The Key Pillars of Employee Relations

When we hear the word relations, the employee is not the first that pops up in our minds. We instantly think of a family, friends, or romantic relationship.

So, what exactly are employee relations? Is it only about organizing fun days activities for your team?

Well, not quite. Making your employees feel good never was that simple. It certainly is not now, in the post-pandemic world.

Employee relations teams need to cover almost every part of their colleagues’ experiences in and out of the office. Addressing tensions around health and safety, taking a stand on important social issues, supporting career growth, and learning opportunities – to name just a few of the concerns.

Employee relations has replaced industrial relations as the term for the relationship between employers and employees. A constructive climate of employee relations - with high employee engagement, commitment, and involvement - can improve business outcomes as well as contribute to employees' morale and wellbeing.

Next, we will look at the critical pillars of employee relationship management.


CONTENTS

  • Chapter 1: What Means Employee Relations?
  • Chapter 2: Common Employee Relations Issues
  • Chapter 3: Employee Relations Best Strategies
  • Chapter 4: Crucial Attributes of an Employee Relations Manager
  • Chapter 5: Managing Employee Relations Remotely
  • Chapter 6: Why are Employee Relations Vital? 

Chapter 1: What Means Employee Relations?

The definition of employee relations refers to the efforts of an organization to create and maintain a positive relationship with its employees.

Good, constructive employee relations result in lower turnover and higher productivity. Employees remain loyal and more engaged for long periods.

Typically, the HR department manages employee relations efforts; however, some organizations may have a dedicated employee relations manager role.

The responsibilities of an employee relations manager include acting as a liaison between employees and managers and creating policies about fair compensation, benefits, proper work-life balance, and others.

When it comes to employee relations, the HR department has two primary functions:

  • It prevents and resolves problems or disputes between employees and management.
  • It creates and enforces policies that are fair for everyone in the workplace.

To maintain positive employee relations, an organization must first view employees as partners and contributors rather than simply as paid laborers. This perspective encourages the management to seek employee feedback, value their input more highly, and consider the employee experience when making decisions that affect the entire company.

Having good employee relations and a strategy for maintaining them is crucial if you want to keep them happy for the long run.


Chapter 2: Common Employee Relations Issues

Efforts towards employee relations will always face challenges and issues, both for small and large businesses.

The following issues are not the only ones you will see, and you will likely deal with others:

A. Pay Rise

Probably the most challenging conversation in a workplace revolves around pay rise requests. They are veritable minefields, some of them escalating into full confrontations or resignations just because of a single misconstrued word.

Use this as an opportunity to acknowledge that employees decided to talk before they walked to better pay.

B. Hours and Wage Issues

Do employees tend to dispute the number of hours they worked or insist on overtime that you do not think is accurate? Do you find yourself going over timesheets or attendance records to check details?

Thanks to the current technological world, you can track employees more accurately.

To avoid wage and hour violations and reduce the possibility that employees will dispute their paychecks, consider self-service timekeeping software that allows them to clock in and out from their smart devices. Self-service will enable employees to keep track of and manage their schedules.


C. Interpersonal Conflicts

Conflict can happen in any environment, and the workplace is certainly no different. Disputes between employees can arise due to personal or work-related reasons, divergent points of view, or communication issues. If there is not an easy way for the two parties to communicate, the conflict can turn into poor employee morale or the termination of a team member.

Often, solving such disputes creates better employee relationships, paving the way for future success. Below are some of the solutions to solve such arguments.

Talk it out. Listen to both sides of the story without being biased and help them come to a common point of view.

Be empathetic. Appreciate the fact that employees have concerns too and listen to their frustrations.

Be an active listener. Listening to the employee' s concerns without interrupting them to get to the root of the problem can significantly help.

D. Annual Leave

Annual leaves are another delicate issue that can end up in disputes. When mismanaged, annual leave issues can negatively impact your business operations. Yes, annual leaves are significant to the employees for many reasons - it is a way to reduce stress levels, promote motivation within the business, and increase productivity.

Many HR departments struggle with annual leave, especially when it comes to leave planning and keeping track. Other leave cases such as sick leaves, stress leaves, and parental leaves call for better and more effective ways to keep track and avoid complications.Here you can find a guide about how to stop PTO and sick leave abuse.

