DE&I

6 Ways HR Can Strengthen Employee Relations

HR professionals wear many hats in an organization. They operate as ambassadors for the company drawing in hopeful applicants. Another critical aspect of the role is to administer compensation and benefits while ensuring compliance and workplace safety. 

However, one of their most essential roles is as a liaison for the organization throughout an employee’s lifecycle, maintaining good relations between employees and the employer. This includes creating training and upskilling opportunities and serving as both confidante and peacemaker as issues arise between employees - and managers. 

The common thread is that HR departments are often responsible for maintaining positive employee relations. It is up to HR teams to not only drive cultural initiatives but also to have the organizational perspective and insight to notice toxic practices and stop them before they can flourish. 

As the individuals who are often the first to know about systemic issues, HR professionals are often the people tasked with finding solutions to reduce turnover and maintain a positive company culture. If they don’t, a simple issue can morph into a cultural problem that threatens to tarnish an organization’s reputation and harm its ability to attract top talent.

The key to this is to foster transparency and mutual respect among employees. This aspect of an HR professional’s job has become a key focus for leadership amid the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting trends that have dominated the headlines over the past year. 

Many employers can’t afford to see their high performers lose motivation or leave the organization. However, 40% of workers are thinking of quitting their jobs soon, according to McKinsey. This shows a clear breakdown in employee relations over an extended period.

How did companies get to this point? Well, it has been a long time coming, and the way that some employers responded to the pressures of the pandemic is only the latest in a series of disappointments for professionals. 

The erosion of employee relations can easily be traced back to the end of pensions, volatile employment markets, and declines in employee loyalty over the past two decades. The message was clear: if you want to get promoted and earn more money, you are better off leaving your job and seeking new opportunities every few years. 

While that has served some individuals well in their careers, it has created distrust and a breakdown in the relationship between employees and their employers. Without the belief that their hard work and dedication would be rewarded, there was less incentive to stick around when times were tough. 

Similarly, employers did not get the chance to fix bad situations because employees preferred to leave in search of another opportunity instead of sharing their concerns with HR and giving them time to make changes.

Without the vigilance of HR teams, it will be far more difficult to ensure that employee relations are strong enough to gauge employees’ sentiments and attitudes toward an organization. Once employee engagement numbers begin to slip, it is already clear that relations between employees and employers have broken down significantly. How can HR departments strengthen employee relations? Consider taking these six steps to reignite the human element in modern workplaces. 

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1. Improve communications and help managers engage teams more effectively

Employee relations can see immense improvements by simply communicating more with employees about the health of the company, the strategic direction, and how they can add value to the organization. 

Taking the time to have managers and senior executives share information with employees may seem like a small effort but it goes a long way in helping them feel connected to the organization and motivates them to contribute to business objectives.  

It can be useful for HR departments to provide new managers with training to ensure that they are equipped to communicate effectively with their direct reports and model the employee relations practices that the organization encourages. 

The adage that people do not quit jobs. They quit managers is absolutely true and should not be taken lightly. According to the Pew Research Center, a top reason that over half of Americans left their job in 2021 was feeling disrespected at work.  

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2. Listen to employee needs and concerns 

Simply talking at employees will prove ineffective in improving employee relations if there isn’t an opportunity for two-way communication. Employees need to believe that there is a channel to voice their concerns and ideas without fear of retribution from leaders. 

HR departments have an important role to play in ensuring that employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts about what is going on at the organization and that it can be done anonymously. There also needs to be the perception that HR does not “play favorites” so that everyone feels comfortable laying their concerns on the table.  

3. Promote fairness and equality across the organization 

As diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives pick up steam across organizations. It is essential for HR to ensure that all employees feel that they have a seat at the table. Employee relations receive a noticeable boost when everyone in the organization believes that they are being treated in a fair and equitable manner. Not only does it contribute to higher morale and engagement, but employees also collaborate better with each other. 

Additionally, with more professionals measuring the quality of a company’s culture based on its diversity efforts, this aspect of a company’s values can’t be ignored. It simply isn’t enough to have a diverse organization. Everyone needs to believe that they have equal access to opportunities in the organization and that they are being treated fairly by management. 

4. Ensure that employee experiences are positive 

A central aspect of company culture, employee experience captures what workers encounter in their daily interactions with their colleagues. These everyday aspects of an employee's job are tricky to manage and even harder to control. 

It is nearly impossible for HR departments to resolve issues that they are unaware of. With employees spending more of their time working at home as a lasting consequence of the pandemic, HR teams must work even harder at employee relations.

 A 2021 survey found that 92% of employers globally intend to prioritize employee experience over the next three years. It is in their best interest to ensure that they are cultivating an environment where employees feel happy about coming to work and comfortable coming to HR with their concerns before they have made the decision to leave their job. 

PODCAST: Watch episode 10 of All-In Recruitment to find tips for building the right connections with the workforce.  

5. Provide upskilling and career development opportunities

The world is changing rapidly - faster than many people are able to keep up. Additionally, the talent shortage makes it more difficult to hire the number of graduates with new skills needed to fill corporate needs for the next several decades. Therefore it is essential for companies to provide training and upskilling opportunities to existing employees to help them navigate their careers. 

Employees will feel gratitude for the opportunity to further their careers and are more likely to remain at the organization to use the new skills they have learned. This investment in talent helps to build positive relationships with employees and helps companies' abilities to innovate and grow. 

Click here to learn how Manata’s career page can reflect and strengthen your company culture. 

6. Revisit company policies and benefits

Some HR departments may find that employee relations are suffering at the organization because the policies and benefits that are in place are not serving the needs of all employees. When that is the case, some employees may feel unappreciated, undervalued, or excluded from the organization. 

Additionally, while the policies may have worked in the past, employee expectations of their employers have shifted since the pandemic. The approach to company culture and employee engagement that may have worked well in the past may need to be reconsidered in the current environment. 

Workplace events and social activities after working hours may have helped employee relations by binding people together, but today some of those activities are gaining criticism. Take, for example, after-work happy hours. 

Employees may feel obligated to attend to socialize with coworkers or get “face time” with management. However, this can place an added burden on parents or people who care for their own parents. People who are consciously staying away from alcohol may also feel uncomfortable with this type of socializing. 

Click here to learn more about Manatal’s ATS.

How can technology help HR departments?

HR departments hold a wealth of information in their databases and software solutions. Everything from the applicant tracking system (ATS) to time tracking and benefits solutions hold tremendous insight into the behaviors - and potentially the mindset of employees.

A useful way to get a full picture of your employee relations situation is by integrating your human resources information systems (HRIS) to see and analyze all of the information in one place. If they are calling out of work more frequently or employees in a certain role are quitting more often, HR teams can take note of these trends and come up with ways to address the situation. 

The HR department has the knowledge at its fingertips to inform management about issues that can be undermining employee relations, retention, and company culture. Make sure that your team is making use of this abundant data to inform employee strategy.

Start your 14-day Free Trial with Manatal now to experience a seamless, data-backed hiring process. Manatal ATS can easily be integrated into existing HRIS systems, creating a centralized information database to support HR functions.

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