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HR Magazine, January 2004 - Jury of their Peers

By Margaret M. Clark  1/1/2004
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HR Magazine, January 2004Vol. 49, No. 1

Finding a Home for Peer Review

Although peer review programs often are housed within a company’s HR function, there are other options companies can consider.

The Eastman Kodak Co., for example, made a deliberate decision to house its conflict resolution program—including peer/management review—outside HR. The program is part of the company’s Global Diversity Office, headed up by vice president Essie L. Calhoun.

Robert L. Berman, Kodak’s vice president and director of human resources, says the HR department’s high-profile roles as business partners and leaders of business change have led Kodak employees to perceive the function as being very tightly aligned with management. So, while the traditional methods of resolving conflict through the line organization and through HR are still important and functional, it became clear that those methods needed to be complemented with different kinds of tools. The company offered alternatives by establishing the Resolution Support Services (RSS) program—a multi-step conflict resolution system that includes peer/management review.

Berman says he delivered a clear message to the HR community about the program’s importance and, in return, his people have been very supportive. HR staffers refer employees to RSS, steer workers and supervisors toward peer/management panelist training and serve in the important role of panel facilitators—those who administer and moderate peer panels.

RSS director Mary Harris says the invitation to HR to serve as facilitators in disputes outside their client area met with “a groundswell of response.” Experience as a facilitator helps HR explain the process to clients when they need it—to give them a peek at “what’s behind the curtain.”

Harris says the program is a resource for HR. “An HR person’s job is not to be 90 percent conflict resolution,” she points out. “We come in when they’ve done everything they can. It’s as much a service to them as it is to the employee.”

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