How the Employer-Employee Relationship Affects the Employee Experience
31 May 2019 - Blog, News
Many factors affect the employee experience, but one that is highly complex and deeply connected to employee morale is the employee-employer relationship.
Our customers and our clients keep our companies thriving. We need their continued loyalty and want them to be happy with the products and services we provide. This is something we all know, but sometimes we can get so wrapped up in a customer-first mentality that we forget to focus on, and cultivate, strong employee-employer relationships.
Below we’ll explore how good relationships are essential for healthy levels of employee engagement, how a strong employee-employer relationship can greatly impact the employee experience, and how this relationship seriously improves overall working conditions.
To be truly productive, we need to have a clear understanding of our role within a company — what our goals are and how they align with overall company objectives. Unfortunately, too many employees are uncertain about what they are meant to be doing at work. If this is the case, it is impossible for goals to be achieved and, ultimately, the business suffers.
When employees are comfortable with their managers, and their managers have taken the time to develop a relationship based on trust and transparency, employees will inevitably feel more able to ask for clarification about their objectives. They will also feel free to enquire as to overarching organisational objectives and how their individual goals complement and support them. When an employee rarely sees their line manager, or they regard them as an intimidating authority figure, a major barrier to open conversation forms, which inhibits an employee’s ability to understand their job and purpose.
We are only human and, as such, we all make mistakes. We all fail from time to time. When employees and employers have good relationships, companies develop high levels of what is known as “psychological safety”. Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson coined the term, and she defines it as:
“A belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.”
So what are the benefits of psychological safety? According to a four-year study conducted by Google, psychological safety is the number one predictor of team success. Psychologically safe cultures encourage employees to open up about, and discuss, their mistakes so lessons can be learned, and actions can be taken. This results in increased innovation and stronger organisations.
If, on the other hand, employees are terrified to own up to mistakes for fear of losing their job or missing out on a promotion, no lessons will be learned, and problems will not be resolved.
When it comes to the employee experience and employee engagement, training and development play a major role. In fact, according to Deloitte, “learning opportunities are among the largest drivers of employee engagement and strong workplace culture — they are part of the entire employee value proposition, not merely a way to build skills.”
If you have recruited well, you will likely have a team of ambitious, high-performing employees on your hands. They won’t be satisfied to remain at a company for years without developing new skills or honing existing ones. When employees and line managers have good relationships, employees feel more confident and more able to approach management to discuss training and development needs. Employees need to know that they are being taken seriously and that their managers are invested in their long-term career success.
Regrettably, one-third of UK employees don’t feel comfortable discussing their mental health problems with their managers because they fear being judged or ostracised. Some even believe that confiding in their boss about their mental health would dampen their career prospects. This is terrible news in terms of wellness and overall employee happiness. Employees should feel confident about approaching their managers for help and support. Suffering from a mental health condition such as anxiety can be tremendously trying — employees should have management on board so certain accommodations can be made.
Managers should take the time to prioritise and discuss mental wellness with their employees. Make open discussion about health and wellbeing part of your company culture and let it be known that management will be understanding. Evaluating wellbeing and risk of burnout are elements that can be added to employee surveys too, to help give an early indicator of any problem areas of the business.
Feedback between employee and management is essential in both directions. Employees want, and deserve, timely, relevant and constructive feedback on their work. They should also be encouraged to deliver feedback to management with regards to company processes and systems. Improved employee-employer relationships improve both forms of feedback.
Delivered incorrectly, feedback can trigger a fight or flight response in the brain. Your employees might feel threatened and get defensive. If, on the other hand, your employees and your line managers regularly meet for performance conversations and have developed good relationships, employees will generally feel more open and receptive to feedback because it is coming from someone they know and trust — rather than someone who infrequently meets them to judge and chastise them.
Equally, when an employee knows their manager, they are more likely to deliver feedback also because they are more confident it will not fall on deaf ears.
Given all the benefits of improved employee-employer relations, it should certainly be a priority to measure and enhance these relationships. Thankfully, there is a surefire method of measuring line manager capability (see our case study with Cancer Research UK). At People Insight, we can develop a Manager Insight Framework, bespoke to the organisation, designed to improve line management. This will help leaders deliver their strategy while measuring progress over time.
We work with organisations to develop a set of survey questions, applicable across your organisation. Our surveys include statements that respondents mark on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “Strongly Disagree” and 5 being “Strongly Agree”. Relevant and important questions that are generally included in this survey are as follows:
Employees need to know management is on their side, and human resources need to know that managers are stepping up to the plate. Objective and reliable surveys such as this will help your organisation, large or small, to improve and enhance relationships in your organisation over the long-term.
At People Insight, we work with you to create employee surveys that get to the core of your employee experience problems. Find out how we can help you. Enquire about an employee survey today.
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