The term ‘employee relations’ refers to the individual and collective relationship between employers and employees.

Striving to ensure strong employee relations should be a priority of all employers as it is beneficial not only to the well-being and loyalty of the employees but can also benefit the company in terms of productivity and business outcomes.

Why are employee relations important?

Understanding why employee relations are important is the first step in assessing whether you are taking the right measures to improve them in your workplace or need to reevaluate your approach.

Research shows that in workplaces where employee relations have an important role, employees have better rates of satisfaction and overall engagement which in turn impacts their overall productivity. In fact, one study showed that over a three-year period, the revenue growth of companies with highly engaged employees was 2.3 times greater than those with under-engaged employees.

What can you do now to improve employee relations?

Most employers are actually aware of how crucial employee relationships are to an effective workspace. The real concern lies in how to improve them for the long term – in fact, it was found that whilst 90% of employers recognise the importance of employee relations, only half knew how to address the issue.

1. Effective mechanisms for dialogue

Improving employee relations is linked directly to the current state of affairs at your workplace, of which your employees are your best informants. Having effective voice channels in place through which they can liaise with management is necessary for enabling feedback and allowing issues to be raised.

This can be done through nominated representatives or the introduction of an employee relations team or manager whose purpose would be to mediate between the company and workers and offer relevant advice towards company initiatives addressing employee issues.

No matter what means are used, the channels of communication should be transparent, and employees should be encouraged to use them to provide their opinions. In turn, management, and HR should actively utilise the feedback and advice from employees to carry out further research and consider relevant policy changes.

2. Train and support your managers

Managers are the first line of support for employees, and they are the ones that will handle the vast majority of concerns and issues they have. If the manager themselves is untrained in dealing with certain situations or is ill-equipped to handle the role, then the employee’s relationship with them, and by extension, the company, begins to suffer.

They should be aware of how they can support employees, give them constructive feedback, divide tasks, address minor conflicts, and manage timelines for projects. Ensuring that manager training addresses all the relevant skills they need and equips them to navigate their role adequately is a direct means to ensuring good employee relations.

3. Consistent and open communication

Having channels for dialogue is not effective unless they’re being utilised regularly to communicate on genuine issues. Typical work culture today is incredibly reliant on online communication means and whilst they are important and useful, they should not be treated as the default method in every case.

Regular meetings for teams as well as wide division meetings should be regular and individuals in leadership positions such as HR representatives should be approachable to employees for guidance.

In meetings, having a small amount of time set aside for employees to share any obstacles they may have individually or collectively noted at work, both strengths and weaknesses so HR and management can then collate the information from the differing organisational teams towards an enhanced understanding of employee expectations.

Employee Relations

4. Supporting career progression

Actively encouraging and providing support for career development and progression creates a work environment that is more enthusiastic and motivated. Enabling pathways for employees to grow their skillsets encourages them to expand their capabilities and allows them to feel that they are supported at work.

One way that employers can achieve this is by having training opportunities to upskill employees available on a regular basis. Management teams should also make sure that each employee has a development plan in place with the relevant authority through which they can track their progress towards the goals they have set.

Opportunities for career progression are an important factor for many people in even taking up a role so having pathways for growth in place is an effective method of acquiring and keeping employees that are keen and ultimately establishing strong employee relations.

5. Improve the employee experience

An employer’s responsibility towards their employees goes beyond the minimum requirement of ensuring their health and safety and includes actively enhancing their experience within the workplace itself.

Key methods to improving the employee experience include established and active communication channels, a well-designed employee onboarding process that makes sure they are well equipped with what they need, and regular check-ins from managers to ensure that all is well. These check-ins should focus on what the employee feels they may need to grow further or an issue they may be struggling with.

Doing so will allow employers to work with their employees on what they need support in, rather than being blindsided when they choose to leave.

6. Appreciate employee efforts and accomplishments

A 2018 study by Mercer found that of the group of employees who felt they were undervalued at work, 76% were on the lookout for external opportunities.  Part of building food employee relations is showing employees that their work is seen and recognised and that they are valued assets to the company. Appreciation for employees should not only be reserved for formal occasions but encouraged on a day-to-day basis.

During meetings, take out time to praise recent accomplishments and encourage gestures like appreciation emails, celebratory team lunches, or work parties and have initiatives like awards with perks in place. The gestures don’t have to be grand in scale but they should communicate that the employees are valued and cared for and that their efforts do not go unnoticed.

Employees are the central force of any company and hence, building strong employee relations should be a priority of every organisation that seeks to have a strong and motivated workforce. Neglecting this duty can result in unforeseen consequences which harm the company’s productivity, output, and reputation in the long run.