As an HR professional, you know good employee relations can affect the overall performance of the people in an organization. Done well, positive employee relations can increase the company’s total productivity and retention rate.
That’s not all. Excellent employee relations also promote better employee engagement among workers and management and improved job satisfaction. But there are times when things don’t go according to what you would expect. Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable because employees aren’t homogenous - they have different personalities and work together for the most part of a day, 40 hours a week. Hence, disputes are a very real occurrence.
In this article, we are going to discuss employee relations, their importance to your organization, the factors that affect them, and how you can maintain and improve them.
Employee Relations - The Definition
Before we dive deep into finding the factors that could negatively affect employee relations, let’s familiarize ourselves with the definition first.
Generally, employee relations cover the relationship between an employer with their employees and employees with their colleagues. According to Gartner, the term is referred to as “a sub-function or department that is usually within the HR or legal function of an organization.”
Within a typical HR department structure, you may find an employee relations specialist who is tasked with the following:
- Informing employees of a code of conduct by developing the company’s policies.
- Solving conflicts (disputes, sexual harassment, discrimination) between workers and the company.
Simply put, employee relations’ goal is to create a positive working environment and, ultimately, working relationships among employees.
Why Employee Relations Matters
Your employees are people with different backgrounds - life and education - and different personality traits. Not only that, but they may also have different approaches to work. Hence, it’s crucial for HR professionals to create company policies that create, maintain, and improve good employee relations.
Generally speaking, an organization cannot function properly without its employees. Therefore, it’s crucial for a company to keep valuable, productive, skillful workers for a long time. With that in mind, when everyone in the organization can work together in harmony, the benefits are shared across the entire company.
Let’s take a look at why building good relations between employers and employees would be beneficial to achieve business goals.
1. Better job satisfaction
Employees who feel good about their job, growth, and their overall experience working with the company are more likely to feel valued and appreciated. An immediate - and obvious - benefit of this is that your employees would stay with you longer, contributing to a positive image for the company.
In fact, when they feel happy and satisfied with what they’re doing, your employees are willing to go the extra mile to achieve their career goals and business goals with your company.
2. Greater employee engagement
On the other hand, employee relations and employee engagement go hand in hand. In fact, in today’s working space, it is vital for organizations to have greater employee engagement. Also, as mentioned above, you want to make employees stay longer in a company, and to do that is by making them feel happy and valued. In addition, companies with engaged workers can face any challenges caused by a pandemic, recession, or political unrest.
3. Increased productivity
When you combine better job satisfaction with greater employee engagement, you can logically anticipate increased productivity. A business would thrive on internal knowledge exchange and shared growth toward common goals when there's a culture of well-intentioned and constructive feedback instead of toxicity.
4. Higher retention rates
Lastly, losing an employee is costly for an organization. As a matter of fact, the new benchmark for the average cost of recruitment is USD4,700. That is quite a significant expenditure that an organization can use for something else, such as training modules.
Therefore, keep your employees engaged and motivated to ensure the retention rate stays high. To do that, practice open communication with them. They are more likely to remain with an organization for a long time if they are more involved and driven.
Knowing the benefits mentioned above should be your reasons to have and maintain good employee relations. We will talk about how you can do that in a bit. But before that, let’s point out some factors that can damage employee and employer relationships because it’s better to know what could be the cause before coming up with solutions.
4 Factors That Damage Employee Relations
You have heard employees say they leave because of bad bosses, not companies. In fact, a report by Gallup highlights that one in two employees leave the job because they want to remove themselves from bad managers. But, truth be told, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The reasons they tender their resignation are more than just because of a single person in management. It can be a myriad of factors that drive them to make the decision to jump ship. Here are the four factors that you need to keep an eye out for.
1. Toxic workplace culture
We have established that bad bosses can drive employees to find the exit and never return. However, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review report, toxic culture in the corporate world is the major contributor to employee turnover.
But what does the term mean, exactly? Well, it can mean a number of things. The researchers at MIT Sloan analyzed 1.4 million reviews on the job and review website and categorized them into five categories; disrespectful, non-inclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive.
