Good employee relations result in lower turnover and higher productivity. Millions of American employees are working at home for the first time. It has never been more important for managers to step up their efforts to support and engage remote employees. As well as those who work onsite.
Let’s look at some numbers about labor relations and job satisfaction:
Employee Relations Strategies: 5 Takeaways
- Only 42% of U.S. employees look forward to coming to work, compared to 84% of those recognized by Fortune 100 as “The Best Companies to Work For.” Fortune 100 (requires registration)
- The World Health Organization has codified a new type of health condition that threatens the health of employees. “Chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” is the WHO official diagnosis. O.C. Tanner
- 60% of workers report being stressed all or most of their time at worked. (Udemy)
- 86% of millennials say they would stay in their current job if the company offered career training and development.
- Workers who give their managers a low rating are four times more likely to be interviewing for other positions than those who don’t. (TINYPulse)
Did you know that less than half of employees surveyed by the World Happiness Report said that they are happy with their jobs? Are you employees among them?
SHRM estimates that employee turnover costs as much as 200% of an employee’s salary. Since unhappy employees are more likely to look for another job, that can be expensive for your business! Happily, there are ways that you can help to improve employee relations and satisfaction within your company. Let’s discuss best practices for the HR manager, line-level managers and business owners.
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1. Promote Dialogue and Communication
Poor communication is one of the most common employee relations issues. Open dialogue and clear communication is key to good employee relations.
Good communication helps to avoid employee confusion and unnecessary stress. It can decrease friction between employees, especially management and employees. It helps to set clear goals and expectations. When millions of employees were abruptly sent home to work in March 2020 (due to the pandemic), effective communication became one of the biggest challenges for managers and the HR department.
Provide a way for employees to express grievances and to resolve conflicts. They need to have a way to express themselves openly and without fear of retaliation. That doesn’t mean that employees should be able to gripe to the whole office, but there should be a person or an internal communications process where an employee can gripe. Human Resources Management System (HRMS) with an anonymous feedback feature works well for hybrid workforces.
Employees should also be able to ask questions and clarify ideas in a safe space. New policies, procedures, or expectations, including project expectations, should be communicated both verbally and in a written format. This allows employees a way to discuss and clarify expectations, as well as a resource to find clarification. Don’t forget that people absorb new information in different ways. While some learn best through written words, others learn best by hearing and doing.
Another key to communication is to be transparent. Employees who feel that their managers are open, honest, and trustworthy are far more likely to be less stressed and more happy at work.
2. Focus on Company Missions and Values
Most people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. This remains true of younger workers. Millennials have a great desire to be socially responsible and to benefit the world as a whole. The employee experience at a values-driven organization can create strong relationships and employee loyalty. Align positive corporate values with the way you treat employees for positive employee relations.
These feelings are positive for your company. You can access them by sharing with your employees your company values and mission. Few businesses have as a mission ‘make more money no matter what.’ Instead, successful businesses have a reason for why they do what they do. Your company fills a need that was unfilled before. You have great hopes and aspirations for how you will help more people. You have goals and dreams for your business. Share them.
What caused you to come up with your business? Why did you sacrifice many nights and extra hours to create success?
Share with your employees your core values such as honesty, service, or quality. These values help employees to feel like they are part of something important.
3. Help Employees Feel Valued
Regardless of their actual quality of work, most employees feel proud of their discipline and results. For this reason, appreciation for a well-done job does more to motivate than does criticism. But, it can be human nature to focus on the negative aspects of employee performance.
Instead, managers and Human Resources should try to focus on the 9 things done right, instead of the 1 thing done wrong. Many experts suggest providing 2-3 positive points of feedback for every 1 item of criticism and some experts suggest 5-6 positives to every 1 negative.
Check out these tips from employee relations professionals to helping employees feel valued:
- Say thank you for big and small things. It can range from a simple thank you card to verbal appreciation.
- Tell employees they are valuable. They need to hear it. Letting them know when they handled a situation or a customer well helps motivate them to do it again.
- Recognize high achievers. Public recognition is a huge motivator for certain personalities. Plus, it has the added benefit of showing that your company values and goals are important!
