First European agreement at Thales aims to improve professional development of employees

The first European framework agreement on the subject of annual discussions on individual and collective performance between employees and their managers has been concluded at the electronic systems group Thales. The agreement was signed in April 2010 between the Thales group and the European Metalworkers’ Federation. It sets out an annual cycle as part of the discussion process and highlights the need for training to ensure an effective evaluation.

A new agreement – on a ‘Transparent annual activity discussion for mutual listening and developing professional knowledge’ (TALK (79Kb PDF)) – was signed between representatives of the electronics group Thales and the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) on 14 April 2010. The accord is the second European-level agreement to be adopted in the Thales group, which has a total of 68,000 employees worldwide. The first agreement, signed on 11 June 2009, covered the ‘improvement of the professional development of employees by effective anticipation’ (IDEA) and established a follow-up joint European Anticipation Commission, which also plays a role in this new accord.

Opportunity for joint evaluation

The annual activity discussion (AAD) at Thales takes the form of an exchange between an employee and their manager. It is seen as an opportunity for both parties to jointly carry out an evaluation of the previous year, to identify any possible areas for improvement and to set objectives for the year to come. The goal of this agreement is to create a clear European framework and comprehensive points of reference for this discussion, in order to facilitate a real and lasting improvement both at an individual and collective level.

The agreement applies to companies that fall within the scope of the Thales European Works Council (EWC). Its provisions ‘cannot supersede local laws, statutory provisions, agreements or practices in force in the European entity of Thales group which are more favourable for employees’.

It stipulates that the AAD should be conducted on a face-to-face basis, in the employee’s mother tongue. The agreement also states that mutual listening is indispensable and leads to progress to a much greater extent than two monologues; this dialogue may ‘reveal areas for improvement and corrective actions (…) which could take the form of training, tutoring, coaching or teamwork…’. In parallel, areas for collective actions will also be examined, which may result, for example, in improved work organisation, or a better fit between objectives and resources and more effective cooperation.

Annual cycle for discussion

The agreement explains that it is important to undertake a balanced appraisal that covers not only the previous year’s objectives but also looks at an employee’s overall mastering of the job over time. It describes the annual cycle for the discussion as follows:

  • the first step is to establish the annual collective objectives for the team as well as the roles within the team;
  • individual objectives are then set during the objectives discussion phase of the AAD, with the aim – as far as possible – of reaching consensus. An employee has the right to know what role they play and what means they have to achieve this, as well as the key criteria driving the process;
  • employees must undertake a self-evaluation, which will form a basis for the AAD;
  • all self-evaluation and written analysis relating to the employee that is carried out by the manager should be transparent and confidentially accessible to each party.

Training needed for effective process

Although this agreement does not mention stress at work, its contents indirectly refer to this aspect in some places. For example, the agreement warns that careful and structured action has to be preventively taken if a negative individual evaluation is about to take place, and that the manager’s handling of this process forms part of their own performance evaluation. Furthermore, managers are obliged to take part in training to help them to fulfil their roles, and every employee has the right to be trained in order to help them to prepare the discussion in the most effective manner.

Appeals procedure

An appeals procedure has been established to resolve any disagreements relating to the agreement, as follows:

  • if there is a disagreement, the parties will try to solve it by meeting a second time;
  • if they cannot settle the disagreement, a third meeting may take place, to which each party has the right to bring with them a person of their choice;
  • if the disagreement remains, it may – if necessary – be transmitted by the employee to the human resource (HR) function to be recorded.

Any disagreements over the interpretation or implementation of the accord will be referred to the European Anticipation Commission. The agreement notes that in countries where appeal procedures exist – such as Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – the parties in these countries are invited to bring this experience to the European level in order to create a database of good practice.

Regular monitoring of implementation

In order to prevent significant drifts away from this framework, the agreement sets out an ‘alarm system’ – the social partners in each country will discuss how this alarm process is to be implemented and this will be evaluated regularly. To ensure a regular joint monitoring of the agreement’s implementation, an evaluation report will be issued each year.

Frédéric Turlan, Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA)

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