When engagement is down, retention is low, and eNPS scores aren’t where you’d like them to be, what do you do? The truth is, creating a positive work environment where employees feel like they have a good relationship with their employer is key to turning things around. Strong employee relations fosters open communication, trust, and collaboration within an organization, leading to increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and overall business success. But to improve employee relations, you need a well defined strategy. In this blog, we’ll give you the ten steps to make meaningful improvements.
What Are Employee Relations?
Employee relations refers to the complex and dynamic employer-employee relationship. It includes strategies and policies to create more positive working relationships, stronger communication, and provide better support for employees.
At the end of the day, the goal of employee relations is to nurture a mutually beneficial relationship between an employer and their employees. It will not succeed if it only benefits one or the other.
Because the relationship between employers and employees is so multifaceted, improving employee relations can be difficult. But it’s worth it.
Why is it Important to Improve Employee Relations?
Strong employee relations play a vital role in business success. When employees have positive relationships with their employers and peers, magic starts to happen. You’ll see:
- Higher engagement levels. Improved employee relations contribute to higher levels of employee engagement because employees feel more valued, supported, and connected.
- More job satisfaction. When employees have healthy relationships with their managers and peers, they experience a sense of fulfillment and happiness in their roles.
- Higher retention. Because employees are more engaged and satisfied by their work, fewer employees will want to leave the organization.
- Improved productivity. Effective employee relations foster open and transparent communication channels, which helps employees be better at solving problems and coming up with innovative approaches to tasks and challenges.
- Positive culture. Feeling respected, included, and valued is the foundation of a good work culture. Without strong employee relations, you won’t have as positive of a company culture.
By prioritizing and improving employee relations, you can create a harmonious and productive workplace, resulting in happier employees, higher performance levels, and long-term success.
10 Tips to Improve Employee Relations
Improving employee relations requires a strategic and proactive approach. Consider implementing these ten tips to foster positive relationships, enhance communication, and strengthen the overall work environment:
1. Focus on internal communication.
Effective communication is key to building strong employee relations. There is a lot we could say on this topic, but luckily we have an abundance of resources on our internal communication resource hub.
But here are some high level tips for using internal comms to improve employee relations :
- Stick to a cadence where you regularly share updates, news, and resources with your employees.
- Focus on targeting and personalization so all employees feel like they are getting the information they specifically need to be successful.
- Diversify your channel mix so that all employees have a choice for how they want to receive communications and engage with the company.
- Always use employee feedback to inform your internal communication strategy.
2. Ask for employee feedback.
Because we think employee feedback is such a critical part of the communication process, we should talk about it on its own. And you shouldn’t just be surveying employees to inform your internal comms approach. You should also be using their feedback to drive the business strategy.
Without employee feedback you miss out on learning what’s really going on in your facilities and within your teams. You miss out on a wealth of ideas on how to fix barriers and challenges across the organization. Not to mention, the mere act of surveying and acting on those results is one of the best ways to improve the employee experience.
Here are a few our favorite ways to start collecting this feedback regularly:
- Conduct both long-form and pulse surveys regularly, but stick to a cadence you can actually respond to. More surveys isn’t better. It’s more surveys where you share the results and create a meaningful action plan that moves the needle.
- Hold focus groups where you seek employee feedback on your proposed action plans and get more information about the challenges within the organization.
- Create anonymous suggestion boxes to capture feedback from individuals who might be too shy to speak up in a focus group. This also helps create a feeling that the company is always willing to listen and that employees don’t have to wait for the next survey to be heard.
3. Focus on manager-employee relationships.
Managers impact the employee experience more than almost anything else at work. And that means if you want to improve employee relations, it’s going to start with the manager-employee relationship.
We think Improving manager communications is one of the best places to start. Focus on:
- Training managers on communication best practices.
- Providing managers with talking points for big changes or initiatives so they can more easily stay on script and support the effort.
- Coaching managers on how to host more effective on-on-one meetings, including how often to schedule them.
4. Make career development a priority.
A big reason employees quit? They don’t feel invested in. They don’t think they have a future at your company.
While money isn’t everything, it is still a big motivator. All employees want to continue to grow, be challenged, and have the ability to earn more. This is not rocket science, right? So, why don’t we make career development more of a priority?
