What is employee relations?

And how can you manage it?

Employee relations focuses on the rapport that you have with your employees. The better this rapport is, the more likely that your employees will reach their full potential.

But if your relationship with an employee is bad—for example, there's a lack of trust, or there's resentment, or your employee fears you, you've got an employee who's probably disengaged from their job.

Your employees are your business's best assets. If you don't look after them, they depreciate in value because they're not fully focused on doing the best that they can in their job role.

Is there an employee relations definition?

So what is employee relations? Well, it's your overall interaction with an employee. It's your contractual relationship with them, and it's your bond with them as people working in the same environment for a large amount of time every day.

And of course, it's your practical connection with them—how well do you work as a team?

As we go through this guide, it'll become obvious to you that strong communication is the skill you need to practise most when managing employee relations. Effective communication can get you out of many workplace tight spots.

The effects of strong employee relations

When you have a genuine and positive bond with an employee, they'll feel good about coming to work each day.

When your employees are motivated to do their job, you can expect:

When your employees are engaged in their work, and happy in their surroundings, they provide better customer service and bring in more revenue.

So when employee relations are strong in your workplace, you can expect your business to grow.

But what about the effects of poor employee relations?

When the bond between your staff is fragile, and they fear you, resent you, or simply don't get on with you, they're less likely to want to be at work. This means they're not going to put maximum effort into their job.

Your customers suffer, and revenue falls.

Employees leave, meaning staff turnover rises, and you're hit with recruitment and training costs.

You lose certain skills and experience when a person leaves, and this can be a backwards step for your organisation.

So, you need to avoid poor employee relations

Create an employee relations handbook—this can essentially be a people management blueprint for you and your management staff.

Here's what you shouldn't be doing:

  • Micromanaging your staff. Instead, have one short weekly meeting, and then trust your staff to approach you if they have concerns. They don't need the hassle of needing to update you every hour, on the hour.
  • Showing favouritism towards any employees—this can demoralise staff and create tension between colleagues. On the flip side, don't subject anyone to unfair treatment, either.
  • Being vague. If you're giving out an instruction, always explain it in the simplest way possible. It's better to presume that someone doesn't know something and to engage them in conversation about it, than to presume that they do know—and find out a week later that they had no idea what you were talking about!

And here's what you should be doing:

Schedule weekly catch-up meetings

Your staff want to learn, improve, and become valuable assets to your business—all while earning their salary in a meaningful way.

Build a management structure that gives each employee a weekly one-to-one for around half an hour with their line manager or supervisor.

These meetings should give your employee and their manager the chance to discuss the employee's progress during the previous week.

They can devise the work plan for the week ahead, as well as discuss any pain points, or opportunities for improvement

The manager should use these sessions to build their relations with their team. Asking about an employee's weekend, and their general wellbeing, are good ways to show care.

Reward your staff with a benefits package focused on their wellbeing

There are plenty of low-cost benefits that you can give your staff that will help them to be healthier, happier, and more productive. For example:

  • Free membership at the nearby gym.
  • Vouchers for local eateries that sell healthy food, such as a salad bar.
  • Travel expenses or car allowances.
  • An employee assistance programme.

Celebrate employee success

Reserve a short chunk of time once per week (a Friday afternoon would be best), for your teams to come together and report their achievements for the week gone. Begin the weekend on a high by recognising the achievements of your employees, and thanking them for their contributions.

The employee of the month award is still a great way to single someone out for special recognition.

Prizes can be simple—a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, vouchers for a restaurant... you get the gist.

Be honest and transparent with your staff

Here we go—communication. It's critical, if your business is to succeed, that your staff know that they can talk to you about any concerns.

People spend over a third of their day working—a massive portion of their time—and it's only fair that you show them that you're aware of this. You've got a vision for the future success of your business—so share it with your staff. Give them a reason to choose to invest themselves in your vision.

Quarterly employee satisfaction surveys and an open door policy are simple and free methods for you to inspect the vibes of your workforce, too.

Were you expecting this article to be about relationships between employees? Read our article on workplace affairs.

Need help?

BrightHR customers get free access to employment law advice all year round, so if you're confused about any of the elements of employee relations, you only need to give us a call on 0800 783 2806.

Not a BrightHR customer yet? Well, what are you waiting for?

Sign up for your free demo of BrightHR's HR software today and make managing your business as simple as tapping your phone screen.

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