A Guide for HR Managers: Employee Relationship Management Strategies for the Optimal Workplace

It is no secret that the current job market is filled with great candidates with stellar resumes. Employers are always looking to fill positions with top talent, though it is important to remember that qualified employees are well-aware of their worth. This puts the onus on organizations to provide not only a paycheck, but also excellent leadership, professional development opportunities, and a collaborative working environment to retain talent.

This means that solid Employee Relationship Management (ERM) is crucial to the effective functioning of an organization. A manager with the right ERM tools can build a productive, high-functioning team that communicates effectively and works together to achieve shared goals. Conversely, a manager who doesn’t prioritize ERM risks creating with low team morale and ineffective communication among staff.

In this article, we will examine the five key areas of ERM that HR leaders should focus on:

  1. Being mentors, not taskmasters
  2. Identifying and harnessing employee needs
  3. Conducting performance appraisals
  4. Creating a transparent environment
  5. Developing solid people management skills


Being Mentors, Not Taskmasters

Managers need to remember that one way to retain top talent is by mentoring employees. Great mentors are empathetic listeners who evolve the employee-manager relationship by enabling a two-way model of sharing and commitment. One aspect of a successful mentorship is to provide quality professional development catered to each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many ways to deliver development:

  • Invest in quality on-the-job training
  • Provide opportunities outside of job function
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Link employees to a professional network
  • Set a positive example

Most employees want to develop continuously in their careers and need to be given space for failure and learning. Allowing people to challenge themselves and fail may seem counterintuitive to a manager’s larger departmental goals, but failure leads to learning and growth. Empowering employees to learn from their failed experiences builds confidence and encourages problem-solving at a higher level.

Identifying and Harnessing Employees’ Needs

Hiring and managing diverse, talented employees doesn’t mean much if leaders can’t reconcile the needs of their organization with those of their staff. Employees who feel their careers have stalled will quickly start looking for a new employer. Therefore, managers must pay close attention to employees and create individual development plans to motivate and challenge them. HR managers often note that employees’ top-three needs are: upward mobility, variety, and specialization.

For employees motivated by upwards mobility, a clear path for promotion will encourage them to produce their best work. For employees who need variety, cross-departmental projects will allow them to unlock their creativity and collaborate under different circumstances. Finally, for employees with a high level of specialized knowledge, being encouraged to attend trade conferences or writing for industry journals allows them to develop credentials that will set them apart in their field.

Conducting Performance Appraisals – the Right Way 

‘Performance appraisal’ is a term that often evokes negative feelings from managers and employees alike. It’s a universally hated task for the simple reason that it is often done incorrectly. Performance appraisals commonly suffer from the same issues no matter what industry we are referring to – they are too infrequent, too formal, or too negative.

HR managers should aim to assess employees on a weekly (yes, weekly) or monthly basis. But the good news is that the process doesn’t have to be formal. In fact, regular informal exchanges provide opportunities to discuss recent critical incidents while they are still fresh in everyone’s mind. If things are going well, managers should give credit where it’s due and take note of excellent performance that may lead to bonuses and merit-based awards. Conversely, if things are going badly, the focus should be on understanding issues and focusing on changes and improvements for the future.

Strong managers will log these informal meetings and develop a performance record for each employee. Then, when the dreaded annual review comes around, all the documentation will be in place. There won’t be any surprises for either party and the discussion can remain smooth and productive.

Creating a Transparent Environment

Transparency in the workplace is the practice of sharing information openly and honestly to benefit the organization and its workforce. It is vital to developing a healthy work culture built on trust; it also coincides with a low staff turnover rate.

First, managers should foster transparency by using open and public communication channels. This allows all employees to be aware of the conversations within the company and avoids the secrecy of direct messaging between colleagues.

Beyond that, HR leaders shouldn’t shy away from sharing key metrics with staff. Allowing employees to see the organization’s wins and losses, and encouraging them to participate in the data-driven decision-making process, will result in deeper engagement and a more unified staff.

Developing Strong People Management Skills

Organizations are comprised of people of different ages, cultures and, most importantly, different ideas of how to work. As a result, HR leaders have the challenging task of ensuring that all employees reach their maximum potential. Although it can be easy to get lost in metrics, analytics, and data, managers need to step back and remember the following when dealing with people “Honesty, Trust, Patience.”

Managers need to foster a relationship that allows for honest employee feedback, even when it’s not easy to hear. As mentioned above, communication is a two-way street. As much as managers should be able to deliver constructive criticism at the right time, they must also be ready to listen and understand without negative feelings.

As with any successful relationship, it cannot exist without trust. This means trusting employees to take ownership of their work without micromanaging. Unfortunately, managers often do this even with the best intentions. They see a process that could be more efficient or an error that has the potential to creep up, and before they know it, they are annoying team members by nagging them over every small thing. By not trusting the qualified individuals they hired, managers lose opportunities to empower their teams and gradually decrease the morale in the workplace.

While leading a team in a dynamic environment, it’s possible to feel overwhelmed and frustrated when things don’t work out as they should. It is precisely these challenging moments that require patience and a level head. All the mentoring, training, and development lose their impact if managers can’t react without emotion in tough situations. Although it’s a common human challenge, it’s especially vital for leaders to practice patience to avoid breaking trust and damaging those hard-earned relationships with employees.

ERM for the Optimal Workplace

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, managers can’t afford to underutilize ERM strategies because keeping top talent depends on it. However, with the right approach, each HR manager can avoid disputes and misunderstandings and create an optimal working environment filled with satisfied employees.

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