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Employee Relations: A Critical Area of HR Management

Employee Relations: A Critical Area of HR Management

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The overall success and productivity of a company hinges on the relationship between employer and employee. This relationship is what creates company culture and can build morale and foster loyalty when managed appropriately. With only 36% of employees reporting they feel engaged with their work and workplace,1 company leaders, including human resources professionals, need to take action to improve employee relations, which is a critical area of HR management.

Let’s explore what employee relations entails and why it is essential for HR professionals to grow their expertise in this field.

What Is Employee Relations?

At its most basic level, employee relations is a legal link formed between employers and employees.2 But, to take this one step further, employee relations is the field of “creating, managing, and maintaining a positive connection between management and the workforce.”3

The field of employee relations aims to improve communication between management and employees, as well as effectively resolve conflicts that arise in the workplace. In order to build a positive workplace culture, employee relations focuses on a mixture of individual, team, and company-wide policies and practices. HR professionals can work with leadership or executive teams to establish effective policies and practices that promote fairness, respect, and open dialogue.

Employee relations is not exactly the same as labor relations, which deals more with the legal aspects of unionized workforces. Labor relations applies to wages, working conditions, working hours, safety at work, etc.4

Benefits of Employee Relations

There are a host of benefits company leaders can expect when a focus is placed on fostering effective employee relations. These benefits include:

  • Improved employee morale and engagement
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved retention
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Decreased costs (due to eliminating high turnover)
  • Positive company culture

When employees feel valued, supported, and heard, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to perform at their best. Improved employee engagement will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the company as a whole, including increased revenue and a positive reputation.

The Role of HR Law in Employee Relations

HR professionals play a key role in fostering positive employee relations by ensuring that employees’ needs and concerns are properly addressed. These professionals can turn to HR law to build positive employee relations. HR law provides the legal framework for employment relationships and governs areas such as discrimination, harassment, and employee rights.

HR professionals who excel in employee relations are equipped to manage conflict, build trust, and improve communication between management and employees. By specializing in HR law, HR professionals will be better equipped to navigate complex legal issues related to employee relations, as well as, mitigate risk and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. They will also play a critical role in advising management on legal matters, developing and implementing policies that align with legal requirements, and handling employee disputes in a fair and legally compliant manner.

Key Skills for Effective Employee Relations

To succeed in employee relations, HR professionals need to develop a range of key skills and strategies. These skills include:

Active Listening

Active listening is essential for understanding employees’ perspectives and concerns. By removing distractions, asking questions, and reflecting back what the employee is sharing, HR professionals can show empathy and create an environment where employees feel valued.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is also crucial for conveying information clearly, resolving conflicts, and fostering positive relationships. HR professionals should strive to establish open channels of communication and encourage feedback from employees.

Conflict Management

Conflict is uncomfortable for many, but when people come together, it’s often unavoidable. Conflict management skills build on active listening and communication. To be effective in this area, HR professionals should stay impartial and positive while patiently letting each side be heard before working toward the best possible solution.

Strategies to Improve Employee Relations

While there is no one-size-fits-all for improving employee relations, there are some general strategies that may be a good starting point. These include:

  • Providing opportunities for employee feedback and participation through suggestion boxes or employee forums
  • Conducting regular employee surveys to gather feedback and identify areas for improvement
  • Implementing effective grievance procedures to address employee concerns and conflicts

By enacting these strategies, HR professionals and company leaders demonstrate a commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive work environment where employees’ voices are heard and their contributions are valued.

Build a Strong, Compliant Workplace Culture With Pitt Law

Effective employee relations is a fundamental aspect of HR management that contributes to the overall success and productivity of an organization. By mastering the key skills and strategies outlined earlier, HR professionals can make a significant impact on their organizations. A firm understanding of HR law is also key in achieving this success.

Pitt Law’s Online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program is here to help those without a JD degree learn what they need to get ahead. Take the next step in advancing your career in HR by exploring these educational opportunities and further enhancing your expertise in employee relations and HR law. Small class sizes and individualized attention will set you up for success during your master’s program and after graduation. Completing the Human Resources Law specialization enables you to be eligible to sit for the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) exams within one year of graduation.

As you prepare to apply for Pitt Law’s Online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program or one of our graduate certificate programs (also offered online), know that an admissions outreach advisor is always on standby to answer your questions, clarify admissions requirements, and review the list of materials we need from you. Schedule a call today.