Understand the needs of parties
Not every case can be mediated, and in certain cases where the conflict has escalated to a severe degree mediators must confront the brutal facts in deciding whether mediation might be appropriate for that particular scenario.
Mediators must always place the needs of the parties first in determining this. A good way to screen the case suitability is during the first point of contact with both parties after the case has been referred. Research suggests that most mediation cases tend to be around bullying or unfair treatment claims and issues in relation to performance management.
Design the mediation service around the consumer
The mediation service has to be tailored to the particular client or workplace. This will be reflected in the tone or branding for the service. In a qualitative study of 25 participants, ACAS(2013) found that most parties felt isolated prior to a mediation. The confidential nature of the process limits parties from gaining the support of colleagues or managers thus it is important to consider making the scheme as user friendly as possible.Mediation is in essence a communication tool, thus to promote engagement it has to be provided in a manner which employees will be able to identify with.
Ensure that the process is smooth and efficient
Not all parties are fully aware of mediation prior to attending the process, most mediators send across leaflets with pre-mediation materials to provide an overview. However it is worth considering what to include in these documents, for instance in early stage conflicts not all parties are aware there is a conflict or why they have been invited to attend mediation. A heavily detailed pre-mediation leaflet might inadvertently lure the party into preparing to defend themselves prior to what they might perceive as an attack. This might impact on the power balance for the process. Also, do not under estimate the emotional impact of mediation. For example, if parties have been absent for a long period the mediation might trigger varying emotions and meeting the other party prior to the mediation meeting might have an adverse effect.
Invest in your mediators
Just like everyone, mediators need to be looked after. Whether external or internal, mediators need to constantly improve and maintain their skills regularly to be able to succeed. Mediators need to remember to debrief after mediating and reflect on each case to cultivate a keen self-awareness of weaknesses and strengths.
Co-mediation is also a great way for mediators to benchmark against other mediators to share best practice.
Respond to feedback and evaluate the process
It is always useful to use data to understand the delivery of your mediation services to enable members of the business to recognise its value. This can consist of research and post mediation evaluation surveys in line with an understanding of the nature of conflict within your organisation.
Ask the harsh questions;
Where are we now?
Is this really working?
How can this provide better value?
Are parties feeling pressured into a settlement?
For external mediators, research can help overcome objections to mediation in the early stages of the process when dealing with managers who are sceptical about the process.
The Professional Mediators’ Association (PMA) is dedicated towards promoting mediation within the workplace and business. If you want to know more about effectively promoting your mediation services have a look at our upcoming webinar Media Relations: marketing mediation tips for workplace mediators.
Richard Saundry, Tony Bennett, and Gemma Wibberley. (2013) ACAS. [online]. Available at: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/t/j/Workplace-mediation-the-participant-experience.pdf (accessed: 10 March 2015)