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Small Employee Relations Gestures Go a Long Way

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in Are Your Employees Engaged?

J. Hamilton (Jimmie) Stewart, III has practiced labor and employment law for nearly five decades and helped found Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. In my interview with him, which can be read in full here, Stewart shares insights on how even seemingly small employee relations gestures can make a big difference.

As in the movie, isn’t it just “Show me the money!”?

According to Stewart, many employers mistakenly think that effective employee relations simply boil down to pay. Compensation fairness is important, both internally (how employees are compensated relative to each other), and externally (how employees are compensated relative to the market/industry). However, there are other important elements of positive employee relations that prompt questions such as:

  • Do employees receive recognition for their contributions?
  • Do employees feel listened to?
  • Do they trust the company and their boss?
  • Does the employer have practices that express appreciation and promote camaraderie? Stewart maintains “A Checklist of 100 Positive Employee Relations Considerations” that can be found here.

What are some best practices for new employees?

Stewart has two favorites:

  • “The Ten Golden Minutes.” During the first week, the employee sits down with the supervisor for ten minutes. The supervisor explains: (a) why the employee was hired, (b) why the supervisor is happy to have been part of the hiring decision, and (c) why the supervisor looks forward to development of the new relationship.
  • Establish a buddy system. Assign each new employee to a mentor. Mentor selection criteria: Employees who have distinguished themselves through positive attitude and work ethic, and who have volunteered to serve. Mentors help new employees get acclimated, and serve as a sounding board and source of ongoing guidance and encouragement.

Are these employee relations gestures particularly important these days?

According to Stewart, although these gestures are always important, there’s now an additional reason for them. On April 14th, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) “ambush election” rules go into effect. As explained here, these rules will make it much easier for unions to organize workforces. If employee relations aren’t great at your workplace, you may discover you’re a target for unionization, and by then, it will be too late. The time to build employee relations is now.

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