«Mediation is a mindset that needs to be learned»

Alexia Cadalbert
February 2, 2021
Agility, Rund um die Baloise
Mediation has been an intrinsic part of the corporate culture at Baloise for a decade, supporting self-organisation, personal responsibility and decisiveness, and thus making Baloise better prepared for the future. The Swiss Federation of Mediation Associations (SDM) has now awarded Baloise the 2020 Mediation Prize – the first-ever Swiss Mediation Prize – in the Institutions/Businesses category. Adrian Honegger, Head Group Strategy & Digital Transformation and a qualified mediator since 2002, talks to us about conflict resolution, personal responsibility and new ways of working.

Adrian, what is the link between mediation and agile working methods?

We need to look at the broader context to really understand this. We live in a world that is changing rapidly, and this also has an effect on the needs and wishes of our customers. Everything has to happen more quickly now, and this also applies to decision-making. Companies therefore have to look into ways of ensuring that established ways of working and existing structures can work in this context. The digital transformation is changing customer expectations. This means that our customers now expect more from our products and services. Being more flexible and dynamic is certainly a business advantage. At Baloise, we therefore strive to give more and more decision-making power to our teams. This means that teams, and thus employees, are being given more and more responsibility towards customers and their peers at Baloise. This is generally referred to as agility. A consequence of the self-organised working method is that different opinions can be used as resources to improve customer service. In the long term, teams that can take different viewpoints and use them effectively for customers will be able to work more quickly and be more successful. The need to react quickly in an agile working environment also means that the ability to make decisions autonomously is of paramount importance.

And what role does mediation play in all this?

Mediation is primarily about conflict resolution. In our experience, teams that work independently often have more differences of opinion than more tightly managed teams. Differences of opinion are useful when they can be leveraged, and help the team to be more effective. What’s important here is having people who can adopt a mediative mindset and ask themselves: What is really behind these differing viewpoints? What is really at the core of the issue? What motives does the other person have? What is the best solution? A mediative approach helps people understand one another more quickly, makes it less likely that they will become entrenched in their opinions, and encourages them to work together towards feasible, optimised solutions. 

How is mediation implemented at Baloise?

Mediation is a mindset that can be learned. If you can recognise conflicts, you can resolve them more quickly, and create a better, happier organisation. Around ten years ago, we offered the first taster course on mediation, which was compulsory for all IT Switzerland managers, who were being introduced to agile working methods at that time. Anyone else who was interested was also able to attend, and quite a few of my colleagues did. In 2019, we were already running the third mediation training course, with 24 participants and even more people on the waiting list. Today, Baloise has around 60 qualified mediators per 3,000 employees in Switzerland, or a total of 2% of the workforce, in various areas of the company. These mediators include general agents and customer advisers, as well as sales, IT and HR staff and some colleagues from Basler Germany. Many of them will never mediate a real conflict, but they have all gained valuable experience in taking a mediative approach and learned a number of communication skills that they can put to good use in their daily work and in their private lives. This is something in which Baloise truly sets itself apart. A mediative mindset increases the efficiency and effectiveness of every system and makes them more resilient, agile and viable. I am proud that Baloise is really at the forefront when it comes to mediation and a trendsetter regarding sustainability.