Have you ever experienced a workplace that was silent, tense, and on the whole just not engaged? What you witnessed was likely an example of poor employee relationship management.
Simply defined, employee relationship management is the driving force behind workplace success, creativity, and involvement – it’s your company’s effort to manage frequent interactions with employees to achieve the goals of the business. Employee relationship management can also extend to interactions between employees, and should serve to further the mission of the company and stimulate positive workplace behavior.
What about small businesses? Is employee relationship management important for your small business, as well? The answer: absolutely. Employee relations affect all businesses, both at the corporate level and at the mom-and-pop level.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways your business might be affected by this crucial aspect of intercompany communication, as well as how you can encourage an atmosphere of positive employee relationship management.
Effective employee management minimizes workplace conflict, misunderstandings, and miscommunication. It is also has a direct impact on the job satisfaction of your employees, as many people ultimately leave businesses due to poor relationships with their boss or co-workers.
No one wants to be in an environment where they’re constantly stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy – simply put, work becomes not worth it. In light of this, you can see how employee satisfaction satisfaction is directly correlated to a decrease in employee turnover.
One easy example of how to improve employee relationship management? The easiest thing in the world: treat your staff well. Show your gratitude for a job well done by praising your workers, or treating them to a reward every now and then (i.e. a day off, a free meal from your establishment if you’re a restaurant proprietor, a free clothing item of their choice if you’re in the retail business, etc.). These displays of appreciation will go a long way toward making your employees feel valued, seen, and motivated, making it more likely that you’ll retain your top employees.
Positive relationships among employees, and between you and your employees, are key to ensuring effective employee relationship management, and to an uplifting workplace environment.
To cultivate an atmosphere of positive employee relationship management, a few conditions are necessary for optimal communication and strong rapport within your business.
For one, strive for transparency with your staff. Transparency means you communicate your expectations with no ambiguity, openly express concerns as well as appreciation, and ultimately value your staff enough to share your honest thoughts and feedback with them. In fact, employees might interpret a lack of information or honesty as a social rejection – if you like someone or trust someone, you’re more open to communicating with them.
In addition, a lack of transparency can result in your staff feeling like they’re being treated unfairly. For instance, if employees don’t understand why they’re not receiving a promotion because you haven’t explained the factors of your decision-making, they may make assumptions that have nothing to do with the reality of the situation. Contrarily, if you communicate openly and directly with your staff, they’ll experience a greater sense of equality and fairness, which will motivate them to do better work for the business.
Another way to cultivate positive employee relationship management is by trusting your staff with more challenging work or projects. Doing so will demonstrate to your workers that you believe in them, and will keep them engaged as they perform their jobs. A few ways to push your employees to grow might be to trust one of your new waiters with a larger party than they’re used to serving, or to leave the operations of your store for your cashier to handle while you step out for a bit.
Remember: if your employees are bored, they’ll be less enthusiastic about their work, and more likely to look for more stimulating positions elsewhere. Challenging your staff is therefore an integral aspect of employee retention, and believing in their ability to meet challenges is an act of positive employee relationship management on your part.
It’s easy to imagine how improved employee relations, as well as improved employee-manager relations, will improve daily business operations. In fact, the benefits are countless!
When successful employee relationship management is cultivated, you can expect:
- Increased comfort and rapport in the workplace
- Employee loyalty to your business
- Reduced miscommunication/fewer misunderstandings
- Improved trust and confidence
- Increased motivation and workplace engagement.
Not only do healthy workplace relationships and conditions drive your staff to work harder and believe in their work – they’ll also, hopefully, begin to view your business as theirs over time, as well. Encouraging your employees to assume a sense of ownership of the business will empower your employees to do the best work they possibly can – it’s simply human nature to care about what’s yours.
Bottom line: the more you validate your employees, the more autonomy you give them, and the more they feel heard, appreciated, and indispensable, the more comfortable and free your staff will feel to take creative liberties and go that “extra mile” at work.
Transforming the workplace into an atmosphere where a person feels wanted and capable is ultimately the key to many business questions, including retention, motivation, and increased employee engagement.
On the flipside of healthy employee relationship management is a workplace with little to no communication, transparency, or trust. As you might’ve guessed, the disadvantages of such an environment can wreak long-term damage on your business, resulting in consequences such as:
- Decreased employee motivation, engagement, and trust
- Decreased employee retention rates
- Customer dissatisfaction (your customers probably won’t be happy if your employees aren’t happy!)
- Decreased employee productivity and creative thinking
- Employee unwillingness to collaborate or cooperate with you/other workers
…and these are only the tip of the iceberg.
For an employee to perform well, he or she needs to enjoy their work and enjoy their workplace, at least to a moderate extent. However, an employee can’t enjoy or focus on their work if their relationships with other employees, or with you, are strained. Many people become stressed and distracted when they don’t feel comfortable with others in their immediate environment, or when there is constantly-occurring conflict behind the scenes. If you suspect this is the case for your employees, it’s time to address the issue.
If you feel that any of the items in the above list correspond to your workplace or your employees, take appropriate action to fix your workplace environment as soon as possible. We’ll explore how in the next section.
Are you ready to begin taking action to improve employee relations? Are you unsure about where to start? Begin with analyzing the mood and conditions of your workplace with these ten questions in mind:
- How long has my oldest (longest-working) employee been with the business?
- How often do my employees leave my business?
- Do my employees frequently seem stressed, overwhelmed, or reticent?
- Do I know the true personalities of my employees? Are they free to be themselves at work?
- Are my employees friends, or friendly, with each other?
- Do my employees like me, and believe I am a competent manager?
- Do my employees seem engaged with the work they’re doing?
- Do I offer career growth or promotions for hard-working staff members?
- Does my business promote openness in dialogue and communication?
- Have I taken any steps to try to assess and improve employee morale?
These are just a few questions to consider as you decide which areas of your business need to change for healthy employee relations to flourish. If you find that any of your answers are negative, brainstorm a few ways in which you can quickly fix the problem.
For example: if you notice your employees seldom speak openly or freely with you or with each other, consider introducing regular team-building activities where employees are encouraged to work together. You might also consider a monthly “town hall” meeting in which employees can raise questions or concerns. These events may well open the door to further and improved communication moving forward.
When in doubt, remember to always enforce and strive for an atmosphere of transparency, trust, openness, and dialogue in the workplace. Your staff will respond positively to such a welcoming environment, and your business will thrive as a result!