How should you manage your employees’ time-off requests?

Consider leave management software that helps you create a legal, transparent, and invincible leave policy. Provide every employee with easy access to this policy. 


F. Attendance issues

Attendance issues have become a rampant problem in most workplaces. You may find some employees coming to work late, while others even fail to show up at all, or a buddy punching covering up for them.

Moreover, most managers fail to call out employees, maybe because they don’t want to be “that guy” in the company. However, lateness and absenteeism without compelling reasons should not be tolerated.

Timekeeping and attendance issues are common, and you can eliminate many of them by utilizing employee self-service software. Allowing employees to keep track of their time and communicate about attendance issues right from their smart devices reduces the chances for conflict and provides them a handy benefit.


G. Adequate workplace safety

Employee injuries and accidents top the list of a manager’s worst nightmare. Every business should put more effort into promoting safety in the workplace, regardless of industry or department.

Workplace safety begins when you supply your employees with the appropriate safety equipment, masks, goggles, gloves, etc. A good policy should also ensure that employees are not overly fatigued due to too many overtime shifts.


Boost productivity with an annual leave management software

When productivity is the key, you need to leverage systems that can take manual work and automate it. When you eliminate redundancy, you reduce errors, and gain time to focus on what really matters.

Simple employee leave management.

Dynamic request time off form.

Balance of leaves always updated.

Request leave with the LeaveBoard app

History of employee leaves

Chapter 3: Best Strategies To Improve Employee Relations

Small businesses have an advantage with employee relations. Setting the foundations for excellent workplace culture and strong relationships is smoother with fewer employees.

By investing in your company goals and visions from the start, you set the route for positive relations further down the line.

Let’ s look at some of the best strategies HR departments make to improve the employee-employer relationship:

1. Honest communication

Good and honest communication is the foundation of every relationship. It is crucial to communicate openly with your employees, to create a safe space where no one is afraid to speak up or ask questions.

Communication between managers and employees is constantly a challenge. You want to focus on the upcoming work, set goals, and advance essential projects, and the team is looking for your advice on multiple channels. If you approach communication effectively, you contribute to a dynamic work culture that reduces conflicts, boosts engagement, and drives productivity. 

Let’s see how we can improve communications between managers and employees:

  • Set up regular one-on-one meetings. Such meetings are the perfect tool to learn about the details, bottlenecks, and ideas that your people are having.
  • Organize weekly team meetings. Each member must be aware of the ongoing projects/challenges and future milestones. Two best practices are encouraging coworkers to ask questions during the meeting and keeping the style informal.
  • Use modern communication tools. We’ve learned that various apps help to improve communication at work. From chat platforms (Slack, Teams), to managing project/task updates (Asana, Monday), or document collaboration (Docs), to video conferencing (Meet, Zoom) - there are a lot of options you can choose from.
  • Ask and give constructive feedback. When it’s about performance, the evolution of a project, or the interaction within the team, be clear about your expectations, what is working and what can be improved. If blockages are solved, and if the manager has their back, the confidence of the people increases. And don’t be afraid to give negative and positive feedback also. 

When speaking about communication, think about a multitude of situations you will need to handle, so it's essential to excel at this skill:

  • Interviewing a candidate
  • Onboarding a new hire
  • Conducting a one-to-one meeting
  • Leading a team meeting
  • Writing a difficult email to a bad employee
  • Providing feedback to a sales presentation
  • Writing a thank you letter.

2. Cultivate a trustworthy relation

Avoid micromanaging your employees. Ensure that people know what they should do, what you expect of them, and that you are available if they need you. And then, step aside, let them be. Trust them.

A profitable business begins with trust. And there are several types of trust you should consider: trust in the purpose and principles of the business, trust that you have chosen valuable employees for key positions, trust in leadership and HR processes, and trust between employees.

