Written by: Lauren Katalinich

How NEXT is revolutionizing conflict resolution in the workplace

10 Jul 2024

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Lauren Katalinich
CONTENT & ENGAGEMENT MANAGER at the TCM group
If you would like to discuss Lauren's post in more detail, please contact Lauren at [email protected]

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In the bustling world of retail, few names shine as brightly as Next Plc. This British multinational powerhouse, with its network of over 700 stores and a workforce exceeding 46,000, has long been a trendsetter in fashion and home goods. But Next’s latest innovation isn’t on its shelves – it’s in its corporate culture.

Founded in 1864, Next has consistently evolved to meet the changing needs of consumers. Now, it’s turning that same innovative spirit inward, revolutionizing how it handles workplace conflicts and concerns. In an era where employee satisfaction is paramount, Next is once again leading the charge, this time in creating a more harmonious and productive work environment.

The Challenge: Outdated Processes in a Modern Workplace

Despite its forward-thinking approach to retail, Next found itself grappling with an all-too-common corporate challenge: outdated conflict resolution procedures. The traditional disciplinary and grievance processes were not just unpopular; they were ineffective in the fast-paced, people-centric world of modern retail.

Managers, lacking the tools to address issues at the source, routinely escalated problems to HR. This led to lengthy formal processes that often exacerbated tensions, damaged relationships, and consumed valuable time and resources. Although the number of formal cases was not huge, given the size and complexity of the retailer, Next wanted to reduce its reliance on this method of resolution and create an environment where managers could resolve issues early, informally and at source, creating more adult, positive and compassionate working environments for all.

Specifically, the retailer wanted to upskill the wider HR team and enhance overall employee experience. It also wanted to empower managers with the skills and confidence to deal with people issues on the front line, and to shift their approach from directive to coaching.

The HR team was committed to making this change, but recognised that the emphasis on informal resolution might be perceived as HR ‘going soft’, and that they would need to consider timing, language and messaging extremely carefully if they were to win widespread support for the change.

A Bold Solution:
The ‘Next Resolution’ Framework

Enter ‘Next Resolution’ – a groundbreaking initiative developed in partnership with The Resolution Framework . This innovative framework empowers managers to resolve conflicts quickly, compassionately, and effectively at the source. It’s not just a new policy; it’s a cultural shift towards a more dialogue-driven, people-first approach to workplace issues.

The implementation of ‘Next Resolution’ was as ambitious as the concept itself. Next rolled out an extensive training program, reaching nearly 2,500 managers and coordinators through a combination of face-to-face and virtual sessions. They also established a network of internal ‘resolution champions’ branded as ‘Your Team Voice’, further embedding the new approach into the company’s DNA.

Recognizing the unique challenges of communicating with a predominantly non-computer-based workforce, Next got creative. They developed branded merchandise with embedded QR codes, linking to a digital magazine full of comprehensive information about the new initiative. An explanatory video rounded out the multi-faceted communication strategy, ensuring that every employee understood and could engage with the new approach.

Reaping the Rewards:
A Transformation in Workplace Dynamics

The results of ‘Next Resolution’ have been nothing short of transformative. Managers have embraced their newfound autonomy, appreciating the ability to manage conflicts within their own stores without constant HR intervention. Employees have responded positively to the more open, two-way communication style. “I think it will make conversations easier to have which will result in a more open culture in stores. Being more honest will get better results from our teams,” said one manager. “The changes to the way we deal with staff sound much more two way and friendly and are more likely to lead towards a beneficial result,” said another.

Claire Pickering, Senior HR Officer especially loved the mediation training: “It was fantastic course content and knowledgeable trainer that brought experiences to life. I feel much better prepared & confident to deal with mediation going forward following the National Certificate in Workplace Mediation course.”

The numbers tell a compelling story: disciplinary events decreased by a staggering 48%, while grievances dropped by 11%. Using TCM’s Cost of Conflict calculator, Next estimated savings of £1,101 for each case that avoided formal processes. Beyond the financial impact, the most recent engagement survey saw managers rate the Resolution initiative an impressive 8.2 out of 10.

A Model for the Future

Next’s partnership with TCM Group has not only revolutionized their own workplace but has also set a new standard for the retail industry. As one of the first to adopt TCM’s Resolution Framework across all levels – from grievances to performance management – Next has proven that a people-first approach to conflict resolution is not just possible, but profoundly beneficial.

As Next continues to evolve and grow, ‘Next Resolution’ stands as a testament to the company’s commitment to innovation, not just in fashion, but in fostering a positive, supportive environment for the people who make their success possible.

Learn more about The Resolution Framework which is now available open-source to organisations.

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