The term employee relations was actually conceived as a replacement for the term industrial relations, but its exact meaning in today’s workplace needs to be clarified. “Employee relations basically involves the body of work concerned with maintaining employee-employer relation, which contributes to satisfactory productivity, increase in employee morale and motivation.” So, in essence employee relation is concerned with resolving problems and preventing them from occurring in the first place which may involve individuals who affect work situations. Supervisors are advices on how to correct poor employee performance and situations of misconduct by an employee. In such instances, regulation, discipline and other requirements are bound to be considered in effect of disciplinary actions to resolve employee grievances and appeals. Information is also provided to employees so that a better understanding of management’s goals and policies along with company objectives is promoted in the right way. Besides that information on how to correct poor performance is also given to the employees as well as information on, off duty or on duty misconduct and addressing personal issues which may affect them and their work in the workplace. Employees are advised about applicable legislation, regulations and agreements as well as their rights when it comes to appealing, grievances, whistle-blowing, discrimination and protection rights.

What is the meaning of employee relations to employers?

Some conclusions taken from research are given below:

• Public sector managers see union influences as strong as opposed to the private sector managers.

• When it comes to managing business risk, employee relations becomes strategic.

• Almost 2/3 of unionized employers believe that the relationship between unions and managements is either positive or very positive.

• Employee relation is primarily seen as a philosophy or a skill set rather than being a function of management.

• In spite of being well-publicized the emphasis of employee relations is shifty. From individual employees to collective institutions.

Employee engagement

Engagement has been described as: “a combination of commitment and organizational citizenship.” Business goals and financial returns are achieved because they are immensely dependent on relief from front-line employees. People management policies and practices that contribute in the construction of employee engagement include:

•    Team work
•    Balance in Work and life
•    Employee voice

How do human resource professionals display employee relations competencies?

[adsense1]Good communication is the glue that makes management policies real, without good communication they are ineffective. The fact is that communication is a two way road or process, which involves dialogue rather than instructions, though this theory is well established; not practicing is what causes problems. Many organizations suffer in this area because they do not give communication the priority it deserves. Getting communication right involves a lot of persistence, professionalism, practice and patience not only by the employees but also by the employers. The qualities which are needed for good communication include, taking a positive problem solving approach rather than focusing on the negative approach, focusing on positive employee behavior, anticipating problems and planning ahead, having the ability to offer sound advice, recommending solutions to problems on spot, being able to implement advice on diverse and complicated matters. Negotiating skills are also a good part of the deal, thought they aren’t used as often. A much more pronounced knowledge is requires, along with the skills to apply it to everyday work, which may include communication, conflict management, interpreting employee attitudes, surveying employees. However the most important ability is to fit practice and policy to suit the organization goals and objectives and the character of its workforce.

Managing workplace conflict

Managing conflict in the workplace has become a key issue for many organizations today, especially with the increase in business expansion to other areas and continents this problem has only increased. Here the need of employee relation has become vital. “Mediation as a method or technique of resolving workplace issues represents an important shift from the traditional industrial relations framework, with its emphasis on formal discipline and grievance procedures, towards more of a ‘win-win’ approach consistent with the philosophy of HR management.”

Value of employee relations

Employee relations have become valuable to a considerable extent according to Keller, “it is only in the public sector that trade unions retain a measure of their former strength and influence in the workplace. Union influence in the private sector, on the other hand, continues to decline. ‘Employee relations’ as a term remains ambiguous, with no clear boundaries. The traditional academic models of industrial relations have only limited relevance to what managers do today. Employee relations can nevertheless point to an underlying philosophy and attitudes and skills that are still needed by HR practitioners. Commitment and engagement are crucial to performance but they are not consistently high enough in the hierarchy of line management. More effort needs to be put into training and supporting line managers in. The concept of engagement is helpful in promoting wider interest in the measurement of HR outputs.”

[adsense1]So what are employee relations anyway? What have you learned so far? Employee relations is concerned with building a professional relationship in the workplace so that problems can be recognized and handled in the right way and the company and the employee can both benefit from a positive aspect in the work atmosphere. In any case beyond that, employee relations represents an ambition that employees in any organization should identify and understand and by doing so commit themselves to the goals and objectives of the organization that they work for. As for employee relations specialists, they need to become more strategic in their approach and be able to see the big picture. It also means to be familiar with a variety of techniques and skills which include communication and mediation. But ultimately, employee relations mean asserting more strongly, the interest of employees. However this may not gel with management cultures that still believe in commanding and controlling their workforce. Employee relations are a transformational message, for organizations to understand that they cannot prosper until and unless they understand these simple terms and start working on them so that problems in the organization are controlled.