2. Bullying and Harassment
The next factor that you should consider as part of your employee relations policy is workplace bullying and harassment. In fact, it’s a common incident that is happening in the United States, where 30% of Americans experience bullying in the workplace. Meanwhile, 19% of the respondents witnessed the incident and explained their unwillingness to help their affected colleagues.
It’s worth noting that when one talks about bullying, it’s not always physical. It can be psychological, too. For example, an employee manipulates a colleague into doing things for them - completing their work, taking the blame for their mistakes, and exerting their power over others.
3. Rigid Work Arrangements
As many companies have discovered - or validated - throughout the pandemic period, work can be done from anywhere without compromising productivity. In recent times, we’ve seen a wide-scale shift towards hybrid work arrangements, remote employment, and even experiments with shorter work weeks.
However, different types of complexities can arise when working within one’s personal space, and shorter work hours do not necessarily mean less work.
Apart from dealing with work, employees need space and time to cater to their personal needs. Therefore, many people in the workforce today expect their organization to provide some form of flexibility, especially in cases where employees juggle between childcare, elderly care, or even studies.
When employees feel they have to juggle work and personal life, it can cause chronic stress. Studies have shown that work-related stress can adversely affect physical and mental health. So, when employees perceive that their organization doesn’t care about their health, they will not hesitate to call it quits.
4. Unhealthy Competition Among Employees
The three factors that we’ve talked about earlier are related to employer-employee relationships. But situations that pose a risk to employee relations can also germinate between employees, especially when it comes to competition among them.
Competition, in general, is healthy and must be encouraged in order to promote a culture of excellence, creativity, and team spirit. However, it becomes unhealthy when it involves any act of sabotage or unethical behavior.
Maintaining and Improving Employee Relations
Positive and excellent employee relations are crucial for a business to scale up successfully. Since we have identified the factors that can damage employee relations, then we can now move to a plan to maintain and improve this.
Here are four ways you can cultivate positive working relationships among employees:
1. Create a sense of belonging
As people, it is natural to want to feel like we belong to a group, and this is particularly true when working in an organization and within teams. Plus, it has been said that when employees feel included, they develop an understanding that the organization cares about them.
Additionally, having a sense of belonging in the workplace creates a safe, non-threatening space in which employees can give ideas and opinions as well as receive constructive feedback with an open mind.
2. Lay out a career development plan
Another way for employees to perceive the organization cares for them is by developing career plans. Today’s job market is highly competitive, and recruiting new staff can take time and quickly become costly. Hence it’s better to train your current employees rather than hire new candidates.
In addition, employees who know that they can grow in an organization through career advancement opportunities tend to be happier and more productive. As an HR professional, you can ask them what skills they’d like to develop to achieve their next stage of career development. Once you have all the information, the company can provide the necessary tools and training.
3. Interact effectively
For everything we do in life, we need to communicate constantly (written and verbal), clearly and respectfully. In the workplace, having good communication skills is vital to deliver messages and avoid conflicts because of misunderstandings effectively.
Additionally, another major component of powerful communication that should become a cultural norm in companies is active listening - the ability to listen intently, understand and reflect in order to respond in an efficient and engaging manner.
Therefore, as HR professionals, you need to ensure that everyone in the organization communicates effectively and politely. If you’re looking for ways to interact with employees effectively, try these five methods. There are:
4. Promote work-life balance
Remember, your employees have their life outside of work, and this requires attention from employers. In addition, a flexible working environment has been shown to reduce stress, boost productivity and job satisfaction, and help them to stay active (having enough time to do physical activities).
As an employer, you can give them benefits such as paid time off (PTO), covering half of their gym membership, and, as practiced by some organizations, flexible working hours as well as hybrid work.
Furthermore, employers should aim to enhance their employees' entire job experiences in addition to supporting flexibility. Work-life balance is promoted by putting an emphasis on a healthy culture and creating a positive work environment. When employees are happy and love what they do, they feel the office is like their second home instead of feeling dreadful every morning.
Good employee relations generally affect the company’s overall performance. However, when HR professionals don’t resolve conflicts among employees fast, it’ll create job dissatisfaction and a higher turnover rate.
If your organization already has policies to maintain and improve the professional relationships among employees, you can fortify them with your own workflow or system.
So, to cultivate good relations among employees, you need to know the factors that can damage them.
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