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What are the Essentials of a Good Employee Relations Plan?

Photo of a team meeting representing good employee relations.

If employee retention is not among the top priorities for your organization, it needs to be. In today’s competitive job market, best-in-class employers are offering hefty sign-on bonuses, unlimited PTO, and touting better workplace culture perks to entice your highest performing employees away.

Losing valued employees can be devastating to your organization from a productivity and morale perspective, not to mention your bottom line. According to Gallup, the cost of replacing an employee can be upwards of one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.

What can you do to retain your team?

Be intentional about building positive relationships with your employees and establish an Employee Relations Plan. Although this may seem like common sense, many employers miss countless opportunities to foster positive experiences for their employees. If you leave relationship building to chance, you are missing out on some key opportunities to build trust and loyalty with your employees.

In this article, we’ll highlight the key components you should consider in designing and implementing your Employee Relations Plan.

What is an Employee Relations Plan?

Think of an Employee Relations Plan as an employer’s recipe for how to create a positive relationship with their employees. All relationships are built through the accumulation of experiences, and employer relationships are no different. An employee’s relationship with the company is not only established through relationships with other team members, but it is also connected to the company as a whole.

If you want to foster a positive relationship with anyone, the good experiences must outweigh the bad experiences. Keep in mind that it’s human nature to remember negative experiences longer and more profoundly than positive ones, so you have to work harder to create a long-lasting positive impact. An employee relations plan should be designed to minimize negative experiences and include policies and programs that foster goodwill and trust.

Build Upon a Philosophy and Vision

A successful Employee Relations Plan is built upon a solid foundation of your philosophy and vision for the plan. As you develop the guiding principles for your plan, think about the behaviors you want to encourage and the experience you want your employees to have.

Some components to consider are:

  • How will the plan incorporate living your company values?
  • How will you foster a safe and productive work environment?
  • What values, beliefs, and behaviors do you want to support in order to nurture your company culture?

Identify Key Employee Relations Touch Points

Every employee has a journey through the organization. A great employee relations plan begins on an employee’s first day and continues until their final day of employment. Before a plan can be made, identify key touch points and be intentional about creating the conditions necessary to make them as positive and beneficial as possible.

Example Touch Points in the Employee Experience:

  • Onboarding
  • Organizational Values, Mission, and Vision
  • Company Handbook & Policies
  • One-on-Ones with Supervisors
  • Individual Goal Setting
  • Performance Reviews
  • Internal Communications
  • Professional Growth & Development Opportunities
  • Recognition Programs

How to Develop an Employee Relations Plan

Once the key touchpoints are identified, the company can establish policies, procedures, engagement opportunities, and provide training that drives behavior from all team members towards the employee relations vision.

Start with Onboarding

A recent Harvard Business Review article reveals that implementing a formal onboarding program could result in 50% greater employee retention among new recruits and 62% greater productivity within the same group. When designing an onboarding program, consider what the company can do to set the employee up for success. Involving management in the onboarding process and establishing a mentor are proven ways to improve your onboarding success.

Prioritize Good Communication at Every Level

Frequent communication is vital to your employee relations plan. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13% of employees strongly agreed that the leadership of their organization communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. Lack of information from leadership can have a detrimental impact if a rumor mill flourishes and undermines the success of the organization.

Being proactive and establishing regular lines of communication with employees is key. Set expectations that organizational leaders and managers have regular one-on-one communication with employees. Provide leadership with the training, time, and resources necessary to build genuine connections with their employees.

Ensure Company Policies Support the Desired Behaviors

Having company policies that clearly outline appropriate workplace behaviors and how employee complaints are handled are critical components to employee relations. Organizations with a good employee relations philosophy focus less on managing complaints and more on understanding and addressing the root cause of issues. By seeking to understand the underlying cause of an issue, it allows the organization to address the current complaint, and in turn, take steps to avoid repeating the situation. Using this root cause analysis approach and addressing those issues will result in fewer complaints needing to be investigated in the long run.

Implement Company-Wide and Peer-to-Peer Recognition Programs

Recognition programs can be an excellent tool in nurturing a healthy workplace culture. Employees need to feel valued to be truly fulfilled in their role. A healthy dose of recognition from all levels within a company will foster goodwill across the organization. Empowering management to provide rewards and recognition to their team is so beneficial to building positive relations. Peer-to-peer recognition programs can be especially successful in establishing a culture of gratitude, appreciation, and respect for team members.

Don’t Assume You Know What Employees Want – Ask Them

You may think that your onboarding program is going great, communication from company leaders and managers is on-target and meeting employees’ needs, and your recognition programs are rewarding employees in meaningful ways… but are they? If you haven’t asked for employee input on the cornerstones of your employee relations plan, then you may be missing out on critical components that employees value. Given that they are the population you are working hard to retain, we recommend going directly to the source to solicit employee feedback whether through employee surveys, pulse surveys, focus groups, stay interviews, and more. Using employee input in the design and implementation of your Employee Relations Plan will help to ensure its success.

Thank you to Colleen Mahoney, PHR for contributing to this Emerging Issues in HR.

Strategic HR understands the value of retaining your workforce through good Employee Relations. We’ve helped companies nurture their cultures by designing/updating employee handbooks, creating reward and recognition programs, providing training for safe and productive workplaces, gathering feedback through employee surveys, pulse surveys, focus groups, and more. Learn more about our Employee Relations Services, or contact us.