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Employee Relations: An Essential Guide With All the Best Tips

When you think ahead and prepare a winning employee relations strategy, it quickly proves to be a smart investment that significantly benefits the work environment — and the team members who contribute to it. A positive employee experience has been proven time and time again to lead to better employee productivity and employee retention. 

Yet, having truly excellent employee relations goes beyond such superficial fixes as a decked-out break room. It probes deep into how your team feels about their workplace well-being, even when they're not in the office.

This article will explain employee relations in detail, share good examples of employee relations management, and provide helpful tips to get your organization on track to fostering a positive relationship with your team.

What Is Employee Relations, and How Does It Help?

Employee relations (ER) is exactly what it sounds like: It defines the relationship between employer and employee. ER can also include the relationships between groups within the workplace and between coworkers.

ER encompasses everything from practical employee relations policies set by the human resources department to the impact of workers’ emotional and mental well-being on their professional working relationships. It also includes keeping an eye on the latest news about well-being trends to better understand what your teams might be experiencing. For example, when the pandemic brought the boom in remote work, many companies created a home office stipend. By covering the cost of a new desk or ergonomic chair, it meant their employees could work comfortably without worrying about the unforeseen expense. 

Keeping up with these types of trends can help your team to feel supported. Now that many companies have shifted to remote work (at least partially), it's necessary to take extra steps to support your team members who may be struggling with isolation or who may hesitate to speak openly about other mental health concerns.

Your employee relations team or people management team can help work with employees to solve workplace issues. When workers know they have team members they can turn to for help, this increases their sense of well-being and job satisfaction. Employee relations professionals play an important role in team wellness and employee performance, which go hand in hand. 

Building Your Employee Relations Strategy 

Employee relations: group of people happily working together

Employee relationship management initiatives can often directly result from employee feedback. This feedback could be anything from a new hire discussing their onboarding experience to a departing employee citing poor work-life balance as a reason for quitting in their exit interview. For this reason, the HR department plays a pivotal role in improving employee relations.

We've highlighted some examples below that illustrate good employee relations policies to inspire your next steps. Continue reading to find out some common employee problems that can be handled much more efficiently if your organization has strong employee relations policies in place.  

Examples of Positive Employee Relations 

Here are some areas you can easily rethink to improve your own employee relations:

  • During the hiring process, consider what unique qualities a candidate would bring to the team. When introducing a new hire, highlight their background or special interests.
  • An empathic onboarding process goes beyond plopping an employee handbook on a new hire’s desk. Instead, aim to foster connections with key colleagues whom the employee will work with and plan for possible skill gaps with new technology. ER means looking for all the ways to support the onboarding process.
  • Existing team members wish for support and developmental opportunities, too, which can come in the form of coaching, tuition reimbursement, and mentorships.
  • Employees need to be succeeding in their roles to feel great at work. By monitoring their performance closely, you get to know your team members better and can invest in ways to help them get over a stumbling block before it affects their confidence.
  • Disciplinary actions are part of your employee relations strategy. Having uniform policies and procedures helps ensure everyone gets treated fairly and that issues are dealt with swiftly.
  • Conflict resolution is something most HR professionals are adept at. Having a policy that ensures employees can voice their concerns respectfully will help with the resolution process.
  • Even for team members who seemingly love working for the company, it helps to keep an eye on new areas to support their growth. This support might show itself in an all-expenses-paid conference or by providing time off after a stressful project ends.
  • Work-life balance is a big theme lately, since working from home can lend itself to not knowing when to shut off work for the night. Find ways to let your teams explore something fun together, whether it's taking part in a virtual cooking class or giving them the option to join an extracurricular activity on the company dime. These seemingly small gestures can make all the difference in employee morale.
  • Protecting the well-being and health of your employees is another component of ER. Provide health and safety training and ensure that incident management policies are in place — and that your staff is aware of them. If an employee violates health and safety policies, you'll want to have a plan for that, too.

Fix These Workplace Problems with Employee Relations

No one wants to think about unpleasant scenarios when it comes to their team members, but you need to make a plan now to avoid getting caught by surprise later.

Here are some examples of red flag scenarios that can be remedied by having a solid employee relations plan:

  • Frequent unexpected absences from work
  • Excessive tardiness 
  • Showing a lack of respect for management
  • Repeated confrontational episodes with coworkers
  • Viewing inappropriate material using company equipment (computer, internet)
  • Creating a toxic workplace with gossip
  • A lack of regard for safety or health policies
  • Inappropriate language or disparaging comments in the workplace
  • Mentally checked out during the workday, which shows up as frequently missed deadlines or unexplained absences in meetings
  • Unreachable when working remotely
  • Substance abuse issues

5 Ingredients to Improve Your Employee Relations

Team having a discussion

The benefits of positive employee relations can't be understated, whether it's less conflict in the workplace, more employee engagement, or just increased loyalty toward the organization. Here are the five ingredients in the “secret sauce” of ER that will help to foster a supportive environment for your team:

1. Transparency

Transparent communication has to be a two-way street, and it starts with the employer. Be open about executive-level discussions and the larger company goals or concerns, rather than keeping things hidden. 

If you notice an employee is struggling, create space for them to openly talk about the job or what is happening in their life, without judgment or penalty. Share your concerns from a place of empathy, and it fosters trust rather than fear.

2. Inclusivity

Stand behind your company values by investing in an inclusive culture. Explore complex topics with the help of appropriate subject matter experts and professionals who create a two-way conversation rather than a top-down lecture. This helps to build a culture where everyone feels that their voice is considered, valued, and understood — which promotes inclusivity.

3. Trust

If you've put together a rock-solid employee relations policy and training to match, you should be confident in the employees across the organization without having to chase them down or micromanage. However, if you don't trust your team to follow the rules, then there is a larger culture, training, or hiring issue that needs addressing.

4. Recognition and Rewards

Celebrate big and small wins by acknowledging employees in company-wide meetings, as well as during one-to-one meetings and reviews.

Follow up that recognition with a reward that shows you pay attention; for example, if they love gardening, get a gift card to a local plant shop.

5. Investment in Employees

Even if your team members aren't asking outright for coaching or mentorship opportunities, make professional development a regular part of the workplace conversation — and a regular part of your company.

Harmony in the Workplace Starts With Employee Relations

A positive employee experience involves so much more than work perks. It's about the day-to-day support that helps workers get the job done. Pulpstream supports your business processes and your people managers by providing tools to connect your team securely and intuitively.

When employees are happy about their work and their workplace relationships, productivity skyrockets. People quit when their job is more demanding than it needs to be or when there's little recognition or reward for their efforts.

Small actions that foster a culture of trust, transparency, inclusivity, and investment in your employees can set your organization apart. Create proper employee relations strategies and it can benefit employees’ experience and well-being. Book your free demo with Pulpstream to see how our no-code platform can enhance your company’s employee relations.