Burberry develops a Resolution Framework™

Case study kindly produced by Claire Salter, Director of Global Employee Relations at Burberry

At Burberry, creativity is at the core of everything we do: it’s encapsulated in our purpose, Creativity Opens Spaces, and is the thread that runs through the organization. We know that conflict can often fuel creativity, and as we strive to create luxury products and experiences to delight our customers, we need a workplace where everyone has a voice and is comfortable using it.

We wanted to see how we could help our colleagues manage conflict in the most productive ways, avoid the dangers of ‘false agreement’ among teams when not everyone feels able to contribute, and alleviate the issues caused when conflict is mismanaged or when task conflict spills into relationship conflict.

As a team, we all had our frustrations with traditional grievance processes which are designed for identifying heroes and villains, but the reality is there is normally neither, just two sides struggling to recognize each other’s needs and find a way forward. As a team, we recognized that there were opportunities to encourage a solution-focused approach to conflict and we wanted to help colleagues and leaders understand how to navigate their own way through difficulties where possible, and then be able to step in with a helping hand when this was needed, all with a focus on finding effective resolution.

Auditing our processes with TCM, we identified an opportunity to ensure everyone had a consistent experience, with clearer standards for investigations when these are needed. It became clear that we could make more use of informal processes to aid early resolution and do more to show colleagues that we welcomed them speaking up openly, at an early stage. During our initial planning we identified several key principles which we wanted our framework to achieve:

  • global consistency – our solution needed to be scalable globally, ensuring we could provide positive experiences wherever colleagues were located
  • empowering colleagues to help themselves, giving everyone the tools and support they need, available at the moment they need it, to understand how to create space for constructive dialogue and resolve conflicts
  • robust formal processes in place, to step in where needed, including consistent investigations
  • above all, human-centric processes and tools, with the key aim of assisting our colleagues at times when they need a helping hand.

Plus, we’re Burberry, so it all had to look beautiful!

Our Resolution Hub plays a key role in achieving these principles. We wanted our framework to be visible, engaging and interactive, with a warm and friendly tone, and most of all available (and easy to find) when it is needed. A link to the Resolution Hub is one of the first things you see when you access Burberry World (our intranet). Everything you need to know about our approach to resolving concerns is provided here, including a Resolution Toolkit, with resources to help colleagues take responsibility for resolving their concerns. We also have included links to wellbeing support, as we know that colleagues who are looking to resolve concerns often need additional wellbeing support at that time. We have also developed short, tailored learning modules that are accessible at any time for those looking for some extra help or to deepen their knowledge.

Our resolution process launched globally in November 2022. It’s in its early stages but our insights show us that we are already changing the conversations we have about conflict. We frequently hear the words ‘informal’ and ‘facilitated conversation’. Our HR colleagues tell us that they make decisions to facilitate resolution-focused conversations and we see that they are comfortable articulating the benefits of taking ownership for resolving your own concerns and explaining how leaders and colleagues can do this in a non-confrontational, resolution-focused way.

The next phase is to work with resolution champions across Burberry. These are colleagues who have volunteered to help facilitate the embedding of the Resolution Framework because they believe in it, understand and champion the approach, and, collectively, will support us to continue the journey towards a resolution-focused culture.

“To promote a culture of resolution, trust and transparency, we refreshed our processes for formally speaking up. Our belief is that each of us has a role to play in creating a workplace where we all have a voice, and have confidence that we will be heard, that situations will be dealt with fairly and that we will be protected. Guided by our Code of Conduct and Leadership Standards, we launched our Resolution Hub in November 2022, a centralised location where colleagues can access information about how to speak up and the support that they can expect. The Resolution Hub includes our innovative Steps to Resolution framework, a tool which enables a globally consistent process to share and manage concerns, with a focus on resolution.”

Excerpt from The Burberry Strategic Report  22/23. Gerry Murphy, Chair of Burberry.

This case study first appeared in Liddle, D 2nd ed (2023) Managing Conflict: a practical guide to resolution in the workplace. Kogan Page