The landscape of employee-employer relations has transformed dramatically over the last couple of decades, and it continues to change. While in the past, employers were simply expected to offer regular salaries and secure jobs to their staff, employees of today expect much more than an equal working environment based on mutual respect and collaboration.
As a result, today’s businesses are increasingly taking a more holistic and well-rounded approach to their employees, encouraging fruitful and respectful partnerships between employees and the employer.
How employee relationships become muddied
If all employee-employer relationships were naturally harmonious, an organisation would face far fewer challenges.
In reality, friction can inevitably occur between two parties who are trying to achieve the same goal (of effective, successful work), but often different perspectives in terms of how work should be carried out, how long it should take, how it should be fairly recognised and compensated. The list goes on.
The smartest organisations don’t attempt to ignore such potential differences of opinion but instead seek strategies for creating collaborative working relationships between managers and employees based on excellent communication, feedback, respect, and support. This enables them to harness the power of employees who feel valued and positive about the organisation for whom they work.
Why employee collaboration is important to the future of the organisation
We have seen some of the challenges that can exist in creating meaningful and supportive relationships between employers and employees. Now let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits that can be achieved by organisations that work collaboratively with their staff.
Employee collaboration can drive productivity
There are so many benefits of collaborating with your employees to cultivate a genuine sense of motivation and loyalty and harness their energy and enthusiasm to drive their productivity for the benefit of your business.
Traditionally, employee turnover was measured in quantitative terms – namely, the costs relating to replacing key roles such as recruiting, hiring, and training.
However, increased awareness has come about in futuristic organisations that the real cost of employee turnover is the reduction in productivity and the subsequent knock-on effect on customer happiness levels. These elements are two key components in the service-profit chain.
Employees who feel valued in their roles and supported in their efforts are much more likely to go the extra mile for customers and work to their highest standards, directly and positively impacting the customer. Of course, this can have a bigger and more tangible impact in some roles and industries than others.
Satisfied employees are loyal employees
Numerous studies point to the evident link between happy employees and low staff turnover in companies. The concept is simple — keep your workforce happy and they will serve your customers better and be less likely to leave. But what is it that drives employee satisfaction? Is it salary and benefits, comfortable workplaces, or good managers?
The truth is, there is no magic formula for creating high levels of employee satisfaction. However, there are certainly some things that can be effective in doing so. Thus, creating effective collaborative relationships with employees is key.
A big contributor is what is termed the internal quality of a working environment — measured by the opinions that staff have toward their jobs, colleagues, and company.
Specific factors that contribute toward employee satisfaction include treating employees with respect, empowering them, and listening to their views and suggestions — recognising and outwardly valuing employees and providing positive and effective management.
Should you only be focused on building collaborative relationships with your top performers?
It’s natural that as a high performing organisation, you want to concentrate your efforts on your most highly skilled, value-adding employees and to some extent, you’d be right. Such individuals have a much higher potential to have a positive impact on business success through their performance.
However, you would be unwise to overlook other individuals in your team. First, to create a culture of collaboration, high morale, and high performance, it’s crucial to be inclusive. To be successful, your culture has to be integrated across the whole team and organisation.
Second, by only focusing on the outwardly effective individuals on your team, you could be missing employees with a lower profile who have the potential to succeed but just need some additional encouragement, training, or support.
What to do if you have a difficult relationship with an employee
Even organisations with high performing, collaborative cultures inevitably come across situations where the relationships between employer and individual employee is strained for some reason.
One size does not fit all, and it may be the case that this individual is not suited to your company’s way of working, culture, or even the role that they are performing. But knowing how to manage such a situation is critical.
It’s important to recognise and address the issue as early as possible. This allows potential problems to be nipped in the bud before frustration and resentment set in on either side. Allowing your team members the opportunity to voice their concerns at an early stage should also help them to feel valued and supported.
It may even head off a difficult issue altogether, re-establishing a good employee-manager relationship.
If this early intervention is not effective or if the problem is more deep-seated, a more structured approach may be necessary. This could include working with a third party, be it another manager or trade union official, to mediate between manager and employee, working in an unbiased and constructive capacity to try to find common ground.
Steps to establish collaborative employee relationships
Creating truly mutually respectful and effective relationships between managers and employees takes time and genuine effort. It’s a culture that needs to be invested in, in the longer term. Here are some great ideas to get started:
Measure employee satisfaction
It’s a good idea to gather some feedback in the early stages so that you can gauge the quality of current employee-employer relationships in your organisation. A common way of measuring employee satisfaction is via an anonymous employee pulse survey. It is used to identify factors that the employee finds positive and, conversely, they find negative.
Although you can tailor your survey to suit the needs of your business, usually questions are asked of the employee in the following areas: management, teamwork, communication, empowerment, and reward. The surveys usually ask employees to rate each question/area either numerically or qualitatively, with options for general and personalised feedback.
Another useful method for gaining honest views from employees about the organisation is to undertake exit interviews with outgoing staff.
Reward and recognise
The annual performance appraisal meeting is a good opportunity for managers to engage in quality conversations with their team members about their performance strengths, weaknesses, and future goals. However, such collaboration should happen throughout the year on both an informal and formal basis.
Employees who are consulted about organisational change and receive regular, meaningful feedback about their performance along with opportunities to be involved in issues important to the business are generally more motivated and energised in their roles. Thus, they are typically willing to go the extra mile for the good of the business.
Create collaboration opportunities
Consider ways that individuals can work together with colleagues from their team and other teams, and even directly with management to harness valuable skills and experience that they have outside of the scope of their role.
Not only will this help them to feel more valued and give them a stake in the future direction of the organisation, but it gives your business the chance to benefit from the knowledge they possess in areas that managers may be less experienced.
If you want your organisation to truly compete in an increasingly competitive market for the best employee talent, it’s crucial to consider a strategy of effective two-way collaborative communication with your employees. This gives them the opportunity to use their skills and experience to contribute positively toward organisational success.
The most successful organisations recognise the importance of employee collaboration as being integral to its wider business strategy to create a workplace where employees are supported and valued.
About the Author
Susan Leonard is the Senior HR Manager at Kissflow. An incisive MBA professional, Susan has close to 10 years of qualitative and enriching experience in HR.
She has led the entire gamut of operations including talent acquisition, retention and company culture management; has been deeply involved in elevating processes to strengthen capabilities and ensure to meet current and future business needs. Prior to Kissflow, she was with Randstad India and UST Global.