In our article on how to build trust at work, we expand on 10 additional tips to build confidence with coworkers. Here are the first 5 of them:

  1. Be honest
  2. Be considerate
  3. Offer support
  4. Show appreciation
  5. Respect people.

It is important to mention that there are two types of relations that need to be cultivated differently from a trust point of view:

  • Manager/Leader - team member relationships (vertial relationships)
  • As a manager you need to ensure the following elements to move the team forward:

    • Do your direct reports need what they're supposed to do?
    • Do they have the resources to do it?
    • Are they aware of the company's mission and your team's goals?
    • Do they see the purpose of their work? 
    • Do they know what the priorities are?
  • Employee-employee relationships (vertial relationships)

    Create an environment where your people are helping each other, and your managers are supporting them. Just take a minute to reflect on this insight: when your employees have good relationships at work, the happiness level increases, as well as collaboration and teamwork. When the atmosphere, the values are aligned, people bond easier, resulting in better flow and work experiences.


3. Develop a listening habit

When you next strike up a dialogue with your team, remember to listen to their answers. Effective, healthy, and productive conversations involve listening, communication, and problem-solving.

Being a good listener is a key skill that any employee must possess however is not always this way. At work, we listen to obtain information, understand the task at hand, and learn how to be better professionals. 

If you want to improve this skill, below you can find the six essential tips to be a better listener:

  • Pay attention. Look at the speaker. Focus on the communication, and put aside your distracting thoughts. If you’re at your desk, turn away from your monitor, and don’t check your email if you get a notification.
  • Maintain good body language. Statistics say that 7% of the message goes through verbal communication, and the rest is non-verbal communication. Moreover, the correct body language in a conversation brings additional energy and vibe to the conversation.
  • Stay engaged. Show that you’re listening. Keep your posture open, and encourage the communicator to continue by saying comments like yes, I understand, aha. And if you have the phone in front of you, put it away or deactivate the notifications. Remember that good eye contact shows you’re confident and focused on the other person’s words.
  • Ask for feedback when you don’t understand a particular sentence or word. Questions like: “What do you mean by” or “Do you mean...”
  • Don’t judge and don’t interrupt the other person. Allow your speaker to finish his arguments.
  • Respond accordingly. Be open, calm, and respectful. Treat the speaker as you would want to be treated. If you react in the moment, you show that you are fully present and care for the conversation. When there is a task to do, remember to follow up.


4. Write a transparent employee relations policy

The policy must include the company values and rules alongside guidance for addressing employee-related problems. Bear in mind that the way you deal with your business as a whole and with individual employees is likely to differ. Having a clear employee handbook where such policies are explained helps.

Tip: Employee relations policies should cover the following aspects:

  • Serious issues at work. For example, bullying, discrimination, or harassment - often called grievance policy.
  • Absenteeism - is when an employee frequently misses work without a good reason.
  • Discipline - If the behavior of your workers looks like misconduct, you need to take immediate action. Here are some examples to help you identify such issues: Negligence in performance duties, Constantly arriving late at work, Abuse of power, Refusing to collaborate with coworkers, Using inappropriate language, and Skipping mandatory meetings.
  • Dismissal: When an employer terminates the services of this employee due to their behavior, performance, or disciplinary actions.
  • Redundancy. When a role is no longer needed, it becomes redundant.

5. Invest in your people

Showing you care and building strong employee relations also means investing in them. When it comes to learning and development, here are some elements things are worth noting:

  • Feedback: thanks to constructive feedback, we can understand our employees point of view, and provide advice on how to move forward.
  • Flexibility: give your employees flexibility to manage their time and workload, and they will also schedule moments for their learning.
  • Career paths: Have a career path for each of your job roles in the business.
  • Mentorship programs: When your organization wants to facilitate the sharing of information, knowledge and experience between experienced leaders and new managers.
  • People skills and technical trainings: If you want to have better employees, then start by training the existing ones.


6. Train your managers in employee relations

Line managers have a role in employee relations broader than ever before. Training line managers in teamwork, conflict resolution, and change management, and your employees will quickly notice the difference. Discover some extra vital people management skills.

Managers can be selfish and egocentric (also known as narcissism). They might be the ones that promote themselves constantly, take credit for the work of their colleagues, and attempts to be at the center of attention. They are one of the causes of poor employee relations. Poor employee relations harm your business in multiple ways:

  • High absenteeism
  • Poor performance
  • Bad company reputation
  • Employee disengagement
  • Missed goals
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Uncomfortable work environment.


