Employee relations projects are the key to communication

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

I am a newly-hired human resource manager at a small enterprise with 86 employees. When I was an HR supervisor from another small company, I was tasked to plan and execute all our projects for employees. However, we are only limited to organizing basketball and bowling tournaments. Now that I’m with a new company, I plan to submit to management an annual plan showing all possible activities, except that this time, I’d like to have new ideas. Could you help me with my annual calendar? — Yellow Bell.

Show me a man who is a good loser, and I will show you a man who is playing golf with his boss. What I’m saying is that — you must know the interests of your boss and play along with it by reconciling it with the general interest of all employees. Of course, many employees don’t play golf. That’s why you don’t include golf tournaments in your sports and social activities for employees.

The good news is that your company need not spend much to organize these activities. The bad news is that many organizations simply organize sports tournaments and spend big amount of money without rationalizing the program. The question is whether those programs, regardless of their budget, would help or hurt your efforts as an HR manager.

If you’re motivated to do a good job as a newly-hired manager, you need to figure it out in the right context. Listen to the employees as well as to top management’s desires, and you’ll readily know how to go there.

But first things first, let’s understand why organizations put up with some types of employee relations programs. One, it is a subtle channel of communication between the workers and their management. When we see employees and their managers actively participate as competing teams in sports and social activities, we know that somehow we’re a bit successful in breaking the ice between them.

Two, we use these activities to debunk employee perception that management is too busy to talk, or in some cases, may be ignoring them. By giving the opportunity for both to establish camaraderie, we open the door for a serious talk between the two.

And last, effective communication is contextual and situational. I’ve known this since 1981 when I started as an HR supervisor for a telecom company. Once you know the style, technique and format, you only have to apply them based on the environment. As an HR manager, you need to understand your audience — both the workers and management, so that you can change the flow like a good loser playing golf with a boss.

Having stated those objectives, and instead of spoon-feeding you with a specific employee relations program, allow me to give you instead some general guidelines to help you come out with an integrated policy and reward mechanism that would fit into your organization. After all, you know your company better than I do:

One, create a culture of proactive communication. This can only happen when your top executives are committed to the importance and value of having a two-way communication process with employees. Many executives accept that but when the time comes, many of them refuse to do their part.

After all, it is the same culture that requires top management communication as the impetus in town hall meetings, birthday clubs, daily departmental 10-minute morning meetings, sports activities, interest clubs (camera club, mountain hiking, choir, prayer group, etc.) quality circles, suggestion schemes, and many more.

Two, engage the employees by soliciting their active cooperation. Communication doesn’t mean spending one’s saliva capital. It is more than that. We need the active cooperation of people. Besides, the HR department can’t do it alone. It needs the active assistance of interested people who can help organize basketball and bowling tournaments, among other activities, subject however to the limitations set by management. This also promotes the idea of co-ownership which means that those who are part of the planning process are expected to cooperate more towards the accomplishment of such goals.

In some organizations, they organize Labor-Management Cooperation (LMC) programs not only for sports and social activities, but include certain committees to oversee the selection of the company uniform, the screening of cafeteria concessionaires, the operation of shuttle services for employees, and many more.

Last, include the employees’ family members. The key word is “inclusivity.” When you talk to employees, take into consideration the interest of the employees’ families. Family members like spouses and children can go a long way in helping your employees continue to be motivated. If your management accepts this, they will sound authentic in making employees successful.

For instance, if an employee is given an award for achieving performance milestones, invite the spouse to celebrate with the management team. This is also best achieved during the service awards or employee birthday celebrations. Certain companies also make “excuses” to create special programs for Halloween parties that include kids’ costume competitions.

When your management rhetoric and actual action do match, it becomes motivational for all workers and their line managers as well. It could also help reduce the turnover rate and absenteeism, among other issues. When you are inspiring people, your body language and voice must also convey management excitement. No matter how many people you are talking to, whether it’s 10, 100 or 1,000, it’s easy to send mixed signals. And this is what you should avoid.

Therefore, it’s not enough to simply have a good number of employee programs, you’ve got to match your program content with management practice even during their unguarded moments.

ELBONOMICS: Employee morale is reflected on how they treat your customers.


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