Also referred to as industrial relations, the field of employee relations usually falls under the umbrella of human resources. Since every organization has a human resources department, every employer must manage employee relations to maintain order and productivity within its workforce. Ultimately, employee relations analyzes the relationship of employees with their supervisors and with each other.
Employee relations encompasses programs and communication channels that enforce corporate rules and culture, as well as resolve issues around various workplace issues. For example, employee relations helps develop policies around job screening, recruitment, compensation, mentoring and termination. Employee relations is often handled by human resources professionals who pinpoint and develop solutions that support management objectives. The most effective practices within the field of employee relations include the incorporation of fair hiring practices and equal employment opportunities, as well as the thorough documentation and recordkeeping of employer actions as required by government law.
You can break down employee relations into different codes of conduct, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Workplace behavior addresses issues related to employee attendance, alcohol and drug abuse, profane language and disputes. Employee conduct also investigates disciplinary issues such as theft and insubordination. Some of the types of actions that employers need to perform include adjusting workplace settings and accommodations for religious practices or disabilities. Other areas covered under employee conduct rules include dress code and appearance, as well as sexual harassment and discrimination.
To effectively manage employee relations, managers must have excellent communication skills. Encouraging open and frequent dialogue creates an environment based on trust and mutual respect. For example, if an employee is encountering friction with another worker, management policies should be in place to support an intervention by third-party personnel, such as HR managers. Professionals who help manage employee relations should also be strong problem solvers, project managers and planners. The ability to anticipate issues before they happen; negotiate and comprise on various issues; recommend innovative solutions; and make decisions quickly are also important.
One of the primary benefits of employee relations is that organizations are able to maintain healthy employer-employee relationships. By confronting and effectively managing workplace conflict, employers minimize potentially disruptive behavior. Conflict management also allows managers to enact and enforce formal disciplinary procedures and increase worker loyalty. Recognizing and preventing workplace problems ahead of time also helps employees focus on their professional development, and support overall organizational goals. In more horizontal organizations, effective employee relations promotes a culture that recognizes and takes in account the interests and well-being of employees.