Companies in the United States may perpetually operate under the mantra that the customer is always right. However, many are also adding the idea that the employee - and by extension, employee relations - is its most valuable asset.
This is because they are the face of an organization and greatly influence how customers perceive a company. When they go home, they also share their experiences at the company with family, friends, and peers.
Keeping them happy protects the company’s reputation in the market and reduces turnover at a time when employers are struggling to keep their employees. This is essential since professionals have many more public venues to voice their frustration or share negative experiences about the organization.
Since the pandemic, employees have been under extreme pressure to perform at a high level while dealing with unprecedented demands in their personal life. Despite meeting - and at times exceeding - company expectations, the combination of these stresses has lowered company morale and employees’ perspective of their job. For the most part, employers displayed empathy and compassion for their employees during the earlier stages, and this helped companies get through tough times.
In too many organizations, that sentiment did not last long, and employees have responded by resigning from their jobs in record numbers. This “Great Resignation” has confounded employers. This is due to the fact that employee relations were weakened to the point that companies did not realize that there was an issue until it was too late.
A study by Accenture found that only one in five people reported feeling “comfortable sharing problems or raising conflicts with colleagues.” This is a powerful indicator of how much employee relations have broken down in organizations.
The Great Resignation is also causing companies to shake up company policies in the hopes of retaining top talent. For example, hybrid and fully remote working arrangements have become more commonplace, with many employees reluctant to return to offices full-time after several months of working from home.
While it is a great reflection of what employees are looking for in terms of flexibility, it does not make up for weak company culture. Compensation and perks are no longer enough to motivate employees to stay at their jobs when they now expect employers to show more care and concern for their health and well-being.
To ensure that this is being reflected in how managers treat employees (and how employees treat each other), companies are taking a closer look at their company culture. It is a critical factor in building trust with employees and convincing them that the organization will live up to its values long term.
Fostering a strong company culture puts the focus on employee relations, which results in happier, more productive, and engaged employees. Employees who are happy at their job are also more likely to remain at their job for a longer period of time.
Company culture and employee relations are closely related concepts that achieve the same goals. A company’s culture is defined by how an organization’s employees behave, what they believe, and the overall day-to-day experience of working there.
Employee relations are the coordinated efforts by the HR department to improve the relationship between the employer and employees. Paying close attention to both is essential for employers if they want to continue to be successful in competing for talent in the future.
Research shows that organizations have significant work to do to achieve this vision. According to the same Accenture study mentioned previously, only one in four people report that leaders are responsive to their needs, communicate regularly, or believe that team members are treated equally.
However, by their estimation, if people felt more connected at work, it would result in about a 7% revenue increase per year. Additionally, with only 21% of employees around the globe engaged at work, it is no surprise that another phenomenon known as Quiet Quitting - characterized by employees only giving the minimum effort to their employer - is also dominating the headlines this year. According to a Gallup poll, these individuals make up at least 50% of the US workforce.
Building a strong company culture that excels in its employee relations efforts requires a close partnership between the HR department and company leadership to ensure that the foundation of the culture is built on the happiness, well-being, and engagement of employees. It needs to be authentic and unique to the organization. It also requires getting employees to buy into the culture and tying it to the business strategy.
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What employees are looking for from companies
Employee expectations of their employer have been evolving for some time. Over the past two decades, professionals have stayed at their jobs for progressively shorter tenures in search of higher pay or a promotion.
Many companies’ employee relations efforts did not identify that security and a commitment to career growth were what professionals were seeking at the time. Add to that the pandemic and social reckonings in the United States, and employees’ priorities - as well as how they view their relationship with their employer - have dramatically shifted yet again.
Now, many younger employees want employers that share their values and provide equal opportunities for advancement. They also expect managers and company leaders to have empathy, show a genuine concern for their health and well-being, and invest in their career development to alleviate the skills gap.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) commitment are also central to helping keep employees engaged and motivated. The job market has changed such that younger generations are less willing than their older colleagues to work for organizations that do not display these attributes. At this stage, it is in the best interest of employers and employees to commit to building collaborative, innovative, and inclusive workplaces for everyone.
What makes a strong company culture?
Building a great company culture takes much more than offering a gym in the office or unlimited snacks in the kitchen. Putting the company’s values into practice through comprehensive (DE&I) and holding every employee accountable to that vision will be what convinces professionals to stick with their employer. This is an important way that employee relations will be strengthened so that everyone feels that their voice will be heard.
For Millennials, this is especially important. Deloitte found that 52% of Millennial employees who are satisfied with their company’s progress in creating a diverse and inclusive environment will stay with the company for more than five years, compared to only 32% of Gen Z employees. As the largest population ratio in the US workforce, this is an important factor to consider for the future of employee relations.
Companies with positive company cultures, such as Twitter and Google, have some important features in common. HR leaders work closely with senior leadership to create a clearly-defined vision of what the culture should be. These companies make it more than just a vague mandate from leadership and ensure that the responsibility is shared by all.
These companies also take input from employees seriously, which means that the organization creates avenues for employees to voice their concerns. This helps HR departments identify potential cultural issues within the organization before it tarnishes the company’s reputation.
HR departments also adhere to hiring practices that contribute to diverse and inclusive company culture. These first interactions with candidates give them a positive view of the company and also help to foster solid employee relations throughout their time at the organization.
Companies with a strong culture also feature collaborative work environments where employees are recognized for their achievements. This is essential because it motivates them to continue bringing their best selves to work and encouraging others to do the same, resulting in higher productivity and innovative projects.
How HR technology can help
While utilizing technology may seem counterintuitive in solving a human problem, it can be a perfect starting point and support for HR departments. From the moment a job vacancy is posted, HR teams can make sure that job listings reflect the company culture and show how applicants can expect to be treated by the organization.
During the candidate sourcing process, HR teams can ensure that the company culture is embedded into the search using an AI-powered applicant tracking system (ATS). This will streamline searches and ensure that great candidates are not eliminated from consideration due to human bias. Once a candidate is onboarded and joins the organization, HR teams can use technology to manage the entire employee lifecycle - from training to reviews.
With the aid of an ATS and other tools integrated with human resource information systems (HRIS), HR teams have better abilities to connect and engage with employees, streamline processes such as hiring, payroll, or benefits administration, and identify potential cultural issues that threaten morale.
If your organization is seeking to strengthen employee relations to improve morale and company culture, integrating HR solutions will give teams a full picture of what is going on in the organization.
Click here to learn how Manatal’s career page can reflect and strengthen your company culture. Start your 14-day Free Trial to see how your team can enhance employee relations as candidates begin the interview process.