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How to Re-Instate Employee Relations as a Board Priority

Learning & Development 4th July 2024

Employee Relations - PhonecallResearch among HR and C-suite executives has flagged worries about how employee relations are managed — or as the study has suggested, not really managed at all.

40% of the 200 organisations surveyed by AdviserPlus (all large employers with at least 1,000 employees) said there was a lack of investment in ER, and that had led to outdated processes and poor performance. ER in general was described as ‘fairly bad ’or ‘very bad ’when it came to improving retention, creating a positive and productive working environment, and ensuring compliance with policy and legislation.

The biggest problem was found to be among line managers and their lack of capability around dealing with relationships issues (just 27% believed line managers had the skills needed). That was followed by limited budgets for ER, the challenges around providing a business case for ER, and a lack of HR team resources.

A lack of investment at board level

The ‘state of ER’ report authors have pointed to a general culture of decline when it comes to investment and interest in ER at board level. As if it has become a side-issue, a nice-to-have initiative for HR to consider — when good ER processes and skills are an essential foundation to organisational culture, performance and productivity. Unresolved and poorly handled disputes and grievances have an insidious effect across workplaces — and are a fast-track to creating a toxic culture.

There is a great deal more to ER than software systems and use of data to ensure compliance and protection against legal challenges. Important, but really just the starting point.

Good ER comes from a virtuous circle of a good workplace culture, positive relationships and constructive ways of dealing with any issues, large or small. And the driving force for that circle is openness and trust.

A focus is needed on relationships, conversations and building a culture of trust

So when it comes to demonstrating the importance of ER at board level, the issues need to be couched in terms of the bigger picture: how ER makes or breaks a workplace. HR and managers need to be focused on relationships, conversations and building a culture of trust:

  • Creating opportunities for more conversations as part of routines, digitally and face-to-face, and not allowing staff to become complacent and fall into disconnected routines — it’s happening more and more now the novelty of remote working has gone;
  • Providing more development to managers around conversation skills: listening skills, self-awareness, empathy etc;
  • Ensuring there are informal systems to catch grievances early and deal with conflict, via methods like mediation and neutral assessment. In an age of hybrid working,

There are now far more reasons and chances for concerns and minor conflicts to go under the radar, to fester and escalate; and, ultimately, in order to secure the basis of trust, review standards and approaches to workplace investigations.

Photo by Karolina Kaboompics