“What does employee engagement mean for employee relations? It means being more strategic and seeing the big picture. It means being familiar with a wide range of techniques and skills, including mediation and communications. But ultimately, it may also mean asserting more strongly the employee interest agenda.”
In the light of the changing work environment within the UK, you have been requested to produce an informal report which examines contemporary trends and practices within the Employee Relations field.
The report should specifically address the following:-
Explain the different perspectives taken to manage employee relations and the balance of power between management and individuals.
Discuss two (2) forms of industrial action and explain the approaches which can be taken to manage both individual and collective conflict.
Evaluate the objectives for employee voice in both unionised and non-unionised contexts. How can such objectives improve organisational performance?
Using your understanding of dispute resolution processes, research an organisation with which you are familiar with and evaluate their approach to handling disciplinary issues.
The business significance of every company depends upon good employee relations. The employee attitudes and the commitments are strongly associated with business performance and the managers see the employee voice as contribution to performance via better employee contributions and productivity gains. The climate of consultation and involvement in the company is associated with the employee satisfaction and commitment. The methods to increase the employee voice are communications, project teams and joint consultations as well as the growing interest in the partnership schemes, electronic media and the attitude surveys. In the Organisational terms the employee relations often suffer from a degree of invisibility as its boundaries are still unclear and no specific function or any individual has any specific responsibility for its managing it.
Employee relations continues to be a critical area for the HR to manage. Most of the larger employers in the public as well as the private sectors believe that the establishment of effective machinery or maintain consultation with the employees. In public sector some of the HR displays strong commitment to working in partnership with the trade unions which reflects formal as well as informal committee structures. The companies should be able to deal with their employees in individual as well as representative basis. The emphasis should be on the retention, recruitment and pension (Gennard, 2009).
The people involved with the employee relations practice should have or acquire the following skill sets to understand the employee relations more effectively
Employee relations are seen as a skillset or a philosophy rather than as a management function or a well-defined area of activity. The employee relations has been shifted from institutions to relationships. The research lessons about employee voice and psychological contract are now being integrated by the employers and being absorbed in the employee relation policies and aspirations. Even though the line managers and board members are the practioners of these policies, still there needs to be a specialist with a strategic perspective and particular expertise in negotiation. The skills in employee relations and competencies are the most important skills which are important to achieve performance benefits keeping focus on employee involvement and commitment. The employee relations are defined to be strategic in terms of managing business risk. The organizations are likely to be more proactive in managing the employment relationship (Gough and Hick, 2009).
The key issue for the manager’s is focus and they are continuously trying to direct the attention towards the issues that will really make a difference to business performance. The achievement of business goals and financial returns is increasingly dependent on the delivery of work and performance by the frontline employees. This has emerged from the operation of a mix of HR and high performance work practices in the presence of a supportive management. The new rules of employee engagement can be suggested as a combination of commitment and organizational citizenship and have given a positive outcome (Turner and O'Sullivan, 2013). The recipe for success is job security, recognition, feedback, respect, organization purpose and team work are all present there but what the managers need is an advice in translating these aspirations into practice. Engagement focuses attention on the outcomes side of psychological contract. Engaged employees show commitment and make a willing contribution to the company needs, are less absent, help others within the organization and are less inclined to leave. Excessive focus on short term financial performance has been shown to be counterproductive. The need for the directors and the managers is to focus on the employees and the customers rather than only the shareholders. The policies of work life balance, commitment and performance. The policies on work life balance are being used by the employers to underpin positive workplace behaviors. The employee attitudes have been directly linked to the work life balance, performance and commitment and the request by the employers to give the employees right to flexible working. The managers who have made extensive use of employee information, involvement schemes and consultation are more methods adopted and make positive impact (Simpson, 2013). But the effectiveness of the relationship depends on the quality of the relationship, the degree of mutual commitment and trust. The business performance model of employee relationship focuses on the implementation of the HR practices by the line managers and on the employee’s ability, motivation and opportunity to practice discretionary behavior. Employee relations has been seen as the key ingredient though its role is less understood than other elements such as training or reward. The promotion of the two engagement in the employment relationship, the employee relations is considered as the heart of the high performance models. Not only the HR but the directors, the managers and all top management is responsible for the policies and promotion of the culture where the employees deliver high performance (Schlosser and Zolin, 2012).
The resolutions required to solve any individual workplace conflict has assumed an important place in the policy debates over contemporary work and employment. This has occurred due to the decline in collective industrial actions and parallel rise in the volume of employment tribunal applications. The most significant change has not been in the nature or extent of workplace conflict but to the channels through which it is expressed and potentially resolved. It is not the conflict but the system of conflict resolution that have become increasingly individualized (Ng and Feldman, 2011).
