Human Resource Strategies: Effective Employer-Employee Relations

Section 3.5

Chapter 19

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Communication

Communication: the passing of message(s) from one person to another
Transmitter: the sender of the message
Recipient: the reciever of the message
Medium: the method by which the message is sent

Barriers to communication: factors that prevent a message from being recieved and/or correctly understood or interpretted

  • Attitudes- if the recipient doesn't like the transmitter the message wont be interpretted as intended, quality of info may change
  • Intermediaries- the messenger, so the message may be interfered with/not sent or misinterpretted
  • Lack of common language- 'technical jargon', language needs to be of an understandable level which can be interpretted widely
  • Time- the time of day which messages are sent needs to be considered- relate to importance of info being sent to priority
  • Environment- noise and surrounding activities, messages misinterpretted
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Good communication is key to a successful organisation; in a business environment characterised by uncertainty and change, high quality internal communication should be priority.
Effective communication between employers and employees can have benefits for the business throuhg the employees: positive/constructive feedback on performance and involvement in decision making can improve motivation.
Poor communication can leave employees with no real sense of direction or purpose- not knowing what they are doing or why they are doing it. 
Good communication -> Motivation
There is a strong link between the two, which managers should take and use as priority

Advantages of effective internal communication:

  • All areas of the business pursuing same corporate objectives
  • Change can be handled more effectively
  • Employees identify culture of the business and be more loyal
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How can internal communication be improved?

Effective communication and increased communication are different:
Effective communication: involving all aspects and methods of communication, what technology is used. It may be tempting to use technology to pass more information around, but is it effective?
Increased communication: involving the quantity of communication given

  • Establish the needs of employees before changing the existing methods of communication- no need to use high technology equipment if not necessery, it may be seen as instrusive rather than supportive (eg mobile phones- 24 hrs, beneficial to managers but not subordinates)
  • Improving employee skills in all areas of communication is important- they need to know how to use their communication mediums- employees are likely to resist change
  • Cultural and language differences can be particular barriers to effective communication, its impact on employees is underestimated
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Employee representation

As a business grows, efficient communication is necessary, and there needs to be some form of representation in place with a clear line of what can and cannot be discussed in order to encourage constructive dialogue between employers and employees.

Methods of employee representation:

  • Employee groups- joint consultive committees made up of employee representatives from selected areas/departments of the business and representatives of the employers
    They meet up and raise and discuss issues that affect or are likely to affect employees; staff representatives are elected by the staff colleagues to represent them, and this bridges the gap between management and the workforce- assisting two way communication
  • Trade unions- organisations that negotiate on behalf of a group of employees for mutual protection and assistance, often concerned with wages and employment conditions
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  • Works councils- a committee representing the employer and elected employee representatives of a business to discuss working conditions, grievances and pay
    Introduced by law if requested by the employees within organisations employing 50+ staff, but the requirements are: one rep for every 50 employees, and an election of reps must take place

Advantages of employee representation:

  • Managers seem less remote because employees have easier access to them at all levels
  • Employees are encouraged to voice their opinions freely which they may be reluctant to do if they were not representatives of a group- should reduce tension and clear up uncertainty and misunderstandings
  • Info should be given over a wider range of subjects, and consultation will increase, so manager should find it easier to maintain confidentiality with small numbers of employees
  • Provides opportunity to discuss and order priorities which will increase employees sense of involvement and improve effectiveness and efficiency
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  • Enables managers to gauge the likely reaction of employees at an early stage in the decision making
  • Quality of employee input into decision making is improved- involvement in ongoing dialogue means employees reps are more likely to develop the knowledge to make a meaningful contribution
  • Skills of managers aswell as employee reps are developed in areas such as listening, diplomacy, making presentations and problem solving
  • Trust and cooperation should improve- contributing to better understanding of the need for change, increased acceptability or decisions

Disadvantages of employee representation

  • Managers feel undermined in that their actions are scrutinised by employees
  • Reps may want to discuss sensative issues and there is more of likelihood of breaches in confidentiality
  • Employees may try to determine the order of priorities which may be to further their own interests rather than those of the business
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  • More time is spent in discussion and not in action- the decision making process becomes longer and slower which could result in the business missing the opportunity to gain competitive advantage over rivals
  • If managers don't take the input of reps seriously, it could lead to resentment and mistrust- could undermine the attempts to improve business performance
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Industrial disputes

Industrial dispute: a disagreement between employers and employees/employee reps over an employee related issue
They arise when employers and employees fail to reach an agreement about how to resolve an issue which has an impact on the workforce. The aim should always be to reach agreements about the way forward

Methods of avoiding industrial disputes:

  • Consultation and involvement- by creating channels of communication to keep employees informed and involved. Could include staff forums or working groups to collect ideas and issue to raise from workers which they can discuss with a trade union or team meetings and feedback sessions
  • An effective grievance procedure that has been agreed by employees or their reps, which allows them to voice their concerns before they develop into major disputes
  • No strike agreements between employers and unions- in return for enhanced pa and working conditions the unions agree not to take industrial action for a certain agreed amount of time
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  • ACAS- an independent statutory body which offers advice and help to prevent disputes arising in the first place- helps employers and employees to work together to resolve problems in the workplace before they develop into disputes

Methods of resolving industrial disputes:

  • Conciliation/mediation is an attempt by ACAS negotiators to resolve disputes by helping both parties discuss their differences and reach a settlement but without recommending or imposing the settlement
  • Arbitration by ACAS which is voluntary but both parties accept in advance to be bound by the arbitrators award , made within agreed terms reference for the arbitrator.
  • Can build into employment contracts a provision for using alternative means to resolve disputes rather than through legal action- using a less antagonistic process than the court or industrial action may allow an acceptable compromise to be reached
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