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Rise of Employee Relations – How to Align Employer and Employee Expectations

With today’s work environment requiring organizations to become more agile, faster, and transparent, the primary goal of every employee relations strategy should be to improve employee satisfaction and engagement. However, we should not feel bad about expecting employees to do what we need them to do, versus what they want to do – the real magic happens when these two things are aligned.    

As we heard at HRPA's Washington Policy Conference, the need for exceptional Employee Relations professionals is essential.   It seems to be a skill that needs to be recognized and valued in business, especially as the corporate cultures are being challenged and the employee and office dynamics continue to evolve. While we spent the last 10-15 years implementing HCM Systems and investing in data analytics, I think it’s time to reinvest in the employee relations functions. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about relationship management and meeting/exceeding everchanging expectations.  Proper employee relationship management must include effective communication, employee engagement initiatives, a structured employee experience plan, and the implementation of the right tools and technology to keep them connected, informed and empowered. (Haiilo – What Are Employee Relations and Why They Are Important) 

As the trumpets have sounded for employees to return to the office there seems to be a reluctance as employees don’t seem to want to give up “control” of their schedules and newfound freedoms while working remotely.  Do we continue to cater to the voices of those wanting more control, or do we start pulling the entire organization back to center and get everyone refocused on the charter of the organization?    As I have written about in the past, finding and keeping your true North is critical to employee commitment and engagement to what’s important to the organization – not social media, what’s trending, or too much of the “feel good”.  We should not feel bad about expecting employees and associates to do what we need them to do, versus what they want to do – the real magic happens when these two things are aligned.  Failure to get these items aligned will result in simply managing ourselves to mediocracy without regard for meritocracy and delivering results for shareholders? 

What if we don’t?  From my perspective, there obviously needs to be a balance to ensure continuity and positive employee relations.  However, we cannot afford a “hostile takeover” from within the company.  If we think fighting external activists and special interest groups are a challenge, just wait and see what happens if the internal activists spark their own cultural takeover and impact your ability to run the company day to day while having to consult with every employee resource group you’ve chosen to support and endorse.  Don’t misunderstand my intent here, I am a supporter of Employee Resource Groups and consider them an important element in employee community and belonging – they clearly add value.  However, some have moved to the point of attending executive planning meetings, speaking to the Board of Directors and leveraging their size to overly influence company direction.  The loudest voices get the most attention – some positive and some negative.   But how do we ensure the right voices are heard?  You do it through effective employee relations programs! 

At the end of the day, a well thought out employee relations program (communications, a structured employee experience and engagement activities) will provide opportunities to demonstrate trust, ensure alignment of interests, solidify commitment and create an environment where one wants to live out their career. 

Published on: September 21, 2022

Authors: James E. Jones

Topics: Employee Relations, Global

James E. Jones

Senior Advisor, HR Policy Global, HR Policy Association

Detailed Bio

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