Strong communication strategy is the key to social dialogue

Social dialogue at national and European level plays a key role in shaping economic, labor and social policies. However, an effective communication strategy must be in place so that all stakeholders get involved. The report on the external and internal communication of the social partners in construction, prepared under the SuSodCo project, showed that the representatives of employers and workers in Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary need to improve their approach in this area. Therefore, the second capacity building event of the project, organized by the National Federation of Hungarian Building Contractors (ÉVOSZ) and the Federation of Building, Wood and Building Material Workers' Unions (ÉFÉDOSZSZ), was dedicated to the exchange of good practices and the presentation of effective tools for designing good communication strategy for social dialogue.

What is the approach to communication of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW) and the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC)? The focus of both organizations is to lobby, inform and organize campaigns on key topical issues. Tom Deleu, Secretary General of EFBWW, stressed that the key to successful communication is defining goals, tasks, team roles and responsibility for decision-making. "The European agenda defines our organization's plans. It is important that the goals we define, be they economic, social or political, are clear and transparent to our members and partners. In order to work on joint initiatives and achieve results at European level, we must strive for an autonomous and strong social dialogue," Deleu added. According to him, EFBWW is trying to work not only as a lobbying organization, but also as a platform where national construction unions can find information, as well as indicate what their needs are, discuss important issues in order to find topics of common interest. The organization has its own communication style that is clear and works with short, clear messages.

Earlier this year, the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) developed a new communication strategy aimed at bringing more consistent and structured approach to the organization’s key priorities. Christine le Forestier, FIEC's Director of Social Affairs, said that the starting point for structuring the strategy was to define the target groups - external organizations, member federations and social partners. In addition, the organization is completely renewing its website and becoming more active in social networks, which are becoming increasingly important for business. "There are no rules that apply to everyone, because we have different target groups and each platform reaches a particular audience. We believe that Twitter is most important for everyday communication, LinkedIn is for professional communication, and YouTube is a useful channel for distributing short films, messages from the president, or campaign and advertising films," explained Forestier. FIEC is increasingly relying on digital publications. The annual report is electronic and is translated into several languages. Only some brochures with the key priorities of FIEC, statistics with basic construction data, such as investments, jobs, number of enterprises, are distributed on paper. The detailed statistical report is also entirely digital, and an electronic weekly newsletter has recently been published. "Until recently, our newsletter was published monthly and was about 20 pages long. It is now much shorter, containing three or four key articles with links to other useful documents. The digital format allows us to track how many readers the information has reached and we notice that the number of read electronic documents is increasing. This is a very useful tool for monitoring and assessing the impact, which cannot be applied to the dissemination of information on paper," said Forestier. Traditional press releases are still relevant, but in order to improve media content, FIEC has started working with the European media agency EUROACTIVE, which provides specific media services, as well as with selected journalists specializing in the Construction sector.

"Lobbying is our main activity, which is based on the long-term positioning of FIEC as a serious organization, which is very important when we meet with the European institutions. Whenever possible, we try to build strategic partnerships and organize joint initiatives to be stronger on specific topics. We see that this is a very effective way to communicate with the European institutions, because they listen to us when they realize that we are together with a certain appeal, “said Forestier. According to her, through targeted campaigns and standpoints on European legislation, FIEC is lobbying for more funds for the construction sector, and their latest campaign is devoted to stimulating investments in transport infrastructure. Internal communication with member federations is carried out through an intranet platform. According to Forestier, FIEC is trying to find a balance between providing important information and materials and receiving feedback and concrete examples from national industry organizations to support its lobbying work in Brussels. "Now we have more “active documents”, their effect is stronger, and the digital format allows us to assess their impact. We are no longer reacting to events, but we take the initiative. Our goal is to show that we are leaders in construction and have expertize. Yes, publicity is important, however, not at any time, but when it is essential for the sector,” Forestier concluded.

