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5 tactics to improve employee relations

A successful business relies on positive employee relations.

Employee relations focuses on ensuring that your employees are happy and engaged at work. You may have a lot on your plate, and it may seem like employee relations can be set aside until it’s convenient, but it can’t. With the rise in remote and hybrid workplaces, you need to ensure that your employees are happy, satisfied, and engaged.

Employee relations—the manner in which the managers and HR representatives at your company interact with your workers—can have a huge impact on your workplace culture. Maintaining positive employee relations helps to improve staff morale, reduce workplace conflict and ultimately, increase productivity.

Here at SurveyMonkey, we strive to stay on top of the most up-to-date research on the workplace. Using the millions of responses we gather on a daily basis as a guide, here are some straightforward ideas and tactics for improving employee relations at your organization.

Follow the following five steps to ensure that your employee relationship management leads to increased employee wellbeing and performance:

First impressions matter. Subjecting an excited new employee to endless paperwork and meaningless presentations won’t capitalize on their initial enthusiasm. Instead, greet them just as enthusiastically and take the time to personally get them set up for work. Introduce them to their coworkers and even assign a mentor to help them acclimate. Making them feel like they’re valued and welcome from the very beginning will set a positive tone that that will remain with them as they learn how they fit into to your company and their new job.

More often than not, the focus of evaluations are on how an employee can improve and what they need to do better. In addition to this, employees need to hear about the things that they do right—on a regular basis.

  • Let them know they have value. Believe it or not, employees actually need to hear this on a regular basis. Letting them know when you think they handled a situation well or did a good job in a difficult situation makes them feel like they are an asset to your team.
  • Say thank you. Employees who feel that they have supportive supervisors who recognize the good work they do are 67 percent more engaged than those who don’t. They are also far more likely to remain with your company. A simple thank-you card or note can make more of a difference than you realize.
  • Publicly recognize high achievers. Praising employees at monthly or weekly meetings for their accomplishments and positive contributions to your company will serve to motivate the ones you recognize and inspire others to work harder.

Communicating with employees solely through memos or emails is not only inefficient, but also impersonal. Workers will easily feel as if they are not an integral part of your company if all you ever do is talk at them. Your employees are some of the most important resources you have, and so having two-way personal communication is essential.

  • Be visible. Managers and HR representatives should make themselves seen and ensure that employees know they are accessible and approachable. This offers your employees the opportunity to easily seek any guidance or assistance they may need in order to be at their most productive – and to deal with any issues or concerns they may have.
  • Have regular company meetings. This gives you a chance to share important information, provide updates, and allow your employees to ask questions.
  • Involve employees in goal-setting. Employees who are involved in setting goals for themselves, their team, and your company will take ownership of those goals and work much harder to meet them.
  • Offer transparency. Employees who feel that their managers are open, honest, and trustworthy, are 94 percent more likely to be happy at work. Transparency also works to create a more cooperative workplace atmosphere.

Companies that take an active role in offering and encouraging career development for their employees will find that they end up with a more motivated and well-equipped workforce. Managers and HR representatives should work closely with employees regarding ways they can improve on their existing skills and get new training.

  • Set up professional development plans. This can help your employees reach their career goals. On a recent study we conducted with The Ladders, we found that Millennials, Gen-Xs and Baby Boomers all ranked professional development opportunities as the second most important element when deciding whether or not to take a job.
  • Consider a tuition reimbursement program. Assisting your employees with furthering their education while working for your company makes for a better-trained, more flexible workforce– and enhances their sense of loyalty to your company.
  • Provide career advancement opportunities. In the same SurveyMonkey/Ladders study, we found that the majority of Millennials, Gen-Xs, Baby Boomers and older workers expect to receive a promotion within one to two years of starting a job.

If your employees are happy, they will be more engaged as well as more productive at work. The brain of a person in a positive mood simply performs better than that of an unhappy person. And happy workers are also more creative and better at solving problems. Simply letting your workers know that you care about their happiness is the first step, but you can also take some additional steps to create happier employees.

