Employee relations is a human resource function that focuses on maintaining positive employer-employee relationships that contribute to greater productivity, morale and motivation. This function, typically overseen by employee relations specialists, covers all communications within an organization, employment contracts, workforce planning and conflict resolution. To be effective on the job, employee relations specialists must possess a variety of competencies and strengths, including superior negotiation, communication, interpersonal and analytical skills.
1. Analytical skills
As the link between employers and employees, employee relations specialists must have strong analytical skills to assess workplace situations, evaluate information and draw accurate observations. For example, when five of 30 employees in an organization submit resignation letters in a period of six months, the specialist must find the reason behind the resignations. If the reason for the resignation points to an unhappy workforce, the HR specialist must develop effective solutions, such as offering career coaching, counseling and support services.
2. Communication skills
An effective communication framework in the workplace contributes to healthy employee relationships. Being an employee relations specialist, it’s your duty to use your communication abilities to ensure efficient flow of information throughout the company; right from the office cleaners, through the middle management and into the company’s top executives. For example, when junior employees need a change of workplace policies, you must put your speaking or writing skills to convey the information to senior managers through phone calls or emails in a clear and precise manner.
3. Negotiation skills
Employer–employee agreements are part of an organization’s lifeblood. In the case of employees asking a pay raise, an organization’s management may accept the request and propose an improved remuneration package. If employees turn down the offer because it doesn’t meet their benchmark, the employee relations specialist steps in and uses her negotiation abilities to find a solution that is acceptable and fair to both parties. She can create a committee comprising representatives from both parties and lead them into an agreement. Also, when a company wants its employees to sign performance contracts, but employees reject the proposal, the relations specialist might use her negotiation tactics to consult with top managers and convince them into dropping the idea.
4. Interpersonal skills
Employment relations specialists in management positions need strong interpersonal skills to interact and maintain good relationships with other employees. When investigating a worker who violates an organization's regulations, for instance, the employee relations manager uses his interpersonal and investigative abilities to uncover the truth without damaging relations with the worker. He also uses conflict resolution skills to resolve differences between workers that might affect the organization’s operational efficiency.
The work of an employee relations manager, however, calls for more than just possessing these skills. It also requires an intricate balancing act. You have to strike a balance between representing workers interests and promoting the company’s goals and objectives. Having a willingness to acquire and adapt to other human resource strategies, such as team building, can make a significant contribution to being a driving force behind a happy, united and productive workforce.