Creating a Pro-active Labor Relations Environment - Part Four in a Series: A Sound Employee Relations Program

Once a Human Relations Philosophy is developed and implemented, it is necessary for all levels of management to realize the importance of maintaining a pro-active labor relations environment.

Much that has been written about the wisdom of “preventive medicine” applies to what can be called “preventive labor relations” - using sound management practices to prevent labor relations problems from developing.

To build trust in and commitment to a pro-active approach, attention must be focused on a minimum of four areas:

  • Effective communication.
  • Handling complaints and performance problems.
  • Knowledge and application of company policy.
  • Building commitment.

First Step:  Effective Communication

The most critical skill in pro-active labor relations is effective communication.  It builds trust and commitment on the part of employees by acknowledging them as individuals, by caring about their opinions, feelings and dignity, and valuing their unique contribution to the work unit.  For communication to be effective it must be “two-way” which means that individuals can express their thoughts freely and that they will be given appropriate, timely and adequate responses.

Listed below are some guidelines which can help develop and sustain an effective communication environment.

  • Talk with employees about their work performance, personal interests and ambitions.  Get to know employees as individuals and learn what motivates them.
  • Acknowledge the value of varying viewpoints, even if management doesn’t agree with them.
  • Earnestly involve employees in problem-solving.  Seek their advice and welcome their recommendations.  Listen intently to their suggestions.
  • Give timely, meaningful and appropriate feedback.
  • Talk to as many work unit people as possible each day.
  • Remember that management’s attitude and behavior set an example for employees.  Management must conduct itself accordingly.  Be aware of how management’s conduct affects other people’s self-respect, dignity and emotional well-being.
  • Respond to inquiries intelligently and candidly, even if management thinks they’re not very significant.  
  • Effectively counter and diffuse rumors when they arise.
  • Satisfy employees’ natural curiosity for information about work or any other matters affecting their employment.
  • Allay any unwarranted fear and suspicion employees may have about job security through communication of clearly defined duties and responsibilities, written work policies and procedures, and company status reports.

The other three steps of a sound employee relations program set forth above will be discussed in subsequent blogs.  Additionally, other blogs will be provided to help employers deal more effectively with critical aspects of pro-active approaches to relations between management and employees.

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