Employee Relations: Examples | What is Employee Relations?

Sasha Blakeley, Andrea Rea, Joseph Shinn
  • Author
    Sasha Blakeley

    Sasha Blakeley has a Bachelor's in English Literature from McGill University and a TEFL certification. She has been teaching English in Canada and Taiwan for seven years.

  • Instructor
    Andrea Rea

    Andrea is a practicing attorney and MBA with 15 years experience in health care administration, litigation and business law.

  • Expert Contributor
    Joseph Shinn

    Joe has a PhD in Economics from Temple University and has been teaching college-level courses for 10 years.

Learn about employee relations, including an employee relations definition and common employee relations issues. View employee relations examples and how to improve it. Updated: 03/23/2021

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What is Employee Relations?

What is employee relations? Employee relations is a term that refers to the ways that a company treats its employees and how those employees interact with their company. Understanding how to create a functional relationship between bosses and employees is one of the fundamental things that a company has to be able to do. The employee relations definition encompasses more than just a positive relationship between employers and employees. It is also about the emotional, practical, and contractual aspects of the relationship. Some companies hire employee relations specialists whose job involves resolving employee relations problems and creating a better plan going forward.

Employee Relations Specialists Duties

There are several types of employee relations policies that employee relations specialists have to be familiar with in order to do their jobs effectively. Employee relations specialists are professionals who can diagnose and mitigate problems in employer-employee relationships. Some of the day-to-day duties of employee relations specialists may include:

  • Interviewing employers and employees
  • Reading complaints and situation reports
  • Managing human resources teams
  • Holding meetings to resolve issues
  • Observing employee relations in action
  • Reviewing company policy and suggesting changes
  • Creating employee relations descriptions for a company

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Employee relations specialists observe employee relations in a company
An employee relations specialist helps companies develop new policies

Why is Employee and Labor Relations Important?

Why is employee and labor relations important to understand? In any business situation, it is vital to remember that workers are essential. Workers who are unhappy or unable to do their jobs effectively will limit a company's ability to reach its goals. A good employee relations philosophy can lead to retention, engagement, productivity, and advocacy for employees. All of these benefit employees and create functional workplaces for them, but they help companies too.

Retention

Employee retention is very important in workplaces: it is much easier to keep employees over many years than it is to go through the process of regularly hiring and training new employees. High levels of employee retention come from effective training, clear communication, and a clear company goal and vision. Workers who feel that their work is valued are also more likely to remain with their employers.

Engagement

One of the results of good employee relations is engagement on the part of workers. Workers who are highly engaged in their jobs are more likely to be innovative, interested in new projects, energetic, and willing to take on new responsibilities. Effective and open communication between employers and employees is key to improving employee engagement.

Productivity

Companies emphasize the importance of productivity: a more productive workplace is a more lucrative workplace. Making sure that employees are able to be productive is an important part of employee relations. Employers should endeavor to create clear objectives and to give effective feedback. These efforts can help to ensure that employees know what they are doing and understand the company's expectations.

Advocacy

Employee advocacy means taking care of employees' needs in a changing environment; it is essential to good employee relations. Keeping employees informed of changes to the company and asking for employee input are good ways to improve employee advocacy.

Key Employee Relations Challenges

There are many factors affecting employee relations that can lead to employee relations challenges in the workplace. There are five key dimensions of employee relations that can worsen employee experiences, deter workers from their workplace, and damage the employer-employee relationship. These elements can be internal or external, and they include:

  • Trust
  • Job satisfaction
  • Employment length
  • Duties and obligations
  • Role performance and expectations

Trust

Employees need to feel that they can trust their employers to look out for their interests, to communicate clearly, and to provide appropriate work. Similarly, employers need to feel that they can trust their employees. When the trust in an employer-employee relationship is damaged, employees are often deterred from the workplace and may seek other forms of employment. Keeping employee needs in mind, communicating clearly, and keeping promises are good ways to maintain trust.

Job Satisfaction

Employees who experience better job satisfaction tend to stay in their positions, while those who do not may experience friction in the employer-employee relationship. Avoiding job dissatisfaction might take the following forms:

  • Making expectations clear
  • Providing competitive pay and benefits
  • Valuing employee contributions

Employment Length

Employment length can be a tricky issue for employee relations. In some cases, long contract length or the pressure to extend employment may decrease the likelihood that employees will want to remain with one company. On the other hand, short contracts may not seem worthwhile to employees. Flexible contracts, working with employees' goals, and the possibility of promotion or other longevity rewards may help reduce this problem.

Duties Vs Obligations

Duties are the things that employees are actually hired to do. Obligations are things that employees do not technically have to do but nonetheless feel obliged to complete as part of their work. Some employees may feel that these obligations are unfair or that they are being held to obligations that their employers do not face. Clear communication about the line between duties and obligations, fair compensation, and equity in workplace obligations can help mitigate this employee relations issue.

Role Performance and Expectations

It is normal for employers to offer feedback and criticism on an employee's work. However, excessive or unclear criticism can make working a challenge. Employers should always keep their employees' experience level and job duties in mind when giving feedback and should strive for constructive criticism when possible.

Employee Relations: Examples & Issues

There are a number of employee relations issues that can arise when employees do not hold up their end of the employer-employee relationship. These types of employee relations issues can be challenging to deal with, but they can all be addressed with the right approach. Employee relations problems can include:

  • Attendance issues
  • Violation of safety rules
  • Lack of communication with management
  • Conflicts
  • Messy workplaces

Attendance Issues

Lack of attendance on the part of employees can be a major issue in the workplace. It is important for employers to have clear expectations surrounding attendance and when it is acceptable for employees to miss work. Providing employees with a self-service timeclock can help keep track of their attendance. Communicating expectations clearly is also essential.

Violation of Safety Rules

Employees who violate safety rules may be putting themselves and other workers in harm's way. Employers need to be aware of the risk of employees breaking such rules and need to be prepared to avoid this problem in the following ways:

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Additional Activities

Additional Questions


  1. What is the most important part of a business? Why is this of such high importance?
  2. What does the term "employee relations" refer to? When answering the question, be sure to discuss the two groups that this "relationship" is between.
  3. What are "human relationship strategies?" In addition to describing these strategies, list and describe two examples of these types of strategies.
  4. 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.
  5. What are employee relations strategies? What is the role of an employee relations representative in creating and enacting these strategies?
  6. 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.
  7. Explain the importance of a grievances and appeals process in a healthy work environment.
  8. What are employee performance reviews, and how can they be used to promote positive employee relations in the workplace?
  9. What are employee assistance programs? In addition to defining these programs, give two examples, and discuss why they would be effective.
  10. Explain how employee discipline policies are necessary in the workplace in order to help stop bad employee behavior.

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