
Brigitte had worked in a media consultancy firm for many years. For much of the time, her formal role was that of secretary/administrator but because of the nature of her work she carried out a wide range of tasks that didn’t necessarily fit with this role, indeed often going way beyond it. These included doing some early development of material for clients, discussing with potential clients about what services the company could offer, and checking on contracts and other agreements. Following this, some years ago, she enquired about her role being formalised into a higher grade. However, the enquiry (which was only an informal one) was not taken seriously, being jokingly dismissed by one partner with reference to her age (such that ‘it wouldn’t be worth their while paying for training’). This was before age-discrimination was taken entirely seriously.
Recently, a young secretary (Martha) was offered the chance to move into a higher grade, despite having little experience in the area of media consultancy. Not surprisingly, Martha was happy to accept this promotion.
Brigitte was concerned (indeed angry) about the lack of transparency in this process, especially as there had been no indication that this new post was available. Brigitte asked HR for clarification of the process by which promotions are made and, when the relevant person in HR (Kelly) agreed to have a meeting, it became apparent that the process was unclear and, at times, arbitrary.
Brigitte asked what criteria were used for promotion. Kelly had to retreat into statements like ‘Martha came to us and asked about the possibility of promotion’ and ‘Martha wanted to do things other than just be a secretary’. Brigitte explained that she had said the very same things some years ago, and had not been taken seriously. Kelly apologised for this (saying that ‘things are different now’) and, after hearing more from Brigitte, offered to look again at her request.
Following the meeting, Brigitte asked if she could have a further one and, as part of this, have someone in the meeting who could provide a critical thinking (CT) perspective. With clarification of what would be involved, the HR Director agreed to this, and offered to attend the meeting herself.
At the meeting the CT consultant introduced himself and explained how he saw his role. In essence, this was to focus on the need for a clear statement of the criteria for promotion at this level of the company, and how the criteria were, if necessary, to be interpreted (and thus applied).
This clarity was then developed to produce a draft set of criteria and guidance on how these should be applied (and when there might be justifiable exceptions). It was agreed that this sustained focus on clear reasoning would, if developed further, produce a much more coherent policy for staff development, so avoiding situations in which staff saw only an arbitrary procedure.
Happily, Brigitte was offered and accepted a higher role in the company.