There are three key issues i.e. the erosion of trade union and employee representation, the changing nature of the HR function, and the lack of confidence among the line managers in addressing and dealing with the difficult and emotional issues with their staff. It is said that only around a third of workplaces have any structures of employee representation and the majority of the employees have no access to even an on-site representative. Even in unionized workplaces, representatives are under growing pressure due to the increase demand for representational services and restrictions on facility time. This had profound effect on the dispute resolution as even the falling rates of union density has been associated with higher rates of disciplinary sanctions and dismissals. The presence of the unions makes the employers experience less adverse tribunal judgments which clearly shows that the link between improved workplace performance and effective voice of the employees (Mechanisms of Action, 2000).
The scale and direction of individual workplace conflict is difficult to measure. The changes in the structures of workplace representation and the changing balance between the responsibilities of HR and line management have had a significant impact on the capacity of organizations to resolve difficult issues in the workplace. The public policy of UK’s system of dispute resolution has focused almost exclusively on the impact of legal regulation on employment and economic efficiency. Though the debate on expensive system and limited access to justice undermining employment protection system is polarized but they have shown that very early signs of these changes have triggered a significant reduction in the tribunal volumes. But the reduction of access to the tribunal systems may also drive the workplace problems underground (Massey, 2004).
If the employers are freed from the fear associated with litigation, they may be more likely to address issues at an early and may also invest in more innovative approaches such as mediation. There has been undoubtedly an increased interest in promotion of mediation as it is an alternative to conventional rights based disciplinary and grievance procedure and also as a catalyst for deeper organizational change (Kaufman, n.d.).
Employee voice and participation are the broad terms which explains about the resolution of industrial conflicts in the organizations. Employee voice is an individual but participation is a group process, involving groups of employees. Representative participation is one of the types of participation that centers on the role that employee or the trade union representatives play in discussions between the managers and the workforce through the mechanism of joint consultation, or worker directors collaborative bargaining. These arrangements raise major issues to do with the distribution of power and influence within the organizations. There are two main variables in collective conflict, strikes and non-strikes collective conflict to capture collective conflict in the workplace. Non-strike forms of collective conflicts represent walkouts, demonstrations and petitions. Both the strikes and non-strikes collective conflicts are determined to a selective degree by the presence of the union delegates. This supports the assertion that the unions are the main instigators of collective conflicts (Kaufman, 2014).
Conciliation is one of the skills that is used to prevent conflicts within an organization. The role of the conciliator is to play an active part in trying to solve the dispute, often by the suggestion of options for solutions or paths to a solution. The conciliation procedure is flexible and can be as formal or informal as the situation requires. Mediation is used when two or more parties of high level are involved in a dispute that may result in legal action. The mediator’s role is to help the parties to negotiate an agreed solution. The mediator is neutral and provides no advice or solution. Their work is just to talk their way through the problem and find a mutually agreed solution (Kaine, 2011).
The employee involvement study has been restricted to employee’s direct participation in the day –to-day operations, through discovery, diagnosis and resolution of problems related to the workplace issues that is upward and problem solving. The interest in non-union form of the employee vice coincides with the decline in unionism in a number of industries and countries. UK has switched over from representative voice to towards direct employee involvement. It is seen that the firms achieved more economic performance as a consequence of allowing more extensive worker influence though very little evidence was found regarding it. Employee voice describes how employees raise concerns, express their interests, solve problems and contribute to and participate in work place decision making. The employee voice can take place directly between employee and management or via the worker representative. Employee representative usually serve as advisory or information channels of influence on a wide range of corporate level decisions, including investment policy, technological change and corporate level strategy (Butler, 2005).
To examine the effects of voice on manufacturing performance the assessment of team voice on every day and work related decision making was carried out on the following fields
Team voice improves labor efficiency and productivity but only when the representative voice is taken into account. Involving the expertise of the workers directly in the work process in teams contribute to the industries labor efficiency. Voice shows a positive relationship with productivity when the interaction with direct voice is included. When manager’s need to improve a plants capability by achieving high productivity they seek to involve key employees in decision making. Managers usually prefer to use direct participation I order to access workers knowledge in such circumstances (Dyne, Ang and Botero, 2003).
ITV Yorkshire is the British television service provided by the ITV broadcasting limited for the Yorkshire area on the ITV network. It has said to be having turbulent relations with the broadcasting unions. The upheaval of enforced jobs changes on these new employees and the presence of the new management of a new ITV station and the huge investment by the shareholders provided fertile grounds for the unions. It was also off air for over two months due to the management of the company fighting over the unions (Creeber, 2006).
