How to Tap Into Your Workforce’s Negotiation Potential

Article main image
May 29, 2020

Take a moment to visualize a negotiation. What type of scenario did you imagine? What did the negotiator look like? What was their communication style? Often, our minds default to a formalized corporate setting, whereby the Sales Manager is leading a strategic discussion with a customer, or the Procurement Manager is engaged in a heated conversation with a supplier. However, negotiations are far from confined to these two situations. In reality, the majority of negotiations arise outside of these scenarios.

As a Human Resources manager, it is important to consider how you, and your organization, define negotiation. While most people recognize the importance of negotiation within Sales and Procurement, we often tend to underestimate the role of negotiation in other areas of our organization. For starters, consider the prevalence of negotiation within your own life; you negotiate every single day, throughout your personal and professional life.  Undoubtedly, you qualify as a negotiator, even if you don’t initially consider yourself one.

Here’s food for thought: how can you capitalize on the opportunities for negotiation if neither you nor your employees see yourselves as negotiators? The way that you and your organization define negotiation can either exclude or encompass the other members of your workforce. By broadening the definition of negotiation, you can position your organization to tap into your workforce’s negotiation potential.

Below are key insights that can help recruiters and HR managers adopt a holistic approach to negotiation and capitalize on the innate potential of your workforce.

Redefine negotiation in your own terms

Take a step back from your assumptions about negotiation and redefine it in your own terms. Negotiations aren’t limited to a corporate setting; instead, they are prevalent throughout our personal and professional life. Negotiation transcends every role, function, and industry. Each and every day, we negotiate, though we may not be aware of this! In essence, a negotiation is simply a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.

Commonly, across the media, negotiation is portrayed as a one-dimensional discussion centered around price. However, hard bargaining represents just one piece of the negotiation puzzle. By broadening the definition of negotiation, you can begin to unveil a vast array of opportunities and dimensions available for negotiation. Consider the opportunities for negotiation within your organization, whether in cross-functional projects or collaboration with external stakeholders.

Embrace the role of a “negotiator”

Do you see yourself as a negotiator? For many members of your workforce, the answer to that question may very well be “no.” Each and every member of your workforce is negotiating on a daily basis; whether they are aware of it is another matter. Within many organizations, workers dissociate themselves from the traditional definition and portrayal of a negotiator. Often, only a fraction of the workforce will consider themselves “negotiators.” By investing the time to nurture a holistic understanding of negotiation, you can begin to cultivate an environment where your workforce identifies opportunities for negotiation with stakeholders and embraces their innate potential as a negotiator.

Many parents will testify that they have witnessed the most skilled, fearless, and relentless negotiators in action: children. Whether striving for an extra five minutes of television or one less spoonful of broccoli, children’s innovation, persistence, and resilience when negotiating knows no bounds.  Rewind back to your childhood, and you too were a fearless negotiator. This same principle can be transposed throughout your organization; you have a workforce equipped with negotiation potential. By drawing upon examples of negotiation within our daily lives, it is possible to engage your workforce on the topic of negotiation. What examples of negotiation have they witnessed in their own life? What techniques have they used in these scenarios?

Promote a collaborative approach to negotiation

Once you have redefined negotiation and primed your workforce to see themselves as negotiators, it is essential that you relay expectations for their approach to negotiation. In order to thrive, or simply survive, in the current climate, it is essential that organizations resist the temptation to approach negotiation as an arm wrestle and instead embrace negotiation as an opportunity for collaboration. Let your employees know that negotiation doesn’t have to be confrontational; instead, it can be an opportunity for collaboration, innovation, and open communication with stakeholders. By adopting a collaborative approach to negotiation, underpinned by open communication, active listening, trust, and empathy, you will position your organization to unite and work together with their stakeholders to nurture sustained value and stability.

In order to tap into your workforce’s negotiation potential, ensure that your definition of negotiation encompasses all departments within your organization. As children, we fearlessly embraced every available opportunity for negotiation, though as adults, many of us struggle to resonate with the traditional construct of a “negotiator.” By broadening the definition, as simply a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement, you can empower your workforce to capitalize on opportunities to negotiate with a diverse array of stakeholders.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!