Ibolya Bertók, a representative of Market Group, the largest vertically integrated construction company in Hungary, shared a good example of effective organization of the employer-employee dialogue. The company is introducing an employee feedback system to increase productivity and reduce staff turnover. The most important channel for communication is the workers' forum, which is held by the executive director at least twice a year. This meeting provides information about the current state of the group, the status of current projects, vision, development, achievements, current problems and expectations of employees. "Employee satisfaction is also measured regularly. Every year, through online surveys, we ask for the opinion of colleagues on various topics, such as bonus schemes, corporate programs and events, to find out if there is interest and what we could change, "said Bertók.

Corporate culture is also an important aspect. Bertók stressed that Market Group is introducing the Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI) methodology - questionnaires that show how employees interact, what common interests they have, what behavior is expected of them. These behavioral standards affect productivity and work efficiency, as well as the degree of commitment of the individual employee. "As a result of the introduction of this model, staff turnover in our company is only 2% in 2020, but we would like to further reduce this percentage, as recruiting and training new staff is very expensive," said Bertók. She added that external communication is also very important for their organization. To this end, Market Group conducts a survey on the company's image among partners and students – the future employees. "Successful are those organizations whose results are based on constant communication, effective cooperation and good reputation. For us, this is a value that we are constantly striving for", asserted Bertók.

Another useful tool for strategic planning is the Blue Ocean strategy, which was presented by János Bene from the consulting company Generatív Kft. "This is an effective method of strategic planning that helps us define the long-term horizon in which we can work without serious competition, create a quality product and be effective on the market," explained Bene. According to him, there are three points of reference within an organization: vision, strategy and goals, which are often in the wrong order. In the beginning, the vision of the company must be determined - where does it want to go in the long run. It must have a motivational element to inspire the entrepreneur, stimulate employees and build trust among partners. "When the vision is there, the strategy is developed, analyzing the following aspects: what products/activities should we maintain or which works well and does not need to be maintained (maintain)? What do we want to increase or where is there more potential for growth (grow)? What do we want to reduce, for example costs, uncertainty, reduce (reduce)? What should we create or what are we not doing at the moment that could bring new opportunities for our organization / partners? What is this innovative thing that would intrigue our partners - labor force, specialized knowledge, free capacity, raw materials, machines (create)? Finally, what is it that we don’t need anymore (eliminate)", explained Bene.

According to Bene, the communication strategy must be integrated in order to reach as many target groups as possible through radio, television and partner networks. All communication tools must be used because they have a lot of potential. Bene added that building feedback mechanisms from employees is a very successful approach. He illustrates this statement with an example of a company introducing a platform for anonymous asking of all kinds of questions. In this way, managers are able to define real problems and significantly improve communication and work efficiency. "It's important to think creatively and innovatively, to see differently what others see the same way. You have to go beyond traditional thinking, be brave to be successful, without fear of failure. This is how ideas and innovative products and services are born. I wish you innovative thoughts! ”Benne concluded.

During the second day of the event, participants were divided into national groups to implement the “Blue Ocean” strategy to analyze and improve the communication strategy for social dialogue. The group for Bulgaria included Yordan Yordanov, Ioannis Parteniotis and Plamena Partheniotis from FCIW - Podkrepa, Tsvetelina Bikarska from FICTU, Maria Zheleva and Martina Krasteva from BCC. The Bulgarian social partners have once again demonstrated unanimity and efficiency when working together to achieve common goals. During the first workshop in December 2020, the representatives of employers and trade unions, independently of each other, gave the same assessment of ten challenges in the social dialogue for construction in Bulgaria. Now they are united around the idea of ​​expanding their partner network, improving communication channels with their target groups and improving the content of information materials to work successfully on the priority topics for social dialogue until 2023 - vocational training, digitalization and Green deal, and posted workers.


DISCLAIMER: The official language of the 2nd Capacity Building Event was Hungarian and English. The article was drafted and published in Bulgarian language, using the simultaneous translation in Bulgarian, and then translated into English. Therefore, the wording of the quotes might deviate from the ones used by the speakers during the event.