Creating clear paths for growth and providing more on-the-job training are easy ways to show employees that you care about their futures and that you want them to be part of the company for a while.
5. Create a culture of meaningful recognition.
Another guaranteed way to improve employee relations? Showing regular, thoughtful appreciation to your employees.
There are so many things you can say thank you for. Whether it’s passing big milestones, achieving goals, and just generally going above and beyond, recognition goes a long way towards making your employees feel good.
But recognition is a huge topic. While so many companies recognize that it should be a priority, too often, we end up creating recognition programs that feel flat or overly repetitive. We have a variety of tips for how to create truly meaningful recognition programs.
Check out our free guide to employee recognition to get started 👇
6. Be impeccable with your word.
If you’ve ever read The Four Agreements, you’ll recognize this as the first and arguably most important of the agreements.
It means to “never use the power of the word against yourself.”
This is a fancy way of saying: be trustworthy. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Companies can easily destroy the trust they build with their employees by saying one thing and doing another. Or by not sharing the whole truth when that information has a big impact on their workforce.
Start to build trust by maintaining transparency and honesty in all communication. Follow through on commitments and promises made to employees. Demonstrating your integrity and reliability establishes credibility and it’s a huge secret to having stronger relationships with your employees.
7. Do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.
At the end of the day, we recognize that your business has to make money. But optimizing your employee relations is one big part of doing that. Which is why it’s so important to show your employees what you stand for and value. And to stand up for those values, even when it’s hard.
Demonstrate your ethical behavior and strong leadership by:
- Consistently making decisions that prioritize employee wellbeing and equity.
- Addressing conflicts and challenges quickly and effectively.
- Fostering trust among employees and managers so employees speak up when they need help or see problems arising.
- Constantly living and communicating the values to set the example of how you conduct business.
8. Improve how you manage corporate change.
Let’s start by saying: change management is hard. There are so many moving pieces and no two employee groups are going to react the same way.
But it’s during change that we have the opportunity to either hurt how our employees perceive us or improve employee relations by doing an amazing job.
When you go through any change, consistent and transparent communication is going to be key. Employees who feel informed, involved, and supported throughout the entire process are much more likely to go along with the change, but they’ll also feel better about it.
Go one step further by involving employees in your corporate change process. But don’t just wait until the last minute to ask their opinion. Involve them early. Your employees are the ones who will be able to tell you if there are problems with the solutions you’re trying to implement and can save you a lot of money and time in the long run.
9. Invest in employee wellbeing.
We’ve said it a lot through this blog: you need to focus on the wellbeing of your employees.
Employee wellbeing is another one of those topics that is easier said than done. Like recognition, it’s important to go past surface-level initiatives. Wellbeing isn’t just about whether or not you offer a gym membership or on-site yoga. It’s about:
- Whether or not your employees feel psychologically safe at work.
- If employees have the flexibility to choose how they integrate or balance their work and personal lives.
- How comfortable employees feel about speaking up to their manager and to senior leadership.
- If they’re able to maintain a healthy lifestyle—in every sense of the word.
As employers, it’s our job to create the space and support structures to enable wellness. We can’t force wellness onto people, and one size definitely does not fit all when it comes to wellbeing. This is why you have to establish feedback loops and two-way communication with your employees.
But if you can do that and unlock the secrets to giving employees what they need to thrive, you’ll drastically improve your employee relations.
10. Give employees a valued voice in the company.
Beyond change management initiatives, it’s important to empower employees and involve them in decision making on a variety of topics.
Create channels for employees to contribute their ideas, suggestions, and feedback. And then actively listen to their perspectives and demonstrate that their opinions are valued and respected.
Let employees also have the power to recognize one another and share their stories. Other employees want to hear from their peers, and this can be a great way to engage your workforce more in communication.
Improve Employee Relations Starting Today
Implementing these ten tips will help create a positive and engaging work environment, fostering stronger employee relations and contributing to the overall success of the organization. Remember, building and maintaining positive employee relations requires ongoing effort and commitment from leaders and the entire workforce.
About the Author
Sydney Lauro is the Demand Generation Manager for theEMPLOYEEapp. Prior to joining the team at theEMPLOYEEapp, Sydney worked in internal communications for Chipotle Mexican Grill. She uses her internal comms expertise and passion for improving communication and the employee experience to create content and share best practices to help other communications professionals.
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