  • Make sure they are in the right job. Your employees won’t be happy or successful in their work if they aren’t in a job that they are well-suited for. Believe it or not, today’s employees cite doing their best as very important, and for many, it’s the main element they’re looking for in a job.
  • Give them meaningful work. In a recent study, SurveyMonkey found that employees ranked meaningful work as the second most important aspect of a job.

Employee relations establish the foundation of trust between your company and its employees. When your employees feel valued, respected, and a sense of belonging at the workplace, it not only benefits them—it benefits the company as well. A strong connection between workers and employers facilitates improved communication and collaboration, which results in a favorable work environment. Just remember—trust is a major component of good employee relations.

There are numerous advantages to good employee relations. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant:

Highly-engaged employees make your company more profitable. You’ll experience less staff turnover, fewer safety issues, and enjoy higher rates of customer loyalty. Employee engagement results in higher productivity, motivation, and job satisfaction.

To improve communication and drive improved engagement, try these tips:

  • Ensure employees are kept in the loop about any proposed changes to expectations
  • Encourage open communication
  • Continue to provide feedback and recognition
  • Promote open discussion and sharing

Conflicts in the workplace are detrimental to your business. Usually occurring between employer and employee, these conflicts only get bigger if neglected. Establish good employee relations during the first 45 days of employment, when new employees are acclimating to their jobs. This sets things up for a positive relationship throughout their employment with you.

In an environment of trust, employees are empowered and confident. The key to this empowerment is found in providing opportunities for autonomy and increased responsibility. 

All of your employee relations efforts will result in a thriving company culture. This harkens back to the trust you’re building. Employees that feel they are working with management towards a common goal are more likely to think positively about their workplace. When employees trust the company they work for, they are more likely to adhere to policies, be aligned with your brand mission and values, and invest themselves in making the workplace a better place. 

Great employee relations can decrease the pressure to overwork. If employers express their support for a good work-life balance, they reduce the risk of employees becoming demotivated and burnt out. A good work-life balance will also support employee retention.

With improved employee relations, your employees will advocate for your company. This, in turn, builds your brand, expands your reach, and builds your social media presence. Support this by being transparent and keeping employees informed of company news.

Your healthy work culture includes every employee. Create an environment that allows everyone to participate and thrive. Ensure your DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies are up-to-date and that employees have received appropriate information and training.

With good employee relations, you can identify problems and concerns early rather than waiting for a crisis. These are some of the most commonly reported employee relations issues:

  • Pay disputes: issues regarding inadequate wages and extended contracts at a given salary 
  • Dress code violations: employees refusing to follow the company dress code, including remote employees
  • Benefits violations: abuse of health insurance or other benefits
  • Safety violations: employer negligence in the enforcement of safety policies and training
  • Absence violations: abuse of sick days or time theft
  • Wage theft: arises in situations when either an employee or the employer does not reimburse for incurred expenses
  • Sexual harassment: inappropriate and unwelcome remarks or physical advances
  • Discrimination: unjust treatment of employees based on race, age, or gender identity
  • Favoritism: preferential treatment of one person or group at the expense of another

As you can see, employee relations issues can be extremely serious. It’s worth taking the time to improve your company’s employee relations to avoid these problems, as they can negatively affect productivity and morale. 

Avoid these disruptive issues with a workplace that is free of discrimination, harassment, and favoritism. Ensure that you are communicating openly about your mission, vision, and policies. Address employee relations not only during new employee orientation but also periodically for all employees to maintain trust. 

Whatever steps you take to improve employee relations, you’ll want to be able to evaluate employee engagement on a consistent cadence and use benchmark data to compare your results to other companies.

You’ll find that at SurveyMonkey, we offer a wealth of information, questionnaire templates, and solutions to help encourage your employees to be healthier, happier, and more engaged.

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