The energy sector is a dynamic playing field. For a major Belgian player such as Eandis, it is important to take an agile stance. “Being able to react fast and anticipate intelligently is what it’s all about. That also plays a crucial role in negotiations, as the results of our Prime Foundation Partnership at the Centre for Negotiation Intelligence® have demonstrated. In the coming three years, we aim to deepen this consultation model and transfer it to our internal and external stakeholders,” Werner Verlinden, HR Director of Eandis, tells us. Along with Katia Tieleman, Professor of Negotiation and Conflict Management, he clarifies the value of this partnership.
Over the past three years, you and Professor Tieleman have been working on the professionalization of HR’s approach to negotiations and the role of negotiation within the organisation. Why is that so important?
Werner Verlinden: “Social consultation has been embedded in our sector for decades. But for us, social consultation is about more than just signing agreements. It is an interactive process for solving problems, making broadly supported decisions and, above all, making things possible. To my mind, all leaders need to be able to negotiate well, or at least be willing to learn. In a sector like ours, undergoing dramatic transformation, this skill is essential when we consult with our external stakeholders, and likewise with our internal stakeholders, including our social partners and staff. In terms of HR, after all, we are witnessing increasing individualisation and the demand for personalised cafeteria plans, more emphasis on total reward as opposed to simply a pay rise, attention to the complex issues surrounding pensions, flexibility and so on. In that context, we aim to find out which services we are able and willing to provide and how best to convey that to our staff. Clearly our trade unions are an essential partner in these talks.”
What progress have you made together?
Katia Tieleman: “Over the past three years, we have used the Negotation Intelligence® (NQ®) tool to revamp social dialogue at Eandis. We have combined scientific findings with practical cases from Eandis and organised interactive workshops.”
Werner Verlinden: “That’s right. We learned the basics of negotiation, but also paid attention to individual coaching. This made negotiators aware of their strengths and points they need to work on. And because the NQ® model attaches great value to the complementarity of negotiators, these insights also help us to put together a good negotiating team.”
What exactly did the partnership teach your directors and Eandis?
Werner Verlinden: “The departments involved now have the tools and methodology to prepare cases optimally in terms of strategy and in order to determine the right mandates. HR and the trade unions are equal partners when it comes to getting a case accepted, but HR takes a more active lead in certain projects. The HR team has considerably increased its skills over the past three years and now works in a more professional way.
At corporate level, this partnership has facilitated a number of important cases and sometimes even unblocked them. Our social dialogue is now better attuned to our corporate goals.”
Why are you extending the partnership?
Werner Verlinden: “The results have shown that targeted and constructive negotiations have a great impact. In the coming three years, we want to intensify the Negotiation Intelligence process and expand it to the entire organisation, to sector level and maybe later to our trade unions. The long-term partnership with Vlerick gives an extra dimension to that change process. We have direct access to knowledge and knowhow; Vlerick is a valuable sparring partner and the individual coaching enables us to reach other target groups. And when we presented a concrete case based on NQ at Eandis on Vlerick HR Day, we were able to share our experiences with other companies and learn from each other: highly enriching, if you ask me.”
How does this new Prime Foundation Partnership fit into Eandis’ strategy?
Werner Verlinden: “Eandis’ mission is: ‘to provide sustainable links between society and our network solutions’. The NQ negotiation model contributes to that mission. On the one hand, we want a sustainable consultation model that is high-quality and transparent, that effectively contributes to our goals and reacts to the changing socio-economic circumstances. On the other hand, this way of working has a positive influence on the wellbeing and commitment of our staff, who aim to achieve the corporate goals in all forms of negotiation.”
What does Vlerick stand to gain from this partnership?
Katia Tieleman: “We feed the data we have been able to collect from this intensive partnership into our database, enabling us to demonstrate scientifically the enormous impact that negotiation has at all levels. It also enables us to formulate new research goals: by applying the model at organisational level, we can make it systemic and test its limits in practice. So it is clearly the case that we have made a remarkable journey together and that the long-term relationship does not just create a pleasant working environment, but also enables deeper and broader cooperation. Eandis is a pioneer in this field, and the same surely applies to Vlerick.”
Are you curious about how the NQ model is applied at Eandis? Read the interview with Professor Katia Tieleman, ‘Towards Corporate Negotiation Intelligence® - How Professor Tieleman has embedded a pioneering negotiation model at Eandis.’