Geza Brugger

Restructuring organisations with strong employee representation.

Geza Brugger

Restructuring organisations with strong employee representation.

How German works councils are becoming constructive partners.

CONTENT

The company culture which has resulted from what the German language calls "Mitbestimmung" – co-determination – is, more often than not, consensus-orientated rather than confrontational. For while the legally sanctioned presence of employee representation certainly imposes limits on management which can be frustrating, its provisions also place requirements on representatives to be cooperative. The difference between this enforced cooperation on a day-to-day level and the “them and us” culture engendered by deregulated environments where unions are legally disenfranchised and yet – or indeed, therefore – often powerful and militant is at its clearest when companies need to restructure. One reason German industrials have flourished while many of their counterparts in southern Europe, the United Kingdom, or the United States have floundered is their ability to negotiate compromises with their employee representatives who, rather than rejecting all changes to pay and conditions out of hand, are secure enough in their positions and invested enough in the fate of the company to hear the case for action and take an active role in implementing change. 

Key Take-Aways:
This article shows how best to navigate through the culture and legislation of co-determination in Germany in the true spirit of the concept: working jointly – and closely – to reconcile conflicting aims and reach effective solutions both for employers and employees. 

- INFORMATION. INFORMATION. INFORMATION. Start talking to employee representatives early and reap the benefits later.
- Be proactive about setting up secondary committees and working parties with clear representatives from both sides.
- Involve employees who are neutral to steer discussions and pre-empt potential conflicts.
- Get to know and understand the other side – a typology of works council reps.
- Include productivity increases in change processes: reinterpret problems as opportunities and make sure both sides get something from change.

THE AUTHOR

Geza Brugger has more than six years experience in working and consulting in the manufacturing industry. The focus of his consulting activities lies on designing strategy and efficiency initiatives in sales and after-sales organizations, project and performance audits, restructuring and turn-around management, as well as competition analysis and benchmarking. He is an Automotive expert (especially Asian OEM strategies and connected cars/mobility solutions). His main industries are: Automotive, Mechanical Engineering, and Medical Technology.