The workplace as we know it has evolved by leaps and bounds in the last five years. As a result, how companies interact with their employees has also changed. Do you have an employee relations strategy that makes sense for today’s standards?
We’ll explain why employee relations matter now more than ever and share tips to help you build strong, productive employer-employee relationships.
What are Employee Relations?
Employee relations are the relationships between managers and their reports, HR departments and staff, and employees and one another. Employee relations are established over time via individual interactions as well as company-wide initiatives.
Employee relations can be influenced by:
- Company policies
- Benefits packages
- Communication methods
- Conflict resolution strategies
- Employee development opportunities
- And more
A big function of HR is maintaining employee relations conducive to a positive, functional workplace.
Benefits of Improving Employee Relations
Positive work environment
Strong employer-employee relations correlate with a healthy work environment. It’s in the company’s best interest to create a workplace where staffers feel safe, supported, and engaged so that they can do productive work.
One major aspect of strong employee relations is communication. Breakdowns in communication, like when an employee lacks proper direction, or a manager fails to address a performance issue, cause workplace conflict. A company that prioritizes clear and transparent communication naturally reduces conflict in the process.
Good employee relations can create a sense of loyalty to the organization. Employees who feel a connection to their employer beyond just the paycheck are more motivated to do great work, which can lead to increased output and a better overall work product.
How to Improve Employee Relationships
1. Develop a strong mission
Your mission gives greater purpose to your business activities and gives employees something to buy into. Having a concrete, worthwhile mission can help employees feel a stronger sense of meaning in their work. It also provides a framework for the rest of your employee relations strategy.
Develop a thoughtful mission and communicate it to employees regularly. Infuse it into your business practices. Live it via the company’s operations on a day-to-day basis and in long-term initiatives.
2. Create employee support channels
Information shouldn’t just come from the top down. It should flow the other way, too, with channels that facilitate communications from the bottom upward.
When employees need help, are they able to get it? It’s essential to create proper support channels and make them known to employees and encourage their use. Workers need to feel confident that they won’t face negative repercussions if they raise an issue.
3. Leverage technology
Technology can be used to streamline workflows, facilitate communication, and provide recognition for a job well done–all important aspects of employee relations. But it’s not just a channel; technology should be your employee relations strategy’s core tenet.
When you prioritize the right technology and invest in it consistently, you make employees’ jobs easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable. Happy employees are loyal, productive employees.
4. Ask for feedback
How can you know what employees really want from their relationship with you as their employer if you don’t ask them? Gather input from your workforce via feedback surveys, one-on-one conversations, and focus groups made up of a cross-section of workers from around the company.
Use these methods to ascertain what’s important to your staff and use the intel to guide employee relations efforts. Ask what’s lacking to understand where more resources are needed.
5. Make employees feel valued
Recognize your employees regularly for their contributions and reward them when they go above and beyond what’s required of them. Building a culture of employee recognition helps retain top talent, increases employee engagement, and contributes to strong performance.
Recognition isn’t the only way to show employees they’re valued. Committing to a solid benefits package, including high-quality health insurance, retirement contribution matching, and ample PTO, shows employees that their well-being matters.
Related: Empowerment in the Workplace: What it is and Why it Matters
6. Turn employees into evangelists
There’s more competition out there than ever, not just for customers, but for talent. In this landscape, employee satisfaction is just as important as customer satisfaction–maybe more so, since you can’t please customers without a dedicated, hard-working staff.
Approach business decisions with your employees in mind, with the goal of turning them into brand evangelists. There’s no better spokesperson for your company than a highly engaged, devoted employee of it.
Related: How to Become an Employer of Choice
7. Make management more visible
Managers are notorious for being in meetings from the time they clock in to the time they step out the door. Yes, meetings are a necessity when leading a team, but they can also make managers feel out of touch and out of reach.
Find ways to make company leaders feel like familiar faces by having a regular presence around the office. Use activities like all-staff meetings and department events to give staff important facetime with the executives who are running the place where they spend 40 hours or more a week.
8. Offer development opportunities
Actively developing your employees is a highly effective way to show that you value the relationship. Offer tuition reimbursement, cover entrance fees to conferences, give them leadership opportunities, and make other investments to convey that you’re committed to helping them grow with the company.
Related: Ways to Invest in Employee Development
9. Resolve conflicts quickly
Coworkers have different backgrounds, beliefs, and personalities, meaning some level of workplace conflict is inevitable. Ideally, employees will be equipped with the tools they need to resolve their own conflicts before escalation is required.
If that doesn’t happen, the company needs to be willing to step in and nip disputes in the bud. Taking a passive approach to conflict–or worse, turning a blind eye to it–is a surefire way to push out good workers and kill the credibility you’ve built with your staff.
Ensure that employees have access to proper conflict resolution channels, like peer mediation and an effective HR team. Be willing to seek out outside help if necessary, like outsourced HR if you’re a small organization or expert legal help in situations involving discrimination or harassment.
Taking workplace conflict seriously makes employees feel that their job is a safe space and helps build a culture of trust.
10. Start from day one
Strong employee relations begin from a new hire’s first day on the job, so it’s necessary to have a thorough and strategic employee orientation process. You can even take it a step further and start before day one by incorporating employee relations into your hiring process, prioritizing frequent candidate communications in a tone that’s consistent with your employer brand.
Excellent employee relations don’t just materialize organically. They’re built intentionally, over time, through strategic decision-making. Following the steps above will help you leverage employee relations to hire, engage and retain the best workers.