The Ultimate Guide to Establishing Good Employee Relations
Your top priority as an HR leader is forging strong bonds with employees. Without them, you cannot keep your workforce engaged or gather intel about their opinion of the company. And in the absence of healthy employer-employee relations, business productivity and growth take a hit.
Maintaining these relations is quite challenging. That’s why employee relations demand individual attention and supervision.
Employee relations is a vast concept. Let’s begin with what it means.
What is employee relations?
As the name suggests, it is the relationship between the employer, you, and your employees. Employee Relations (ER) embraces all connections at the workplace. This includes individual associate relations between employees and collective ties between teams and departments.
ER covers all aspects of the relationship that may exist in a workplace, like contractual or legal, practical, physical, and emotional. Effective ER management brings about employee well-being.
Examples of employee relations in a workplace
Issues that ER tackles are related to employee behavior in the workplace like:
- Office conflicts: These include tiffs between employees or disputes between employees and their managers.
- Bullying: It happens through exclusion, mobbing, serial bullying, condescension, or cyberbullying. 96% of victims identify social exclusion as the biggest kind of bullying.
- Employee safety: As an employer, you cannot let accidents happen in the workplace. The security of all employees comes under the purview of ER.
- Working hour issues: Long working hours harm your employees’ health. No one likes working long hours. Plus, hour violations can become a legal issue. It can quickly become a concern for your employees and affect your relations.
- Salary concerns: Good money attracts and retains employees. While this is an HR concern, ER comes into play if the compensation requirements are not met, which may lead to unhappy employees.
Here are some employee relations scenarios:
- Disputes among employees
- Insubordination or rising resistance between you and your employee
- Being late to work frequently
- Indulging in overt gossip sessions
- Late arrival for meetings
- Violating company policies
- Disregard for safety procedures
- Keeping their desk or office area messy
- Being unreachable while working from home
- Being incognito when their supervisors or managers try to reach them
- Having problems with substance abuse or alcoholism that is affecting their work and office environment
- Misbehaving with coworkers or women at work
- Displaying poor communication skills
But ER differs from the practice of human resources (HR) or Human Resource Management. Here’s how the two are different.
Difference between HR and ER
The main goal of both HR and ER is employee management and well-being. But HR is an umbrella concept that focuses on the employee’s life cycle from hiring and training to retaining and factors that affect their performance.
On the other hand, employee relations aims to forge and maintain a positive employer-employee relationship. While all organizations have designated HR personnel, not all companies employ ER representatives. You may decide against having an internal employee relations team, besides HR, for a small company or startup.
In any case, an elaborate employee relations program always benefits the organization. Here are a few rewards you can reap.
Advantages of establishing good employee relations
1. Refined company culture
Everyone desires an open and inclusive work culture. Strong employee relations build a good reputation for your company and are a magnet for candidates. Plus, it makes employees stay.
There are various ways to create a growth conducive work culture. A healthy reward and recognition program and an employee feedback mechanism go a long way in building a culture that supports employee relations.
2. Fewer employee conflicts
Differences of opinion between you and your employee cause workplace conflicts. This can quickly escalate into blown-out legal battles if not managed on time. The frequency of such disputes reduces when you have healthy employee relations in the office.
3. Higher employee morale
Strong employee relations can help you maintain their trust and confidence in the company. You may need to employ an ER supervisor who can connect with employees at a deeper level.
4. Improved work-life balance
Disturbed work-life balance can disrupt the workplace environment. Poor relationships with their managers often push the employees to hide their stress levels and reveal them in unofficial open forums or gossip sessions. This tarnishes the company image from within and hampers business productivity.
But honest communication follows when employers have a healthy relationship with their employees. Employees are encouraged to share when the work pressure becomes too much to handle, and employers take steps to combat the situation.
Briefly, the healthier the employer-employee relations, the more improved the work-life balance.
5. Better employee motivation and loyalty
92% of employees are less likely to quit if their bosses are more empathetic. Your employees don’t think twice before deciding to quit the job. Nurturing loyalty is the most difficult but reaps excellent rewards.
Robust relationships in the workplace provide a safe space for your employees to voice their concerns and improve their work lives. Such practices also increase employee motivation and promote loyalty.
6. Enhanced employee engagement
Engaging your employees can be challenging at many levels. You need to hire people who can create strong bonds with your employees. And then, you have to ensure better communication, timely rewards to recognize the best-performing employees, and steps to promote team camaraderie.
Unwavering employee relations provide a solid foundation to keep your workforce thoroughly involved. Some AI-enabled employee engagement tools come in handy in such endeavors.
Tech tools have penetrated every activity that you conduct in the workplace. Employee relations are no exception. They come in handy when you run out of ideas. Here’s how they can help you.
Tech to improve employee relations
Strong employee relations are built through smooth communication channels. Today you have multiple platforms to aid uninterrupted communication across teams. This functions well, especially for hybrid work models where some employees are logged in remotely.
2. Employee feedback
If communication is the foundation of a healthy employee relationship, then feedback is the basis of the two-way communication that you strive for as an HR leader. Several AI-enabled HR tools help you engage employees for one-on-one, pulse surveys, or anonymous feedback surveys.
HR chatbots like Amber make employee engagement easier for you. She connects in a private chat with your employees to pick their brains and gather genuine thoughts about the organization.
3. Career advancement opportunities
Employer-employee relationships cannot be sustained without clarity on future prospects. The career growth opportunities you provide are a major deciding factor for candidates. Plus, it also influences how long your employees stay with you.
Upskilling platforms offer courses that provide your employees with the desired learning and development modules. You get trained and upskilled employees and earn their trust.
