By Alexander Klier Aug 24, 2015

Translation of the Original Article by Alexander Klier

Involving the works council from the very beginning is a smart move. If he can be won as a key player, then he is a positive role model for employees with his own commitment.
Picture: Till Westermayer – Chess III. Use under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY-SA).

„Most often, the level of knowledge of the works councils is well advanced in this regard, so that you can collaborate openly and competently on an equal footing with them. “ (Nadja Draxinger)

Is all well with the employees? Is the Leadership already also on course towards networking? Splendid. Then an important and big, sometimes, unfortunately, very unpopular chapter can be tackled. The issue is about winning the legitimate and democratically elected representatives of the employees, their work councils (or staff councils), for networking. The consideration to win the councils as active (network) players is in principle even before the actual legal conditions of codetermination. Because councils can take a tremendously positive impact on the activation of the employees through their own behavior, it is crucial for a successful transformation to win them as allies. However, for this they need to be involved from the outset and transparently with the introduction of digital platforms. If the works council is on board at an early stage, then "a dispute as to whether the measure requires co-determination, does not even arise", labor rights activist Nadia Draxinger commented very early in a blog post (here). From this perspective, a good start and successful transformation show at the end of the project, that everything was done correctly from the beginning.

Disruption and Regulation

The "disruptive" nature of social collaboration platforms leads to many questions and problems in the concrete organization of work. With the conversion to Networked working and community-based communication structures the processes of cooperation, times the exchange of information, the principles of teamwork change significantly and not least the working conditions as a whole. All aspects that the works councils must pay attention to and features that therefore need to be clarified and regulated at the beginning. Therefore, there is no way around the active perception and exercise of participation rights. But this is no problem with an early regulation in the sense of an agreement with the works council and the timely completion of an appropriate operating agreement. It works best when the process is promoted cooperatively by the Executive Board and can be designed according to content.

Better with Operating Agreement

The digital work environment is not a legal vacuum. Legally, it is simply the obligation of a works council, to oversee and ensure that existing legal and collective agreements engage in the work organization. However, the challenges are often not trivial to solve and have a profound impact on the workforce, especially in the introduction of collaboration processes via digital platforms. Creative solutions are therefore in demand. These one will only be agreed if councils are asked to not only consent, but also be involved from the outset and as a collaborative partner in the process of change. The advantage of an early fixation in writing as part of a company agreement goes beyond a protective function for the workers. With it, there is, for example, also for managers, a legally reliable framework for the interpretation of the measures resulting from the introduction of collaboration platforms. If it is done wisely, it is even a crisis-proof instrument for the all-round balancing in case of conflict.

The example Bosch

However, with a timely and active involvement of works councils much more is possible. For the Robert Bosch GmbH, the introduction of collaborative working for example, was a reason that councils are working together with the executives to describe the future working conditions and design the digital workplace.

At the Robert Bosch GmbH, the introduction of collaborative working, for example, was a reason for works councils working together with the executives to describe the future working conditions and design the digital workplace. In that the council was fully involved, he also took over the responsibility for the discussion and played an active role in the implementation in the respective areas. In that the council was fully involved, they also took over the responsibility for the discussion and played an active role in the implementation in the respective areas. Therefore became a qualified in-process force, a collaborative "key player" in the company. This is an entirely new form to live participation. For both the works councils, as well as the employees. In this respect, there is a lot to learn.

The Works Council as a community

That works councils have to learn to move within communities and networks in the context of the change process is not to be underestimated. Which in turn is a major advantage on the other hand. Because if it succeeds, then, for example, the Committee involvement can take place in the form of a (closed) community. It will be even more interesting for works councils, if they can use collaborative tools for communication with the employees by example creating their own blog, or using Wikis for collaborative development of rules with the employees. Functioning communities and an active role ultimately result in a new self-image of employees. What does the desired workspace look like? What does the necessary transparency mean for them and their work in the working processes?

Visibility and Participation

A social collaboration is only a small part of a technical solution or a digital design of work processes. Far more and more profound is the social change that is necessary to make active use of the platforms and reshape the work accordingly. In this, some completely new tasks arrive at the employees. Above all, they become visible and work structures become transparent. Just as the work results are visible, shared, and liked by the colleagues - or may not be considered. This new kind of transparency, communication and collaboration, can expand the legally regulated way and responsibilities of participation enormously. However, it must not replace it and cannot make it superfluous. Working in communities in turn is for works councils a key lever to solve emerging problems jointly with the employees – collaboratively. In this way, the employees get a voice and become perceptible and visible towards the council. This is normally a new - and rewarding - experience for works councils. The necessary and desired participation of employees, as well as the participation of interest groups is especially necessary in the design of the digital workplace. This is done in the next part of this series.

Here is the previous article, the article thereafter is here.