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Case Study: Increasing value through improving partnerships

This case study has been suggested by The Gap Partnership a world leader in negotiation consulting.

In brief

Client: Transport Organisation

Objective: Modernise working practices while retaining competitiveness

Target: Agree new working practices with Trade Union

Achieved: New working conditions agreed with union and increased competitiveness

Our client operates in the transport industry in a very highly unionised sector. They had to modernise their working practices to remain competitive in the market and win future contracts but required agreement with the union to make the changes they needed. They approached The Gap Partnership for help with renegotiating working conditions with the union. The aim was to modernise working practices, improve competitiveness and create a partnership approach with the union.


The union was very powerful with very high percentage membership and the relationship between the union and management was poor. The union perceived the management of the business to be selfish and focus on profits and customers rather than employees and the management saw the union as petty and difficult.

The history between the two was littered with frustration and disappointment and the complex contracts they used were specialised and contained countless appendices.


Our client engaged us to work with a small team tasked with negotiating new working practices. We advised them to attend The Complete Skilled Negotiator workshop to build the behavioural capabilities they required and we set about working on a negotiation plan.

An assessment of the situation told us that building trust, creating a positive working environment and changing the union perception of the management was critical. It was obvious that keeping information away from the union would be impossible and that without communication, rumours could do more harm.

A communications plan was developed that ensured the right type of messages were communicated consistently throughout the business, including at presentations to union members and one to one meetings with officials.

It became clear that as well as monetary reward the union membership valued time very highly. Proposals that created working patterns where they had more spare time were attractive.

Time was invested considering the motivations of the union leadership to better understand how to work with them and create the partnership required.

Transforming relationships

A grow strategy was developed that recognised the organisation’s intention to invest in the relationship and build a partnership. A series of terms were drawn up to be negotiated that were stretching for the union to accept, but not so far from possible that would cause them to walk away.

A series of options were drafted incorporating concessions that could be made to create satisfaction, and a series of small groups sat together to work out the details of the terms. Joint solutions were developed, anchored on the vision of the management, and the technical details finalised by experts.

“Time was invested considering the motivations of the union leadership to better understand how to work with them and create the partnership required.”

Reviewing the results

Finally, a new set of working conditions were agreed that moved the organisation into a more robust operational state, made them more competitive and cost effective to bid for business, rewarded staff appropriately, and left both sides with the feeling that they were working together.

Key success factors

1. Consistent communications plan that renewed positive perceptions of management

2. Understanding both parties’ motivations formed basis to create a new partnership

3. Incorporating concessions and developing joint solutions all anchored to overall vision

To find out how The Gap Partnership’s negotiation consulting service can help your business succeed, visit thegappartnership.com

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