4. Inspire and Reward
Consider creating employee goals with employees instead of simply handing them down. Encourage employees to set stretch goals: goals that are difficult but achievable. When performance management is a two-way rather than one-way process, employees are more invested.
Google allows their employees to set quarterly goals. The goals must be difficult and measurable. These goals, written by employees have resulted in Google tools that we now take for granted. These include a new search engine and Gmail (as a searchable email). Ideas were brought by employees that changed the face of Google for the better.
Your employees often have insights or ideas that can make a big difference in their effectiveness or in the company’s success. Tap into those ideas!
Another way to inspire employees is to reward them. Consider having a gold, silver, bronze incentive for various achievements of employee goals. But, make sure that these incentives align with your business values. Otherwise, you may end up in a similar situation with Wells Fargo, where corporate goals conflicted with corporate values and incentives won out.
5. Offer Career Development
Even lower-level employees can benefit from development. Most people are happier when they have a goal or a dream to work toward. Consider the career path for your positions. Consider the skills and unused talents your employees have.
Whenever possible, take advantage of employee skills by adjusting their roles. This will help your employee to further develop skills and will bring added value to your organization.
Other ideas include offering a mentorship program which pares employees to higher-skilled counterparts. Rotational training can cross-train employees to fill multiple roles. Tuition reimbursement or certification programs can also help employees to advance in their career goals. If you don’t already have career development, it should be one of your pressing Human Resources issues to tackle soon.
6. Promote Healthy Work-Life Balance
Sometimes, it can be easy for you to forget that employees have personal lives that take priority. This can be especially true when you have nearly poured your life’s blood and passion into your business’s success.
Yet, employees who feel supported at home by their employers develop a greater sense of loyalty and strong employee engagement. It’s not coincidental that some of the most sought-after employee benefits include things that provide for a better work/life balance. These benefits include flexible work schedules, paid time off, work from home ability, or health benefits that support family life.
But, it’s not all about the benefits. The attitude of your managers, when faced with employees’ personal dilemmas, will make a difference. Although employees often value the chance to work from home, this doesn’t mean you should ask them to take work home. Instead, work from home capabilities usually means the ability to work from home during a normal work-at-work day.
Managers can be supportive when employees need to take time off. (Although they should also be trained on watching for employee requests that signal potential FMLA use as well.)
7. Use Software to Streamline Redundancy and Eliminate Mistakes
Implementing systems and software can make a big difference in employee relations. That’s because it helps to automate and improve communications. Project management applications make it easy for managers and team members to see what’s required on a project and who’s responsible. Messaging apps can make communication instant and avoid the stress from unplanned lengthy discussions that often occur face-to-face.
By implementing the right software, you can eliminate redundant tasks from employees and tap into their creativity instead. Consider that 10 minutes spent filling out a weekly timecard turns into 520 minutes each year. Instead, employees can clock in automatically. This also eliminates redundant timesheets data entry by payroll employees.
Other tasks can be streamlined. Through an employee portal, employees can view pay stubs, W2s, and request time off. They can update personal information and view the employee handbook.
Consider, the stress your employees endure when a key individual takes time off or quits unexpectedly. Suddenly employees are scrambling to recreate processes or to gain access to critical systems. Make sure that you have a process down that has recorded key processes. Software allows the reassignment of authority and makes this easier.
Lastly, software helps you to stay compliant. Non-compliance carries several unintended consequences. It causes undue stress on employees during investigations, possible gossip and negativity, and poor public reputation. When an employer endures reputation loss, it causes poorer relations with employees because they are more likely to feel like their contribution doesn’t make the world a better place. They are more likely to be unhappy with their employment and more likely to jump on the bandwagon of dissatisfaction.
If you feel overwhelmed by employee relationship management, don’t worry. Creating an employee relations policy by starting with even one or two of these ideas will help you to improve employee relations. The most cost-effective will be to implement software tools. Many of these tools are free or they earn back more than their cost.
- 7 Strategies to Improve Employee Relations [Updated for 2020] - March 4, 2020
- Employers, conduct an FMLA Audit to Ensure Compliance - December 27, 2018
- FMLA Compliance:Recordkeeping Requirements You Don’t Want to Miss! - December 17, 2018