One of the most important areas of Human Resources is Employee Relations. Healthy employee relations are the lifeblood of the organization. If employees feel positive about their identity, secure in their jobs, and a part of the organization; they come to share and embrace the organization’s vision, core values, and direction for the future.
A healthy work environment is one that is safe, empowering, and satisfying for the employee. It develops from employee involvement, incentives that are appealing, and open communications that takes place in an atmosphere of candor. This requires a proactive approach that hinges on the communication within the organization.
The role of Internal Communications
Researchers have examined the role of internal communication and its effect on employee’s perception of the company. For example, good internal communication was found to help promote innovation, improve organizational climate, and reduce the number and significance of employee issues (i.e. attendance, work related injuries, tardiness, etc.). While keeping employees informed about company policies, procedures, and decisions was found to be important; personal conversations about the employee, their family, their job, etc. were found to be instrumental in building a trusting work relationship.
But good communication is more that requiring supervisors and managers to listen. Employees need to feel their opinions are trusted, respected, valued, and appreciated. Consequently, it also requires the leadership to disclose information. Disclosure communicates trust which is so necessary in establishing a productive relationship. Insuring that employees are well-informed about what is happening in the organization helps employees understand operational goals and can offer their perspective on the perceived challenges and issues. This can’t happen without an atmosphere of trust which comes from the disclosure and frank communication.
A word of caution, however, casual conversations should avoid subjects that engender emotional or even controversial opinions. Keep it to safe subjects, family, work, hobbies, friends, etc., and avoid topics like religion, politics, personal information (if possible), and social issues. It’s okay if you share your secrets with your colleagues but you should know where to draw the line. A sense of trust is important., but sensitive topics can easily sabotage all your efforts to build the relationship. If conversations drift to a controversial topic, change the subject or redirect the conversation to a safer one.
Communications in conflicts
But despite the best efforts in Employee Relations, there are circumstances when employees and management relations conflict. It’s how these situations are managed that either serves to escalate tensions or are viewed as points of problem-solving. These situations require a degree of flexibility from organizational leaders that is more than just concern for their people. It requires them adapt to each person’s unique needs, which are ascertained through the relationship established by the supervisor, management, and co-workers.
Relationships are necessary in order to build a shared of mind where people are held accountable for core values by themselves and their co-workers. Think about relationships you have with others, you know and understand the values held by the other person, so you avoid violating them to maintain the relationship. Knowing your employee enables you to develop these kinds of relationships and allow you to have open, candid conversations that get at the real issues surrounding the problem. If these types of relationship can be established at all levels of management, a shared sense of purpose and mutual trust will be fostered throughout the organization.
Good communication is not simply about passing information down; it is also about sharing information, trusting people to interpret that information, and listening to what people say (and then, if necessary, acting upon what has been said or explaining why no action has been taken). Despite communication being high on the agenda for most organizations, surveys have shown that only around one in ten employees feels fully informed about what is happening in their organization. Implicit in there being mutual trust is the process of sharing information. It is important that an organization has a communication strategy for regular communications. In some situations, there will also be a need to develop communication strategies to communicate specific information. For example, at a time of change the need for clear and regular communication becomes even more apparent, and different methods of communication may be required.
An understanding of how to develop trust and respect and an awareness of employee attitudes and feelings is critical to achieving the best business performance. While treating them in a fair and equitable manner goes a long way toward building a relationship, there must be opportunities for them to grow and develop, gain added responsibilities, and most importantly, be allowed to make mistakes. If employees have confidence in the company’s approachability on issues or concern and that those concerns will be fairly dealt with, they are more motivated to remain with the company and use company channels to resolve issues as opposed to outside remedies. Poor communication, on the other hand, acts as a barrier to employee engagement. The worst scenario is that only bad news is communicated.