7. Promote healthy work-life balance

Unfortunately, some managers and employees forget that personal lives have priority. The only positive part of the Coronavirus is that it makes us a little more hedonistic. We ask and appreciate more the benefits providing us a better work-life balance. These include flexible work schedules, paid time off, and health benefits.

But it is not all about the benefits. The attitude of managers will make a difference. Although employees often value the chance to work from home, this doesn’ t mean you should ask them to take work home.

Image source: MotivationalLines.com


8. Inspire and reward

Create your vision and goals with employees instead of simply handing them down. Your employees often have insights that can make a big difference in their effectiveness or the business's success.

To create a positive work environment and a healthy company culture, you should start by valuing your employees and showing them the recognition and appreciation they deserve. Remember that everything relies on mutual respect, trust, and consideration.

When building your recognition program, consider the following aspects:

  • Have clear employee growth factors
  • Treat employees fairly
  • Track performance
  • Introduce variety
  • Celebrate success
  • Share recognition timely.

Sharing a honest thank you letter or celebrating important milestones together are just 2 of the 30 employee appreciation ideas that you can consider within your business.


Chapter 4: Crucial Attributes of an Employee Relations Manager

Being an HR Manager requires a unique set of skills. You must be competent in both managing people and having a forward-thinking mindset.

The most important skills for maximizing your employee engagement capabilities are below.

1. Good communication skills

Unsurprisingly, employee relations require being a good communicator. You need to know how to engage others, write emails that people want to read, carry out interview questions, and more.

2. Leadership

Whenever something goes wrong with any employee, Employee Relations Managers are usually the first called to help. Therefore, you need to know how to lead others in difficult times and be a source of inspiration.


3. An innovative mentality

A good Employee Relations Manager is not afraid to try new things. They might overhear new ways to improve what they offer to employees or introduce ideas that worked elsewhere.

4. A strategic mindset

As the Employee Relations Manager, you must have a strategic mindset, identify changing trends, and implement improvements.

If you're looking to create an efficient human resource strategy for your business, check our guide.

5. The ability to identify problems

You must have the ability to identify problems that may arise and solve them before they become an issue.

6. Emotional intelligence

As a leader, you must control your thoughts and feelings and read others. Empathy and understanding other points of view will enable you to solve problems better.

7. Social responsibility

Everyone should be socially responsible, but this is especially true for Employee Relations Managers. Consider how your team's actions impact the office and the wider community.

8. Resilience

No profession is all sunshine and rainbows, even less so when managing a whole office of employees.You might need to make difficult decisions or deal with other employee-related challenges. Resilience is essential in employee relations.


Chapter 5: Managing Employee Relations Remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the potential for conflict in organizations and presents a significant employee relations challenge.

Organizations are under pressure due to the new health and safety requirements. Returning to a safe physical workplace brings considerable pressure on managers and employees. Some organizations will need to reorganize and even make redundancies.

All these factors mean that employers need to consult and communicate with the workforce regularly and take people’s views on board, including working with trade unions and employee representatives and with people on an individual basis. Employers must consult, communicate with the workforce regularly and take people’s views on board.They have to work with trade unions, employee representatives, and individuals. Employers need to recognize the potential for conflict among employees in the current climate and ensure managers can have sensitive and supportive conversations with people.

Here are four tips for managing employee relations in the new remote world of work:

1. Manage performance appropriately

Not everyone who works well in an office environment is as productive working from home. It takes discipline and dedication to stay on task when no one is looking over your shoulder, and there is the risk some may take advantage of the lack of supervision.

At the same time, many employees have the additional home pressure of managing child school requirements or other care responsibilities. It can all lead to burnout and anxiety, impacting mental wellbeing. While you certainly want to make sure employees are as productive as possible, now is not the time to layer on the performance pressure.

Be flexible with expectations, encourage daily/weekly performance goals, have daily check-ins between employees and their managers to ensure everyone stays on task. Consider delaying formal reviews. Recognize flexible work schedules and remember that everyone is under a tremendous amount of stress already. Adding unrealistic work demands will only lower employee morale.


