Workers Are Important
The most important part of any business is its people. No business can run effectively without them. But people don't work in a vacuum; they need to communicate and work with others to get their jobs done. Employers need to manage relationships in the workplace to keep the business functioning smoothly, avoid problems, and make sure employees are performing at their best.
What Does 'Employee Relations' Mean?
The term 'employee relations' refers to a company's efforts to manage relationships between employers and employees. An organization with a good employee relations program provides fair and consistent treatment to all employees so they will be committed to their jobs and loyal to the company. Such programs also aim to prevent and resolve problems arising from situations at work.
Employee relations programs are typically part of a human resource strategy designed to ensure the most effective use of people to accomplish the organization's mission. Human resource strategies are deliberate plans companies use to help them gain and maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace. Employee relations programs focus on issues affecting employees, such as pay and benefits, supporting work-life balance, and safe working conditions.
One of the most effective ways for a company to ensure good employee relations is to adopt a human resource strategy that places a high value on employees as stakeholders in the business. Stakeholders are people who are committed, financially or otherwise, to a company and are affected by its success or failure. When employees are treated as more than just paid laborers, but as actual stakeholders with the power to affect outcomes, they feel more valued for the job they do.
Think about the last job you truly loved. Was it because you were treated like an important part of the team? You probably had an interest in seeing the business succeed, like a stakeholder.
Elements of a Good Employee Relations Plan
An effective employee relations program starts with clearly written policies. Employee relations policies describe the company's philosophy, rules, and procedures for addressing employee-related matters and resolving problems in the workplace. Many companies have one or more employee relations representatives, people who work in the human resources department to ensure that company policies are followed fairly and consistently. Employee relations representatives work with employees and supervisors to resolve problems and address concerns.
An employee relations program is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Strategies for good employee relations can take many forms and vary by a number of factors, including industry, location, company size, and even individual leadership philosophies. For example, issues that concern construction workers on the job can be very different from the problems facing nurses or accountants. Nevertheless, there are some elements that all good employee relations programs share.
Perhaps the most important element for successful relationships with employees is communication. To feel engaged in the business, employees need to be informed of what's going on with the company, including management's plans and how those plans may affect their jobs. Conversely, when management withholds information, this can result in mistrust of leadership and damage to employee morale. Management can keep workers informed of the latest developments by any number of means, including email announcements, newsletters, employee portals, regular meetings, and special events. Effective communication goes both ways; employees should feel as though their opinions, feelings, and concerns are being heard by managers.
Open lines of communication can be informal, such as day-to-day interactions between employees and supervisors, or formal mechanisms for employee feedback, such as workplace satisfaction surveys or grievance and appeals procedures. Grievances and appeals are processes that allow employees to challenge management decisions or labor issues through a formal dispute resolution process.
Many organizations conduct periodic (often annual) employee performance reviews and provide opportunities for individual recognition. Employees will be more engaged if they feel like they are recognized for their efforts and ideas. Employees can be rewarded for their years of service or for an outstanding contribution or achievement. Who doesn't like being recognized for a job well done?
Employee performance reviews are an opportunity to have a dialogue with employees about what they are doing well and where there are opportunities for improvement. Performance reviews should include goal setting with input from the employee to establish performance expectations in advance. Evaluations should be fair and objective based on those goals. Feedback should focus on pre-established criteria and be limited to behavior that can be controlled by the employee.
When personal problems interfere with employee performance, many organizations offer company-sponsored employee assistance programs, which provide confidential counseling or treatment. Some companies also provide positive coaching and mentoring to help employees improve performance.
Regardless of the job or the policies in place, problems will inevitably arise that require corrective action or discipline. Employee discipline is a necessary part of managing relationships with employees. Companies should have policies that clearly establish the conduct expected of employees and what will happen when rules are violated.
Some companies adopt an incremental approach to discipline, with more serious repercussions for each subsequent violation. Some offer positive coaching for first-time violations in lieu of disciplinary action. There may be several levels of appeal available to employees, such as a hearing and/or peer review prior to job termination as the final step.
Good employee relations can have a big impact on employee satisfaction, which can in turn help make any business more successful. One way that companies ensure good employee relations is to adopt a human resource strategy that places a high value on employees as stakeholders in the business.
Many companies are committed to maintaining a positive work environment through the voluntary adoption of policies and practices that promote good employee relations. These policies cover issues affecting employees, such as pay and benefits, programs that support work-life balance, and safe working conditions.
Employee-focused programs ensure the consistent administration of policies, open two-way communication, objective performance evaluations, opportunities for recognition, and a fair disciplinary process. Many companies help employees through coaching and counseling.
When you're finished with the lesson, you should try to:
- Define employee relations
- Explain the purpose of employee relations programs
- List some of the elements a good employee relations plan has
- Consider the importance of communication
- Recall the purpose behind employee recognition
- Discuss employee discipline
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- What is the most important part of a business? Why is this of such high importance?
- What does the term "employee relations" refer to? When answering the question, be sure to discuss the two groups that this "relationship" is between.
- What are "human relationship strategies?" In addition to describing these strategies, list and describe two examples of these types of strategies.
- One way to promote good employee relations is to make them stakeholders in the business. Explain what this means and discuss why this practice could be successful.
- What are employee relations strategies? What is the role of an employee relations representative in creating and enacting these strategies?
- What role does communication have in employee relations? Give an example of how a boss can use communication to promote good employee relations. Describe this policy and explain how it would be an effective tool.
- Explain the importance of a grievances and appeals process in a healthy work environment.
- What are employee performance reviews, and how can they be used to promote positive employee relations in the workplace?
- What are employee assistance programs? In addition to defining these programs, give two examples, and discuss why they would be effective.
- Explain how employee discipline policies are necessary in the workplace in order to help stop bad employee behavior.
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