five dilemma's of the collective agreement at Dutch Railway

2011 – This article discusses the dilemmas in the design, definitions and structure of workplace innovation in NS (Dutch train company) and how the process team has made considerations in the implementation of the collective labor agreement of  2007. In the article the five considerations are illustrated by the experience of the team with the implementation process.

1          Visionary or instrumental: at NS there were made concrete agreements (instrumental interventions) that are picked up by social partners successfully and with enthusiasm. However this put the formulating of a common vision in the background. The authors recommend to make  a balanced combination of abstract and concrete interpretations.
2    Top-down or bottom-up: at NS it was chosen for a bottom-up approach, where the focus was on the first line management as a practical implementation of a bottom-up approach in a hierarchical organization and of working with limited capacity . So kick off events were organized to share knowledge, create enthusiasm and to let various departments meet ach other. By putting the focus on first line management, self-control by employees was less discussed.
3    Outside the structure or inside the structure: At NS an independently operating process team coordinated activities and this team had a free role within the organization. This resulted in a lot of enthusiasm and many ambassadors. However, sometimes it was difficult to get commitment from line managers and business units.
4      New relationships: The process team believes that there should be paid attention in the process to new roles for OR and unions. Also it is important that at the strategic level the social partners are jointly responsible for the successful implementation of the ambition. At NS, the focus of social partners especially was on the content of collective agreements and less on communicating a shared vision.
5      Wide or narrow agenda. The agenda at NS was broad, with themes such as creativity internships, self-scheduling, leadership, health management, new forms of remuneration, and sustainable employability. A broad agenda shows that workplace  innovation is an important topic that has a lot of influence in the organization and provides opportunities for initiatives. At the same time the amount of topics may seem overwhelming. A narrow agenda, however, offers more focus. For a broad agenda it is important that management, works council and unions play a role in connecting the initiatives and in securing the vision.

In part 2 of the article (to be published) the dilemmas relating to the implementation in the HRM are discussed.

The article ‘Vijf dilemma’s bij sociale innovatie NS’ (‘Five dilemmas in social innovation at NS’) (2011) by Michel Donners, Jochem Dijkckmeester, Huib Bartels, Paulette vd Broek, Jasperina Copier and Ilse Boontje can be found in the appendix.