Previous Projects

Key findings from our previous work



This second study was conducted between 2012 and 2014, also cofounded by the European Commission Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities DG (VS/2012/0416) and the partner organizations. This study explores the experiences and expectations of employers about social dialogue and ERs. Focal points are the expectations of employers on ERs’ roles, attitudes and competencies to act as partners in social innovation. This study includes quantitative data from over 600 human resources (HR) managers and qualitative data from 110 interviews with HR managers in three sectors: finance, higher education and production. This study was conducted in 11 EU member countries: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.


The overall aim of the project was to improve the quality of social dialogue in organizations as a tool for innovation, by exploring European employers’ experiences and expectations on structures, roles, attitudes and competencies of employee representatives (ER).

  1. a) To analyze European Employer’s experiences with and expectations of the structuring and roles of ER at the organizational level.
  2. b) To analyze European Employer’s experiences with and expectations of the attitudes and competencies of ER at the organizational level.
  3. c) To improve the understanding of European employers of the aims and instruments developed by EU and national legislations, to promote social dialogue and innovation.
  4. d) To improve motivation of European employers to invest in innovative structures and competences to promote social dialogue.
  5. e) To improve the dialogue between European employers and ER at company levels, through data-driven and facilitated dialogue.


Through documentary study, surveys from over 600 HR directors, and interviews with 108 HR directors in 11 EC member states, the action offers an actual view on employers’ experiences with and expectations of employee representatives in their organizations, and good practices for an innovative social dialogue. The action focuses on three important sectors facing high pressures, banking, higher education, and manufacturing. With the new developed comprehensive NEIRE-model for industrial relations, social partners can assess the industrial relations (IR) climate in their organization, benchmark key aspects of this climate, and explore actions to improve social dialogue in their organization.

European employers, both in the public and private sectors, largely see the benefits of a structured social dialogue at organizational level, as promoted by the EC. This is more so for larger organizations, compared to small organizations. The climate for IR differs considerably between countries, sectors and organizations. Generally however, employers express a strong need for improvement of social dialogue and offer many suggestions how to achieve this. Key aspects are the recruitment and development of competent ER, who are truly representative for the employees in the organization. With a focus on cooperation, innovation and with a problem solving attitude. The influence of national unions with an ideological approach to defend workers’ rights, and not open for change, is seen as a major threat for a meaningful social dialogue in the organization and the development of trust. Employers actively experiment with new forms of representation to promote trust, competent ERs, and effective problem solving and negotiations. Social partners at European, national and sectorial levels should create room and actively stimulate such experiments at organizational level, both in the forms of representation and dialogue.

Two publications available in this website present the key findings and recommendations from this action:

  1. The “Tower of Power. Constructive Conflict Management through Social Dialogue in Organizations” is a summary with Good Practice proposals available online in 9 languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Danish, Portuguese, and Estonian.
  2. The Handbook “Promoting social dialogue in European organizations. Human Resources management and constructive conflict behavior” is published by Springer Verlag in open access (autumn 2014). This handbook offers a parsimonious model to improve social dialogue, based on the results. Furthermore, it presents the main outcomes per country as well as the suggestions given by the HR managers in order to improve social dialogue.

These publications together offer