A good work environment is the foundation of a solid and effective employee-relations program. Employee relations focuses on communication as it relates to satisfactory productivity, motivation, morale and the prevention and resolution of problems that arise or affect work situations. As a manager, you can choose to treat employees in a respectful manner or not, however disrespectful treatment is a foolproof way of yielding little or no productivity. HR “best practice” shows us that going the “respect” route will yield higher levels of productivity, lower your turnover rates and improve morale. So how do you really respect your employees? Respect is not only about how you speak to someone but it applies to how you, as a manager, get things done in your role as a leader, supporter and developer of your employees.
One of the first steps is to ensure that all employees have current and realistic job objectives and a clear understanding of their job responsibilities. Once this is in place, then your multiple roles as manager kick into gear. A pivotal part of leadership is being both a good coach and a good counselor and being able to use the appropriate skills depending on the situation. As a rule of thumb, coaching should always precede counseling.
As a coach, you identify your employee’s need for instruction and direction related to his or her performance or career goals. Coaching then becomes a shared effort between yourself and the employee and relies on mutual goal setting, personal feedback and an ongoing supportive relationship. Most managers coach because it helps to retain employees, which is a positive outcome because we all know how disruptive our work flow becomes when we constantly have staffing turnovers. So managers should always be ready to coach when a problem occurs. Here are two situations where coaching can pay dividends: A new procedure is introduced that can change the work flow and the employee’s responsibilities; this is a good coaching opportunity because job performance sometimes can slip because of resistance to change. Sometimes, you might recognize that the employee lacks a skill to perform a job; in that situation, the manager-coach may offer training in order to develop that employee.
Suppose you identify a problem that interferes with an employee’s work performance or a behavior that clearly violates the company standards and rules. In that situation you now have to change hats from Coach to Counselor. By means of the counseling process, you define for the employee exactly what behavior needs to change in order to correct and resolve the problem. Being firm yet respectful, and maintaining a company policy for handling these situations, lays a good foundation to fostering a positive employee-relations environment within your organization. As employees understand company policies and as management ensures a clear and open line of communication, while consistently and fairly adhering to those policies, the organization will see positive results.