Employee Relations Start with LeadershipTomChilders
“Employee Relations involves the body of work concerned with maintaining employer-employee relationships that contribute to satisfactory productivity, motivation, and morale. Essentially, employee relations is concerned with preventing and resolving problems involving individuals which arise out of or affect work situations.” – from NASA’s Goodard Space Flight Center, Office of Human Capital Management
There are quite a few ways to approach this topic, but since we are an industry of small businesses and owner/operators, we will start with what is perhaps the most critical element, leadership. Leadership should exhibit a relentless focus on the mission and vision while simultaneously modeling desired behavior with the utmost in integrity. How goals and results are achieved matters as much as what results are achieved.
Sound lofty? It is and good leadership is not easy. It requires explaining, inspiring, coaching, teaching and listening, but the challenge here can be knowing when it is time to do which. The best leaders know and have that sense. They also tend to understand they have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening is more important than talking, and when the feedback says a change is warranted be willing to make it.
Soliciting, listening and acting on feedback is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you care and value employees and their opinions. This in turn can boost morale, enhance productivity and foster a motivating environment. Remember, one of the real advantages of being a small business is the ability to communicate directly and efficiently with employees which can enhance competitiveness. This doesn’t mean you have to act on every suggestion, but it does mean open and honest dialogue with solid rationale as to why something is or is not done.
In the areas of goal setting and planning, employee involvement can go a long way in fostering success and healthy relations. Participative decision making styles can lead to easier and earlier buy in and true team production. If the team helps define the goals and says they are the right goals, you have taken great strides to gain and maintain their commitment. Keeping the goals in front of them and communicating progress is another good practice. This is also a great way to keep feedback focused on business goals.
To not mention pay in a conversation on employee relations in this industry would be a void. Many people say pay is the most important factor in this business. While this is covered in the pay and compensation section of the site, pay is considered by many to be a hygiene factor. A hygiene factor tends to influence dissatisfaction more than satisfaction. So if I hate my job, I am likely to hate it more because of my pay. Again, compensation is a different section altogether, but suffice it to say a system of fair and equitable compensation coupled with shared rewards and goal accomplishment can foster healthy employee relations.
If this approach seems more like trying to win people over and get them to like you, well, it probably is and that will help you as a leader. According to this Forbes article, only .052% of the unlikable leaders are considered effective. That equates to 1 in 2,000…not good! So while the end goal is to be effective, getting to that goal is easier when leaders are liked. Being liked is ultimately determined by your day in and day out employee dealings and relations.
As a parting thought on this topic, remember the old saying “people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses.” Couple that with what many say is the landscape industry’s number one challenge, attracting and retaining employees, and this gives you more reasons to invest some time and effort here. You can start here at the Employee Relations section of the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM) or see our resources section for more.