COVID-19 has provided businesses with the opportunity to consciously enhance and curate business culture harnessing the insights learned from the unprecedented overnight change from world health and economic crisis.
Now is the time to decide the legacy you will leave behind as you lead your team or business successfully out of a pandemic. The question to ask yourself is; will you create something that both you and your employees are proud to be a part of, one of genuine connection, care, and empowerment that produces an engaged, productive, successful business for the future, or are you going to leave it all to chance?
The term ’employee relations’ refers to a business’s efforts to manage relationships between employers and employees and in its essence, it sets the foundations for a positive workplace culture/environment.
Effective employee relations can be the difference between high-performing teams and on the opposite end of the spectrum, a toxic culture where high employee turnover and burnout are symptomatic of a costly problem often stemming from leadership.
All too often we see a strong intention from business leaders to change the culture through committing to improving employee relations only to have it undone by one or two people. When it comes to creating a positive employee relations strategy, the overall buy-in from everyone involved needs to be100%.
It is our fundamental belief and hence, flows through all our practices when it comes to working with businesses to design employee relations strategies, that if you have true alignment to yourself, your team, and your business; clarity, empowerment, engagement, fulfillment and sustainable success naturally flow! The key is to start with genuine connection and alignment, and we’re committed to showing businesses how.
We have developed 8 key elements that are critical to building a positive workplace culture; one that empowers individuals to perform at their best.
Build Authentic Connections
This step doesn’t begin when the employee joins your business, rather, it’s from the first interaction they have with you and your business. True to laying a solid foundation in any relationship, there needs to be a mutual understanding of the benefit from investment both parties in the relationship will receive.
Where managers and employers go wrong is when they believe business relationships are purely transactional. The more time you spend building, nurturing, and understanding one another the stronger employees’ commitment.
When we meet with businesses we often meet with multiple employees throughout the business and a great way to conduct a ‘health check’ on the relationships that exist is by asking the question; Does the business/your manager care about you beyond what they get from you?
So how do you begin to build these authentic connections? Recognise that each employee is much more than the role they fill in your team and organisation. They have their values and interests outside their employment and they are in your team or business for their own purpose/reason. Take the time to get to know and understand each person. Understanding their purpose, motivations, interests outside work, their passions; all the intricacies that make them who they are. It is through this investment that you begin engaging their head and their heart.
Put your people first, they’re powerful
One of our core pillars is “embrace who we are”. This pillar recognises all the unique differences that each person possesses that cannot be replicated by another person. These unique combinations of skills, knowledge, and attributes make every individual uniquely valuable to each business.
When businesses begin to embrace each person for who they are, they can unlock their full potential. The sooner businesses realise that their most powerful asset is their people, the sooner they can break down barriers to further increase efficiencies, engagement, and overall output.
Align yourself, your team, and the business
True alignment can only occur where there is a genuine connection and those individuals in leadership positions are committed to increasing their understanding of their team. When managers and senior leadership seek first to understand, they begin to actively listen to the information that is being given and can work to develop ways to respond that is meaningful to their employees.
For example; if you are a marketing manager you will know that you must seek first to understand your customer; who they are, what they want, how they spend their time, and every other valuable insight you can gather to make your campaign a success. Similarly, as a manager, it is just as important to gather insights into the employees in your team. Whilst managers may be experts in their fields, too often they overlook the critical element of understanding what it means to manage people and as such, they move to micromanaging rather than understanding.
To be clear is to be kind
In a world of distraction and interruption, clarity aids productivity and enables people to feel a sense of accomplishment. Gone are the days of power management where hoarding information was seen to be an effective management strategy; it simply does not work. In a world where nearly everything has become instantaneous, it is easy to get lost in low-value tasks such as responding to every email in your inbox.
Providing your team or business with cultural principles that clearly outline a standard of behaviours in working and all engagements is the easiest way to begin creating an environment where clarity is nurtured and accountability is adopted. It ensures businesses articulate “the way we do things around here” and provides clear actionable behaviours that bring the business’s values to life.
Show meaningful appreciation
Businesses need to recognise when individuals or teams go above and beyond to achieve an outcome or deadline without this then becoming the new expectation. Immediately following such an effort, effective managers will know how to show meaningful appreciation based on their teams’ needs, motivators, and interests (because they have created authentic connection!!)
Too often people forget to show appreciation for the effort teams and individuals display as many businesses adopt the mindset that this is “just part of their job”. When you have established a connection with a person and taken the time to understand what is important to them, showing appreciation comes naturally.
Communication is key
Communicating with employees solely through memos or emails is not only inefficient but impersonal. Teams and individuals will feel as though they are not an integral part of your company if all you ever do is talk at them. Your employees are some of the most important resources you have so having two-way personal communication is essential.
Creating environments where communication is not just filtered from “the top, down” is critical to building a culture where people feel transparency of information is at the forefront of the business’s practices. Developing communications in consultation with all stakeholders to ensure strong alignment with the business’s strategy, branding, cultural principles (values), and objectives are paramount to ensuring consistency, transparency, and continuous trust are being reinforced.
If you’re not on the bus, don’t expect to arrive at your stop
Much to our dismay, we are too often met with the common misconception that employee relations are the sole responsibility and job of Human Resources (HR). From experience, if employee relations are not met with enthusiasm at a senior leadership/managerial level, HR can try all they want, but the cultural climate will remain the same for employees. The investment and buy-in from everyone who has an impact on driving an overall employee relations strategy are imperative to its effectiveness and long-term success.
The behaviours managers and leaders display and act on will be adopted as the business’s standard set of acceptable behaviours (irrespective of them being complementary to or contradictory to the overall employee relations strategy). If these behaviours are inconsistent with the strategy’s foundations, it becomes near impossible to effectively “arrive at the desired destination.”
Choose a conscious culture. Work at it, maintain it, and evolve it!
At the core of employee relations, we are talking about the culture of your business. We certainly see stark differences in businesses that see culture as important, invest in it, make it a priority, consciously nurture and grow it, and businesses that leave their culture up to chance.
The reality is that every time you hire a new member of a team/business, their presence (whilst welcomed) dilutes what you have worked to create in your conscious culture. As such, it is important to understand that with this, you must re-invest in curating it.
Everything noted above is not just something that you can do once and tick off your to-do list. People, businesses, and teams are living organisms that are constantly changing and evolving as a consequence of their environment, and so too is the work required.