The company’s approach to employee relations is based upon engagement with the employees. It is done by a combination of methods i.e. collective bargaining, consultation with elected employee representatives and direct engagement with individuals. Engagement is regarded as the factor which brought success to the company and is now balanced enough to experiment different measures of engagement. The ITV maintains a wide range of direct communications. Communications with recognized unions in collective bargaining and employs 15% workforce from membership and in return gets 50% coverage for collective bargaining purposes. Then the communication with the democratically elected employee representatives which includes 15 different communication groups, 250 directly elected employee representatives and frequent use of twin track consultation (Critical Mention iTV, 2009). The last but very efficient is the communication with individuals, it follows techniques like 60 second updates, management cascade, surveys and engagement in change projects. ITV’s intranet, known as the water cooler, provides the individuals daily online update on news affecting ITV and there’s weekly water cooler for the offline employees. The 60 second update produced monthly sets out a report on what’s going on in the business. Individual development reviews, briefing meetings, individual relationships and workshops with line managers. The effectiveness of the process is monitored by the employee opinion surveys (Schwalb, 2004).
The company also engages in collective consultations by the help of the elected representatives as unions represent only 15% of employees and the feedback is required from the whole work force. The scale of change within the organization is so high that the channel needs to consult with its employees as frequently as possible. Therefore it has 15 communication groups centered on different business locations.
It uses collective bargaining as a method to retain employees on new working practices. This method has provided the company significant benefits and has helped to reassure the employees their importance in the company.
The company uses negotiation and consultation to deal with the recognized unions and elected employee representatives. The management sets out a proposal and collects the responses and then further decides what action is to be taken. Negotiation can break down eventually but consultation gives the flexibility to the managers and the unions to come down to a decision (Haynes, 2005).
The ideas represented in the report are a sort of indicators that helps the management to monitor the incoming risks in the organizations and the methods to avoid them. It also contains aspirations for the employees to understand, identify with and commit to the objectives of the organization they work for. The employee relation specialists like the mediator and the conciliator have to be familiar with a wide range of techniques and skills to handle the problems that comes their way. One should not assert the interests of the employee or the employer as without the balance a high performing and strategic business is unlikely to succeed.
Butler, P. (2005). Nonâ€union employee representation: exploring the efficacy of the voice process. Employee Relations, 27(3), pp.272-288.
Creeber, G. (2006). ITV Cultures: Independent Television Over Fifty Years. Screen, 47(2), pp.261-265.
Critical Mention iTV. (2009). Choice Reviews Online, 47(04), pp.47-1741-47-1741.
Dyne, L., Ang, S. and Botero, I. (2003). Conceptualizing Employee Silence and Employee Voice as Multidimensional Constructs*. Journal of Management Studies, 40(6), pp.1359-1392.
Gennard, J. (2009). The financial crisis and employee relations. Employee Relations, 31(5), pp.451-454.
Gough, O. and Hick, R. (2009). Employee evaluations of occupational pensions. Employee Relations, 31(2), pp.158-167.
Haynes, P. (2005). Filling the vacuum? Nonâ€union employee voice in the Auckland hotel industry. Employee Relations, 27(3), pp.259-271.
Kaine, S. (2011). Employee voice and regulation in the residential aged care sector. Human Resource Management Journal, 22(3), pp.316-331.
Kaufman, B. (2014). Theorizing determinants of employee voice: an integrative model across disciplines and levels of analysis. Human Resource Management Journal, 25(1), pp.19-40.
Kaufman, B. (n.d.). Employee Voice before Hirschman: Its Early History, Conceptualization, and Practice. SSRN Journal.
Massey, C. (2004). Employee practices in New Zealand SMEs. Employee Relations, 26(1), pp.94-105.
Mechanisms of Action. (2000). Toxicology and Industrial Health, 16(3-5), pp.113-126.
Ng, T. and Feldman, D. (2011). Employee voice behavior: A meta-analytic test of the conservation of resources framework. J. Organiz. Behav. 33(2), pp.216-234.
Schlosser, F. and Zolin, R. (2012). Hearing voice and silence during stressful economic times. Employee Relations, 34(5), pp.555-573.
Schwalb, E. (2004). ITV handbook: technologies & standards. Compute. Entertain. 2(2), p.17.
Simpson, B. (2013). The Labor Injunction and Industrial Action Ballots. Industrial Law Journal, 42(1), pp.54-60.
Sinclair, A. (2012). (1) ITV Broadcasting Limited (2) ITV 2 Limited (3) ITV Digital Channels Limited (4) Channel 4 Television Corporation (5) Four Ventures Limited (6) Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited (7) ITV Studios Limited v TV Catchup Limited Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (intervenor). Euro Law Rep, 16(2), pp.187-229.
Turner, T. and O'Sullivan, M. (2013). Speaking up: employee voice and attitudes to unions in a non-union US multinational firm. Industrial Relations Journal, 44(2), pp.154-170.
Van Buren, H. and Greenwood, M. (2007). Enhancing Employee Voice: Are Voluntary Employer–Employee Partnerships Enough?. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(1), pp.209-221.
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