The recent Acas commissioned research report – Knowledge and Use of Mediation in SMEs suggests that many SMEs are missing out on the potential time and cost saving benefits of using mediation to resolve supplier, customer and employee disputes.
This research highlighted a real lack of familiarity with the practice of mediation – in fact only 7% of managers interviewed have used mediation and whilst a further 56% had heard of it the fact they had never used it meant their knowledge of it’s benefits was limited to say the least.
Such a shame when mediation can be a much more cost effective way of handling disputes than resorting to the Courts. It was even more worrying to learn from the research that around two thirds of managers think mediation should only be used as a last resort, that respondents tended to think of it is an expensive way to resolve disputes and one only suited to large organizations. We mediators clearly have an awful lot to do to educate this particular sector of the market.
In an attempt to encourage SMEs to try mediation for the first time I've started to offer a free half hour telephone mediation assessment to establish whether a dispute is suitable for mediation and provide an estimate of the cost. I'd hope to be able to convince some managers of the benefits of mediation - at no risk to their business.
The research was conducted by GFK NOP on behalf of ACAS and involved telephone interviews with managers in 500 Small and Medium Enterprises. It is part of a wider research programme being carried out jointly by Acas and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development on the use of mediation.