Employee relations is the general state of morale, policies and procedures, overall climate and tone of the organization, intra-company communication and state of employee-employer relationships.
These relationships are multidimensional and can include the tangible (e.g. compensation, child care options, remote working policies, tuition reimbursement) to the less tangible or intangible (e.g. general tone, (dis)respectful conversations, dealing with conflict, commitment to diversity).
Employee relations have a direct effect on an organization’s performance, how effectively they attract and retain top performers, customer satisfaction and even profitability.
Key Principles of Employee Relations
As stated in key features of performance management, employees have expectations about what the mission and vision are for their company; how their work fits into the organization’s overall strategic plan; and how their supervisor treats them day to day.
There are innumerable variables to employee relations, but research studies consistently point to two items as gauges of the health of employee relations.
Commitment to Obligations
Employees are continuously evaluating if supervisors and leadership remain committed to their obligations around the company’s policies. For example, if the organization has created Employee Stock Ownership Plans to incentivize employees to participate in the company’s overall financial success, does the organization continuously and fully support those programs and policies?
Consistency or Incongruity to Stated Values and Principles
Similarly, employees want to make sure that if the company explicitly makes public claims about things like promoting diversity, demonstrating a commitment to respecting differing opinions or work/life balance, that the day-to-day behavior of supervisors matches those claims.
For example, if a company talks about trusting employees, is that supported with matching attitudes about work schedules?
Innovative Employee Relations Programs and Policies
Workplace programs and policies are not one-size-fits-all. The point is to be consistent with values, goals and objectives. A professional services firm such as a law firm or investment bank catering to a clientele of high net worth individuals may not favor bringing pets to work. However, they may be strong on tuition reimbursement for law school and MBA graduates.
Similarly a tech firm whose engineers work hard and round the clock may be less concerned with strict workplace schedules and vacation policies. They may also cater to long hours with comfortable lounges.
Among top employers, here are some of the innovative programs most favored:
- Compressed workweeks /
- Friday half-day
- Strong mentoring and coaching programs
- Job sharing
- Impromptu employee recognition / celebrations
- Paid volunteering
- Encourage sabbatical leave