Neutral Evaluation is part investigation and part mediation with something more thrown in.
The process of Neutral Evaluation is based on careful exploration, investigation and analysis, coupled with regard to the emotional and psychological aspects of the situation, bringing an experienced objective eye to surfacing root causes and systemic weaknesses that contribute, often silently, to the difficulties at hand.
It is about noticing, assessing and analysing, rather than assigning blame or bringing parties to resolution.
The Neutral Evaluation process is confidential so parties can speak freely. Nobody is quoted in the report, though the matters they speak about can be mentioned. It will be written in a neutral and balanced manner, without attaching blame. There are no formal notes as in an investigation, though the consultant will take his or her own notes. There is no need for signed meeting records.
It is quick, to the point, brings an independent, detached and balanced consideration, and provides a written report with recommendations.
The outcome of NE is essentially a Sit Rep (“situation report”) with some carefully thought-out recommendations about next steps.
The next steps could include investigation and/or mediation, either two party or multi-party, or some other creative idea put forward which gets to the heart of the matter.
Why do it?
Maybe an investigation, possibly an appeal, has happened in your organisation, maybe even a mediation has taken place. But there has still been no resolution.
Are all the processes exhausted? (The HR Manager certainly will be).
It is a very flexible friend. It allows the organisation to do something in situations where it does not know what to do and there is a lot of complexity and ‘churn’.
NE brings clarity and a way forward, and it does this from an external objective viewpoint, hence neutral evaluation. It is the situation being evaluated, not any person per se.
Using NE conveys the message that your organisation is taking a situation seriously and is attempting to deal with it using a careful, systematic approach. It is the opposite of ‘negligent’ and thus is a welcome risk-reducing strategy.
In addition to using NE for intricate circumstances, it can be used for shorter interventions. An example would be to assess the potential success of a group mediation in a large team. An organisation may be considering investing in such a process but has a small budget and wants to weigh up the likely success or otherwise of such an investment. Using NE, the consultant can speak to the parties and make an assessment for the organisation prior to investment. The benefit is an expert view to help make the decision and a further advantage is that the parties will have experienced some really good active listening as part of this process.