2. Communicate changes effectively

With guidelines changing rapidly, keeping employees informed can be difficult under these circumstances. Consider leveraging purpose-built employee communications channels to ensure messages get through, and that employees have a way to ask questions and get clarification.

3. Provide access to telehealth and wellbeing services

Employees across all industry sectors have a high level of concern about their health and whether they should return to work. They may be confused about your company policies and need quick access guidance.

Use a specialist telehealth service to communicate your policies on returning to work. Workers should have access to health support around the clock.Ensure that HR can obtain real-time insight into the concerns and health issues your workforce is reporting.

4. Reinforce existing policies

Crises like the pandemic can make people behave in unexpected ways. Now is the right time to remind employees that your culture is inclusive, and there are policies to protect everyone from unfair treatment.Employees must know where and how to report a discrimination incident and whom to contact if they experience a confirmed positive or COVID-19 exposure.

For many of us, this is uncharted territory. Employers want to do the right thing, contribute to business continuity, and get back to normal as quickly as possible. Understand that employees are worried - about their jobs, health, and financial stability. Stay connected.

We are all looking for a sense of comfort and stability during these uncertain times. Employers have a perfect opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees.

You might be interested in learning about what are the key management challenges and how to overcome them. On this topic we share a guide that ideas such as:


Chapter 6: The Importance of a Strong Employer/ Employee Relationship

When employees have a strong relationship with their employers, the entire company benefits.

Unfortunately, building a relationship of this nature is easier said than done. If you consider taking a second look at your relationship with your employees, here are some reasons to continue doing so.

The recent Global Workplace Gallup report, one of the essential findings is that "employees who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the world $7.8 trillion. Moreover, engagement is not a characteristic of employees, but rather an experience created by organizations, managers and team members." Now you understand that small changes in the way your employees relate one to another, how your managers interact with the team managers plays a huge role in the success of your business.

A. Retain Loyal Employees

Losing an employee to a competitor can be devastating, but unfortunately, employees who do not have an amicable relationship with their employers are more likely to leave.When employees feel comfortable around their employer, they are far more likely to remain loyal.

Companies encouraging positive relationships between workers and managers are more successful. Since their employees are more likely to stick around, they don’ t spend as much on recruiting, hiring, and training new workers.


B. Fewer Workplace Conflicts

Let’s face it – when a person enjoys being around their manager and co-workers, they are less likely to seek out conflicts.

A peaceful workplace is just one of the many benefits of a solid employee-employer relationship. You may want to reevaluate how you relate to your workers if your workplace has recently been at the scene of a conflict. Conflicts reduce productivity levels and increase disharmony.

Decreased productivity, absenteeism, complaints, loss of trust, and change in communication behavior are some ways you can spot conflict at work. We offer a set of 7 steps on how to resolve conflicts professionally.


C. Increased Productivity

As mentioned above, an employee who has a positive relationship with their boss is more likely to be productive. The more efficient your employees are, the more revenue your company can generate.


How to build and maintain relations?

Although the advice provided above is addressed mainly to HR managers, building professional relationships at work is a skill that you can master as an employee. It would be best if you had courage and discipline. Making new friends at work requires time and constant action. Remember, a good contact at work can become your coach, help you handle difficult situations, or be a social peer that energizes or motivates you.

Here are some actions you can take right now to build and maintain relations in a professional capacity:

  1. Boost your communication abilities
  2. Seek opinions from your managers and peers
  3. Respond to feedback positively
  4. Get coffee with a coworker
  5. Follow-up after being introduced
  6. Be respectful 
  7. Be curious about the team’s initiative
  8. Be ready to help 
  9. Check in with your manager
  10. Attend a work anniversary/birthday celebration.

Conclusion

Employee relations can make or break the workplace climate and your organizational performance.

It is paramount to provide value to others in this field, knowing team members’ biggest struggles and how to tackle them.

Good employee relations are about more than organizing events and quirky office designs. Career growth opportunities, the right tools for learning, and reminding everyone that they are essential to the company are all equally important.

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