4. Promote work-life balance
Productivity and time management software come in handy when you wish to enforce a healthier work-life balance. They track how much time your employees devote to work and evaluate their stress levels. You can use the data generated to reinstate harmony in the office environment. It helps ignite trust in your relationships with the employees.
5. Outsource work
If your team is overworked or short-handed, you can outsource some work to agencies that provide a platform to monitor work, daily progress, and task updates. This takes the workload off your team and strengthens your bond with them.
While tech can help you improve employee relations, you can adopt 7 best practices, or pillars of ER, to establish strong employee relations.
Let’s take a look.
7 best practices to establish good employee relations
1. Convey mission and vision
Your employees must know and relate to the company’s mission and vision. They cannot be dedicated to their work if they don’t connect to what your company stands for.
You can do this by regularly testing their knowledge of your mission and vision to see if they understand it rather than memorizing it.
2. Build trust
Give your employees the freedom to speak up when needed, work from anywhere, flexible working hours for new parents, and the option to approach their manager when they face a problem. It is an excellent way to build trust. Micromanaging can make matters worse and tarnish employee relationships in the workplace.
3. Timely recognition
Up to 76% of employees start looking for other job opportunities if they are not recognized timely at work. Your employees expect and deserve appreciation for the tasks well accomplished.
You can do this by conducting inter-departmental meetings to applaud the good performers and introducing small gratitude tokens like message cards so your employees can appreciate their colleagues.
4. Invest in employee development
Invest in personal and career growth to build healthy relationships with employees. This includes learning and development, employee wellness, and peer monitoring programs. You can pick a program that suits your business needs and budget constraints.
Also, peer coaching is another great way to engage all employees and build team camaraderie simultaneously. It gives you a 360-degree view of the office environment and employee performance. Plus, it helps your employees enhance their skillset.
5. Communicate openly
Honest and open communication forges a desirable solid workplace culture. Employees appreciate honesty from management through timely updates about your business plans, mergers and acquisitions coming up, or any significant employee exits that may affect workflow.
6. Create an inclusive workplace
This means having no biases or favoritism in the workplace. All employees should know they are seen and heard by you, the management. The work environment must be open to diversity and inclusion, where everyone can grow.
7. Regular feedback
One-on-one meetings are a safe space for a healthy exchange and 360-degree feedback. You can exchange feedback with them and discover ways for improvement. Continue these sessions regularly, like every week or month, for effective results.
Enforcing these best practices may seem like an uphill task. But that’s where an ER policy can make your life easier. Here’s what an employee relations policy includes.
Employee relations policy
ER policy changes with the company, business model, and industry. But a few things remain unchanged throughout.
Most ER policies have:
- An introduction to the policy and why the business needs it
- A guide to creating your company’s ER policy
- A guide to Industrial relations and regulations in your industry
- A compliance manual
- A detailed note on disciplinary action in case of disputes
Employee relations policies have seen ample changes recently, with significant transformations emerging since the pandemic. Here are some trends worth keeping an eye on.
Emerging employee relations trends for 2023
Times are changing. Not just because of the pandemic but also because of a change in your employee demographics. With the emergence of millennials and Gen Z in the workplace, HR leaders are forced to rethink how to build strong relations with them.
A few trends have emerged that will set the stage for building employee relations in 2023.
1. Employee-first culture
Customer-first culture has been replaced by employees. And why not? It is the human resources team that drives customer experience and support.
People-first thinking means putting your employees before customers, revenue, or business plans. It forms the first step in building and maintaining long-term relationships with your employees. Investing in this domain goes a long way in earning employee trust and loyalty.
2. Prioritization of work-life balance
The choice to work remotely, with flexible working hours, and perks like weekends off have become essential to retaining employees. These practices help your employees balance their personal and professional lives and fuel your relations with them. That’s why work-life balance will become a priority for all HR leaders to focus on in 2023.
3. Mass adoption of cloud tech and AI
A PWC HR Tech Survey revealed that 91% of employees are open to using cloud-accessible core HR functions. Cloud tech can give you access to unlimited and in-depth data that aids in developing solid relationships with your employees. 2023 will see AI being used for:
- Enhancing employee experience
- Repetitive task automation
- Engaging employees individually
- Identifying employees at risk of quitting
- Reducing bias and favoritism in the workplace
- Improving employee benefits
- Speed up decision making
- Gathering honest employee feedback
- Performance and productivity analysis
4. Focus on the emotions
EQ is more important for you, the HR leader, than IQ today. And that trend will be a priority in 2023. With the amalgamation of AI and EQ, sensing true employee emotions and making amends when needed will be easier. Millennials and Gen Z look for a sense of belonging. It makes them feel needed and forms a strong foundation for your relationship.
5. Equality and safety in the workplace
Employees demand a safe workplace and a culture of equal opportunities. This is critical for developing employee relations. Plus, these factors influence your company image as well. They act as a magnet for new candidates too.
6. Employee wellness
Employee health matters. Still, only 60% of employers have an employee wellness program, and a meager 14% boast a culture focused on employee health. And even fewer are taking steps to build a workplace conducive to mental health. Poor mental health causes a loss of 70+ million working days a year globally. Mentally unfit employees frequently face sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, and body aches.
The coming times will demand a focus on employee health and well-being at the workplace and outside. Simply providing good medical insurance won’t suffice; a culture of well-being will need to be created to establish strong employee relations.
Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
More companies are recognizing and embracing the people-first culture. This trend is pushing HR leaders to focus on employee relations. If you are not investing in them, you are deviating from true business growth.