"There is little success where there is little laughter." - Andrew Carnegie
Your employees spend the majority of their time at work. A workplace survey by HP in 2017 found that employees spend 56 per cent of their time with their “work family” than their real family. This work-family can thrive only when employees share amicable relationships with each other.
In fact, the same survey also found that the respondents say that having a familial relationship with coworkers boosts productivity and feeling of well-being in the workplace.
What Is Employee Relationship Management?
Employee Relationship Management or ERM is the process of managing relationships in an organisation. These relationships can be between the organisation and employees as well as coworkers working at the same level.
For employees to be productive, they need to have a working environment that allows them to be creative. When employees have an easy-going relationship with others at work, it will show in their performance and productivity. There will be more communication, collaboration and cooperation.
An effectively managed ERM will pave the way for a fulfilling employee experience and a feeling of satisfaction from the work your employees do.
Role of HR in Employee Relationship Management
Human resource management can play an important role in building strong employee relationships. They can conduct activities which allow employees to work with each other as well as managers.
I have divided the ways how hr professionals can improve relationships in the workplace into two sections-
Peer relationships, if cultivated properly, can significantly improve your company’s culture. A good relationship builds camaraderie and boosts morale. When teams work together, employees can learn new skills from each other, motivate each other and collaborate. Such a healthy environment encourages employees to perform and achieve their goals.
Here’s how you can improve peer relationships-
1. Build Cross-Functional Teams (CFT)
Cross-functional teams span across organisational boundaries. CFTs allow employees from different departments to come together, combine their skills and work towards a common goal.
Building such teams can allow people from diverse departments who have never worked together to get to know each other. Moreover, when people with different skills work on a project together, problem-solving becomes efficient. When you club together people who are experts in different domains, new and innovative ideas will emerge.
When people work together, they can let go of their presumptions and understand each other’s perspectives. It allows them to see how their team members arrive at a conclusion and their thought process. It makes them more understanding and accepting of each other.
2. Encourage Social Interactions
The best way to get people to interact with each other is through food. At Vantage Circle, we celebrate all major company milestones with mandatory team lunches.
If you think about it, it’s very strange that employees come to work every day, work at the same space but rarely talk to each other. At large corporations, people usually keep to themselves. Even during lunch breaks, they eat at their respective desks, scrolling through their phones, watching videos, etc.
To ensure that employees don’t remain as strangers, you can organise team lunches and potlucks. These events can be great opportunities for people to network with people from other groups. A relaxed environment of this kind can even give rise to friendships and strong bonds.
3. Conduct Team Building Activities
The benefits of conducting team building activities are endless. It makes communication among employees more frequent, improves problem-solving and decision-making skills.
Most importantly, team building activities build and strengthen relationships. When teams collaborate, it paves the way for trust to be built, exchange ideas and opinions. Mostly, it is about sharing and combining knowledge and experience to reach goals.
4. Equip them with Communication Tools
For relationships to form and sustain, employees need to communicate with each other. Lack of communication can cause misunderstandings and as a result, give rise to conflicts.
With the influence and immediacy of technology in the present age, the need to always stay connected is paramount. Workplaces too need to equip themselves similarly.
Empowering employees with communication tools is a great way to ensure that employees can always share important information with each other. Cloud-based messaging tools like Skype, Slack allow people to share messages, pictures and files from anywhere around the world at any time. Therefore, with new-age communication tools, you can effectively strengthen relationships between your remote workers too.
Between the Manager and the Employee
Employees often hesitate before sharing information with their managers because they’re always worried about how it’s going to reflect on their performance review. But managers who can merge the gap between them and their employees without being too friendly or too authoritative will build lasting relationships with their employees.
1) Hold 1:1 Meetings
Different from a feedback or appraisal meeting, a 1-1 meeting is a face-to-face interaction between the manager and the employee. These meetings are pre-decided and held with every individual in the organisation. In these meetings, the employee can discuss anything- new ideas, issues, concerns- with the manager.
Managers play a crucial role when it comes to conducting these meetings. Once you have made time in your calendar to hold a 1-1 with an employee, how your relationship progresses from there depends a lot on you.
First, they must create an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to share their concerns and issues with them.
Secondly, once the employee starts sharing his concerns, the manager must be rational and open-minded while listening and trying to resolve the situation. When the employee sees that you were accepting of their ideas or concerns, they’ll want to come back to you to share. This will build trust and deepen your bond with your employees.
2) Conduct Surveys to Understand how Employees Feel
Working in this industry, we often hear executives and CEOs complaining about how their employees aren’t engaged, their turnover is too high and so on. But instead of trying to find out why the employees aren’t satisfied, companies try to load them with meaningless, etc.
You might be providing employees with great insurance plans but maybe what they really want is a work from home policy. The only way to know this is by conducting surveys.
Surveys like engagement surveys, 360-degree surveys enable the organisation to understand the needs of the organisation. Once you know where you are lacking, you can work on rectifying and providing feasible solutions to your employees.
The result of holding these surveys will be that your workforce will feel that you genuinely care about their needs and requirements. This will build trust, loyalty, improve your branding and strengthen the overall relationship you have with your employees.
3) Transparency and Involvement Must go Hand-in-Hand
One of the worst things you can do as a manager is keeping your employees in the dark. Just like your partner, your employees will never have a trusting relationship with you if they feel you are hiding things from them. Therefore, always be clear and transparent with your actions and the decisions you make. Let everyone know what’s going on in the company, what changes have been adopted, how much the company makes and so on.
Another very important pointer for your employee relationship management is involving employees. When you favour a handful of employees, share information only with them and try to include them in all decision making processes, others take notice. And it’s only natural that they feel offended by it.
Therefore, to maintain a fair and unbiased work environment, include everyone in your discussions. Give everyone the opportunity to share their ideas and express their opinions.