Movares: social innovative employment relations

2016 – Movares is a consulting engineering firm which provides solutions across the board in the areas of mobility, infrastructure, spatial planning, transport, water and energy. Movares has a special dynamic: 50 percent of the stock is owned by the approximately 1200 employees. 

Social Innovation

Movares presents 3 forms of social innovation. Firstly, social innovation appears in the process of making a collective agreement. Employees, the managerial team, the works council and labor unions are directly involved in developing social policy in the collective agreement. In this process, all parties leave  their traditional roles and spheres of activity, they think outside the traditional domains in which they are normally active and become open to change.

Secondly, there is a focus on customization in employment relationships. Customization entails that employees can make individual agreements about working times, working performance, development and training. This way, the individual needs of each employee can be best fulfilled.  These work relationships need to be ‘‘adult’ employment relationships, in which managers have faith in their employees and do not check minutely what they are doing, and employees give account after they have taken action. This way,  there is a more equal way of dealing with one another between manager and employee, and responsibility is decentralized so that it is more equally shared at all levels  in the organization.

Thirdly, ‘innovation studios’ have been set up in order to stimulate employees to try out and develop innovative ideas. Employees can spend 40 hours of their time freely on their specific idea without being impeded by procedures or rules. Then they have to present the provisional result to an innovation board which supports them in eventually further developing their idea and bringing it to the market.     

Motive and goals

In the current Zeitgeist, employees have developed different needs which Movares would like to accomodate. Employees nowadays not only work to earn a living but also work to do something meaningfull. They want to work more flexibly, to experience collegiality, and to be able to develop themselves individually. Because Movares’ management team highly values employees  wants to have input from employees on how they would like to give form to company’s ambitions. The focus point herein is adult employment relationships and offering customizations. Furthermore, Movares wants to achievea more equal relationship between managers and professionals. HR director Ad van Beek says ’’managers are not more important than professionals on the workfloor. Indeed, professionals are the experts who make the difference at clients. They know what is good for a project and for the customer’’. Lastly the innovation studio’s are set up to stimulate employees to try out innovative ideas. 

Approach

In 2007 when Van Beek was employed as HR director, he thought that employees could decide for themselves what they needed in order to work well and what kind of social innovations they wanted to establish. In 2008, this way of thinking further crystallized in a couple of informal meetings set up to brainstorm about Movares’  future with representatives from management, the workers council, labor unions and an external advisor.  All parties were asked to describe their ideal employment relationship and what role the labor union, the worker’s council and the management would have in it . As previously mentioned, the ideal employment relationship is customized and based on a adult to adult relationship, rather than a more hierarchical ‘father-child’ one. 

These meetings constituted a new experience for all parties, who were now thinking together about the future of Movares instead of focusing only on oneself. They were a good start for the collective agreements bargainings which took place in June 2008. In the agreements, it was decided to mainly focus on wages and to give form to the social policy in an developmental convenant signed by the labor union, the worker’s council and the board of directors. In the convenant, it was agreed to involve employees in establishing adult employment relationships and to custumize employment relationships by setting up work groups. The work groups were set up in September 2008 and consisted of a mix of members from the worker’s council, the managerial team, the labor union, the HR department, and Young Movares (a club of young employees within Movares). Their task was to figure out which themes relating to social policy were important within Movares workforce. On the basis of these themes, they had to make up propositions and ideas to innovatively address the identified issues and create support for them. They conducted interviews and surveys to research the wishes, needs and ideas amongst the employees. The propositions and ideas had to become further developed in the collective agreements, worker’s council agreements and/or internal rules. However, communicating withother employees and creating support for propositions turned out in practice to be harder than expected. One risk was that this process would  mainly remain an idea from the board, the worker’s council, the labour unions and the workgroups. 

In March 2009, 7 months after their formation, the workgroups presented their proposals to a steering group who would further collaborate with the workgroups. Management, the labor unions and the worker’s council decided which proposals to implement. Some doubts on the viability of the proposed ideas led to slightly conservative results To further develop proposals and to spread enthusiasm about them, some of them were trial run in ten so called ‘proeftuinen’ (‘trial gardens’). The trial gardens consisted of the limited development of proposals from different working groups. For example, a department could adopt one of the specific proposals in order to temporarily experiment with it. The adoption of proposals was open for enrollment so that employees who did not want to join the experiment did not have to. It was essential that the consequences of the implementation of a proposal were fully transparant, so that advantages and disadvantages and outcomes were clear for everyone. To facilitate this, the trial gardens could be followed in a sort of Wikipedia-like site, which enabled all employees to voice their opinion about the developments. Proposals which were succesfull would be implemented as policy for the whole of Movares or for a specific department or division. An example of a Movares wide implemented idea is making decisions independently in the employment package. For instance, employees can trade free days for salary without intervention from the HR-department. 

In 2010 the supervisors of every ‘proeftuin’ met with employees from other organizations who were dealing with similar themes in order to learn and be inspired by one another. In 2012, the trial gardens were put to a halt since most ideas had already been experimented. 

In 2013 Young Movares was asked to give input to the formation of new collective agreements since its members, most of whom are not union members, are underrepresented as a group in the labor unions . They drafted their own ideal collective agreement, so that their preferences would also be taken into account. 

June 2014 a new collective agreement had to be formed. This was hard since the market conditions had changed. Costs had to be reduced and the rate of return and results had to improve. However the bargaining process had started from a different approach than usual: information about the pay bargaining range was freely available. This means that parties aim at common interests and goals rather then defending their own individual interests . In 2015 an agreement was reached about procedures in case of overcapacity: retraining, secondment with a (new) client and/or reassignment.  Also that year a new collective labour agreement was reached, based on the same principles. This CLA improves the opportunities to work flexible. The employee has to make appointments with his supervisor about the flexible working pattren.

Results
Involving employees, labor unions, the worker’s council and board members more directly in developing and implementing the social policy of the collective agreements combined with taking on other roles and working in different spheres has led to more trust the parties and in the organization. In this process, the employees have grown professionally and personally, by thinking about new topics and seeing their ideas seriously taken into consideration. Now, employees have a new way to influence the organization’s social policy, not only by giving inputs through labor unions or the worker’s council. 

Furthermore, employees value the possibility of more customization in the employment relationship. Adult employment relationships are not present everywhere, but they depend on the manager and the employee. A possible explanation is that not all employees appreciate adult emloyment relationships which imply a different way of evaluating performance: based on results and not on effort. It could also be that Movares does not implement this way of working together as a central policy. Yet, the organization does try to motivate and facilitate managers and employees to work in this way.

In addition, the innovation studios are used by approximately 10% of the employees and the ideas developed there can lead to positive results for both the organization (realizing innovations) and the employee (using his or her potential). 

Chronological overview & attachments
2008: Renewal labour relations: employees are directly involved in working out social policy from the collective agreement. Emphasis on customization and adult employment relationships  Movares: zelf vormgeven aan sociaal beleid

2009: Start proeftuinen: experimenting with social innovative ideas for social policy. Succesfull ideas will be implemented Bijlage: de emancipatie van de individuele werknemer, Movares: een sociaal-innovatieve reis in de tijd, De proeftuinen van Movares, managen op basis van vertrouwen

2010 Exchange of ideas and knowlegde on social innovation: supervisors of proeftuinen visit other organisations working with the same themes. Bijlage: Movares ontmoet

2012 End of the ‘proeftuinen’

2013 Young Movares forms their own ideal collective agreement. This way they can deliver input to forming a new collective agreement. 
2015 Movares sociaal kader 2015/2016 was published as well as a new collective labour agreement: Cao Movares 2015 – 2017.