What Are Employee Relations?

Firstly, we are going to start by looking at what is meant by ‘Employee Relations’. Then we will review why small businesses need to maintain good employee relations.

In any small business, it is essential for your success to have strong employee relations as it will, almost always, promote high employee satisfaction, high productivity and loyalty. Most of all, effective employee relations will help to avoid or resolve issues arising out of, or influencing, the workplace.

To build strong employee relations, you need to have;

  1. A safe and healthy working environment;
  2. Commitment from employees;
  3. Incentives to motivate and engage employees; and
  4. Clear communication.

Healthy employee relations will lead to more efficient, engaged, motivated and productive employees. This, in turn, will further lead to increased sales and productivity levels. It will also reduce employee turnover. Good employee relations demonstrate you have engaged employees who are an active part of your company. However, even with good employee relations, there will be times when things do go wrong.

 Employee Indiscipline

When employees go outside the expected norms of acceptable behaviour, this is called employee indiscipline. This could include;

  1. Absenteeism;
  2. Slow performance;
  3. Poor behaviour; or
  4. Grievances

It can be easy to ignore these behaviours, especially the early occurrences, especially because there is always so much to do in a small business. However, doing so will soon turn good employee relations into poor and unhealthy relations. The sad fact of the matter is the costs associated with turning a blind eye to less than desirable behaviour in a small business can be disastrous.

Employee Grievance

It is a basic expectation that an employer should provide employees with;

  1. A safe working environment;
  2. Fair treatment;
  3. Incentives that motivate them;
  4. Participation in planning and decisions; and
  5. Satisfaction of an employee’s basic needs.

If a small business fails on any of the above, then could you find you have an employee grievance.

Employee Stress

Employee stress can damage employee relations. Causes of employee stress may be when employees fail to meet their own expectations, such as;

  1. Personal goals;
  2. Career goals;
  3. Performance; or
  4. Self-respect.

Or when employees are subject to stress from another source, such as;

  1. Excessive or insufficient workloads;
  2. Peer pressure;
  3. Excessive or unreasonable use of authority; or
  4. A lack of promotional opportunities.

If any of the above-mentioned factors are showing in your business, they must be tackled immediately. You should provide clear direction to strengthen the disciplinary culture regarding what is an acceptable norm. Furthermore, you should employ an effective grievance system to address issues as they arise. In instances where stress is a key factor, you should develop a stress management strategy and review it regularly.

How Do Improve Employee Relations?

These practical steps will help strengthen employee relations in a small business.

Consistent Process

You should have clear processes in place that are fair to all.  All employees have the right to fair treatment and so it is important to have consistent processes that are applied to all. This will avoid the risk of accusations of unfair treatment or favouritism.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

If employees get bored, or their roles are monotonous, trouble can soon rear its ugly head. You can avoid this by keeping your employee’s roles varied and interesting. You can do this by making it more challenging, for example setting monthly targets. Or you could consider upskilling them by providing more training or professional development.


Make sure you have a clear communication strategy and that there is continuous interaction. If your employees think you are trying to hide things from them, they will become disengaged. Update your employees about company performance, policies and decisions to keep them motivated and productive. Keeping employees well informed will make them feel a part of the company, like a family member.

Celebrate Success

If an employee does a good job, reward them. However, this shouldn’t be confused with an employee who is simply doing their job to the required standard. If an employee has overachieved or gone the extra mile in their role, rewards will keep them motivated. It can also act as a useful motivator to other staff in your business.


Encourage, welcome and act on employee feedback. Sometimes, especially in small businesses, it is the little things that demotivate people. Providing employees a channel for feedback, either anonymously or not, will help you to grow as a business and keep a consistent, loyal workforce.

Competitive Salary

Paying a competitive salary can sometimes be hard for small businesses. Your employees should be paid based on their performance and skill. However, don’t forget that a salary is made up of more than just their annual earnings. Get creative and dream up some cost-effective benefits to help boost their salary and bring some fun into the workplace.

Employees Versus Friends

It can be hard not to cross line between being friendly to over-friendly with your employees, especially in a small team. A good rapport with your staff is crucial and will develop over time. Conversely, you should ensure your workplace is somewhere your employees should feel safe and never scared. There is a thin line between being firm and being aggressive.


In conclusion, it is important to be firm but fair with all employees. Maintain clear expectations of acceptable behaviours through the implementation of defined processes and procedures. Ensure you apply these rules consistently to all staff without showing any favouritism. Above all, if you see behaviours creeping in that are not consistent with your company standards, don’t ignore it.

Finally, when it comes to employee relations, no two companies or employees are ever the same, and things change.

For a review of your business’ policies why not take advantage of a free HR Health Check?

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