The field of employee relations encompasses the entire spectrum of the relationship between employing organisations and their employees. It rough chronological order, modern employee relations is a fully comprehensive process that includes the functions and responsibilities of recruitment, hiring, new-hire orientation, employment benefits management, promotion of organisational culture and ethical values, personnel management, change management, employee motivation, performance appraisal and review, career advancement, conflict resolution, policy enforcement, legal compliance, retirement, voluntary departure, involuntary termination, and post-employment benefits management (Robbins & Judge, 2009). More broadly, the field of employee relations also impacts the political, economic, social, and technological organisational environment (PEST). That is particularly true in connection with legal compliance with employment laws and environmental regulations, the economic prospects for organisational growth, business cycles that inform hiring and personnel management decisions, the economic considerations dictated by inflation interest, and income patterns, and numerous social or socio-cultural factors (Russell-Walling, 2008). Every one of those elements is featured predominantly within the responsibilities ordinarily within the realm of employee relations management.
Recruitment, Hiring, and New-Hire Orientation
The modern approach to employee relations no longer begins only after the hiring of employees; in the contemporary business organisation, competitive external environments require that the recruitment and hiring processes be fully integrated within broader personnel management function (Kinicki & Williams, 2007). Typically, operational management representatives collaborate with human resource representatives to determine the ideal characterization used for job description for the purposes of recruiting prospective employees to the organisation (Warech & Tracey, 2004). In addition to improving the ability of the organisation to attract talent, that collaboration also reduces costs by narrowing the field of initial applicants because it eliminates those who might otherwise respond in error to positions for which they are not qualified or not sufficiently competitive to entertain realistic expectations of securing, thereby reducing the resources (including time) necessary to schedule and conduct interviews. Ideally, effective communication and coordination of operational management and recruiting management allows the organisation to minimise the costs associated with filling open positions while simultaneously expediting that objective.
Within any sizeable contemporary business organisations, new hires generally receive extensive orientation and initial training, as compared with their contemporaries a generation or two ago (George & Jones, 2008). Today, new-hire training typically involves an introduction to the organisational culture and to features and idiosyncrasies of the internal organisational environment that are considered important from the perspective of the organisation, legal training to reduce the relative risk of legal causes of action brought against the company owing to the decisions or behaviour of its employees, general expectations of employees, and information technology training to enable new hires to negotiate the intranet network and any proprietary systems or application platforms used within the organisation (Robbins & Judge, 2007). In principle, the primary purposes of new-hire orientation and training programs are to minimise the time necessary for new hires to become fully integrated into their organizations and to perform the complete range of their operational responsibilities, and to maximise retention of all employees in the long-term by facilitating their success from the day of their hire.
Benefits Management, Retirement, and Post-Retirement Benefits Management
Modern employee relations includes the management of all of the ancillary benefits to which employees are entitled as part of their comprehensive compensation packages (Robbins & Judge, 2009). Generally, the individual elements include salary, life insurance, health insurance (in nations that lack national health systems and in which employers are responsible for health insurance, such as in the United States), deferred compensation in the form of investments in the company and contribution toward retirement funds (Robbins & Judge, 2009). Employee relations management also maintain responsibility for tracking retirement eligibility schedules so that future positional openings can be anticipated and planned for optimally, as well as to provide any assistance or guidance required by employees approaching their retirement from the organisation. Following their retirement, employee relations functions include maintenance of communications with retirees and management of their continuing benefits packages throughout the post-retirement life of the retired employee (George & Jones, 2008).
Voluntary Departure and Termination
Some of the most challenging aspects of modern employee relations management include negotiating the departure of employees of the organisation, especially in connection with non-voluntary departures (i.e. termination). Managing the voluntary departure of employees includes coordinating the efforts of operational managers to make any necessary reassignments of responsibilities among remaining employees to ensure uninterrupted operations in the area expecting a scheduled vacancy (George & Jones, 2008). Part of that effort also includes identifying the specific needs of the department with respect to filling the vacated position in terms of implementing any necessary updates to the position description or operational responsibilities expected to be fulfilled by incoming new hires.
Sometimes, the departure of an employee provides the opportunity to make changes of this nature that would have been much more problematic while the position was still occupied by an employee whose performance met all of the formal requirements of the position as previously outlined (Robbins & Jones, 2009). Similarly, the coordination and collaboration between operational management and human resource management allows the organisation to incorporate lessons provided by previous experience (or previous employees in specific positions) and to adjust position descriptions, requirement criteria, and responsibilities to address issues or problems that arose in connection with the pervious position holder (George & Jones, 2008).
In that regard, employee relations usually includes a process of conducting and reviewing so-called "exit" interviews with all employees departing of their own volition (Kinicki & Williams, 2007). The purpose of the exit interview is to collect information from the departing employee that can be helpful to the organisation. It is considered a particularly valuable resource because employees who are in good standing at the time of their departure and who leave the organisation under mutually amicable circumstances can provide unbiased constructive criticism or share more general opinions and experiences that would typically never be collected or reported in the ordinary course of business or in the ordinary course of the career track of any individual employee during the term of his or her tenure with the organisation (Kinicki & Williams, 2007).
Naturally, the responsibilities of employee relations management are substantially more delicate when they involve involuntary departures (i.e. termination) precipitated by the employing organisation instead of by the employee. To insulate the organisation against potential lawsuits for wrongful termination or illegal discrimination, it is incumbent on personnel management to establish and ensure comprehensive compliance with record-keeping and formal documentation requirements throughout the entire organisation (Halbert & Ingulli, 2009). In that regard, the process of termination actually begins long before termination is ever contemplated. That is because by the time any employment situation devolves into one that ultimately culminates in termination, it is preceded by numerous stages that, at the time of their occurrence, are indistinguishable from countless other similar occurrences in connection with other employees who may never require a termination decision.
For example, many employees violate organisational policies or rules or fail to fulfill some aspect of their responsibilities during the long-term course of their employment within the organisation. Typically, they may occasionally be late or they may violate specific rules or policies that generate adverse actions by their supervisors or managers, or they may simply fail to maintain production standards or to comply with specific operational instructions of their superiors. In the vast majority of such cases, the transgression will be an anomaly within the entire career track of the employee involved rather than the start of a chronic problem, much less one that eventually requires demotion or termination.
However, by the time such a pattern does emerge or such adverse action is required, it is too late to amend the employee's file retroactively to establish the necessary formal record to support subsequent termination decisions. Therefore, one of the most critical responsibilities and functions of employee relations within contemporary business organizations and other professional institutions that are susceptible to civil lawsuits arising from claims of employees after their termination is that they maintain effective procedures for documenting all negative occurrences in the career of every employee so that there is always a complete dated record establishing the entire history of any violations or reprimands necessitated by any conduct or performance issues in connection with that employee (Halbert & Ingulli, 2009).
In modern business organisations, termination rarely occurs as the result of a single incident unless it is particularly serious, such as accusations of illegal conduct, violence or threats of violence against others, or other comparably egregious conduct that justifies immediate termination or that would otherwise expose the organisation to potential liability for harm to others resulting from the failure to respond appropriately to those circumstances (Halbert & Ingulli, 2009). Instead, every negative occurrence must be documented in writing with a formal record of copies notifying all parties involved, typically meaning the employee and his or her immediate supervisor, at least.
Moreover, employee relations managers must establish and maintain a set of formal procedures for the escalation of…