In an ideal situation, your employees feel good about coming into work every day and have positive relationships with their colleagues and supervisors. But fostering a safe and enjoyable work environment isn’t always easy, and employee relations issues are bound to arise. By learning about common employee relations issues and what to do about them, you can improve employee satisfaction and employee retention.

Here are some examples of employee relations issues, and how to reduce turnover with effective employee employee relationship management.

What Are Employee Relations?

Employee relations (ER) is a way of thinking about all of the interpersonal relationships at your organization. Employee relations encompasses individual relationships between coworkers, collaborative relationships between team members, and even relationships between employees and company executives or business owners.

Employee relations form a key part of your company culture, and can impact how your employees and other stakeholders feel about the organization itself. Everything from the online platforms you use to handle communications to the social activities you facilitate outside of work can play a role in employee relations.

Employee relations is usually handled by the human resources department, and you may have a dedicated employee relations manager on your HR team. But managing employee relations and maintaining positive working conditions is a company-wide effort that requires buy-in at all levels of your organization.

Effective employee relations management increases employee well-being and job satisfaction, and reduces the frequency of employee relations issues.

6 Examples of Employee Relations Issues

Employee relations issues: colleagues talking to each other

Employee relations issues can vary in complexity and severity, but knowing what to look out for can give you a head start in identifying and addressing them. Here are six of the most common employee relations issues HR professionals are likely to encounter.

1. Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict is inevitable at any workplace. This can take the form of minor disagreements to serious disputes that require conflict resolution. Organizations can minimize interpersonal conflict by encouraging open communication and fostering effective communication skills like active listening.

In some cases, workplace conflicts can rise to the level of employee misconduct, and may call for employee disciplinary action. Workplace bullying and sexual harassment aren’t just minor employee relations issues, and they require a prompt response.

2. Pay or Wage Complaints

Compensation is always a touchy subject in the workplace, and even if you adhere to regulations like the Equal Pay Act, pay disputes may arise. This could be due to salary differences between different members of your team, or simply a disagreement over how many hours an employee worked and how their wagers were calculated.

This can be mitigated by tracking attendance and absences accurately, and by being proactive about pay raises, bonuses, and employee benefits.

3. Attendance Issues

Tardiness and absenteeism are common employee relations issues that are often dealt with at the managerial level, rather than bringing in HR. They can be especially tricky to navigate if your team members work remotely or asynchronously, and aren’t expected to be physically present in the workplace on a regular schedule. 

You can use absence management software to track employee absences and look for unusual patterns. Often, adjusting an employee’s schedule to accommodate a mental health or medical issue is more effective than taking disciplinary action.

4. Workplace Safety Issues

Workplace safety issues can take the form of an employee failing to follow proper safety protocols, or raising safety concerns they have about your work site. Consider offering first aid training to all employees, and prioritize these crucial safety topics to discuss with your employees — including online safety and cybersecurity.

If a workplace injury does occur, conduct a thorough workplace investigation and be sure to claim workers’ compensation for your employee.

5. Performance Issues

Positive employee relations and workplace productivity are linked. If an entire team is underperforming, it could be a case of low employee morale or an inefficient workplace culture. Performance issues can also be caused by poor communication of company policies and workplace expectations.

For individual issues, consider performance management strategies like performance reviews and corrective action plans. For company-wide issues, try hosting a company retreat or team-building activities to foster better employee engagement.

6. Leave of Absence Issues

Some employers offer annual leave policies as part of their employee relations strategy as a way to encourage work-life balance. Employees may also be entitled to a leave of absence for personal reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). But in rare cases, lax leave policies can lead to compliance issues and FMLA abuse.

Create a clear personal leave policy so employees know what documents they need to provide to substantiate their leave request, and use a leave management platform like Pulpstream to manage leave of absence requests and track FMLA leave.

Best Practices to Maintain Good Employee Relations

Employee relations issues can be a challenge for any HR manager, but you don’t have to wait until they arise to take action. An effective employee relations strategy can have a major impact on your retention rate and the employee experience. Take the initiative with these five best practices to maintain good employee relations.

Have a Clear Code of Conduct

First, set expectations with a code of conduct and an employee handbook that outlines your company policies. This should include everything from your employee disciplinary action policy to your conflict management policy. Ask new employees to agree to them during the onboarding process to create a fair and professional work environment.

Document Everything

From disciplinary action forms to employee evaluations, keep a record of everything to avoid compliance issues and serve as evidence if there’s a workplace investigation. Use templates to save time and store records in a secure cloud-based platform.

Provide a Self-Service Portal

As part of your HR digital transformation, empower employees to take charge of their own needs with a self-service portal. With a cloud-based platform like Pulpstream, employees can submit a leave of absence request, view their employee benefits options, and manage other HR processes online.

Conduct Thorough Investigations

Ensure workplace safety by conducting thorough investigations of safety violations and employee misconduct. Pulpstream’s ER solutions allow you to track anonymous cases and accept the submission of anonymous complaints. Get a 360-degree view of every case, with every document and email associated with it visible on a single click.

Automate HR Processes

Finally, save time and improve the employee experience by automating HR processes, from onboarding to employee benefits administration. Send out automatic notifications when an item needs action, and follow up after every incident, complaint, or employee relations issue to find out if there’s anything more you can do.

Streamline Employee Relations Management With Pulpstream

Colleagues happily shaking hands

Employee relations issues range from conflicts between coworkers to company-wide performance issues and low employee morale. By setting clear company policies and using employee relationship management software to track issues, you can mitigate some of the most common complaints and improve employee retention.

Pulpstream’s tools allow you to identify employee relations issues and streamline them to ensure a fast resolution. Our powerful reporting system helps you eliminate data silos, with built-in integrations so you can easily connect to your existing human resources information system (HRIS).

Plus, our built-in AI engine looks for patterns to anticipate employee relations issues and offer recommendations. Request a demo today to see it for yourself!