Industrial Relations: Developing an Effective IR Strategy
Did you know that less than half of employees surveyed by the World Happiness Report said they are happy with their jobs? So, are your workers part of this demographic? It would be difficult to answer this if you haven’t invested in a strategy to manage employee relations.
As an employer, the last thing that you want is to run a business where your employees are unsatisfied with their positions in your company and are driven to unionise. Organisations with an effective industrial relations (IR) strategy run like a smooth, well-oiled machine, whereas those who don’t are constantly breaking down and needing an external fix.
One of the biggest problems is how most companies solve internal disputes. Management will usually settle for temporary resolutions instead of one that lasts. We are human and will butt heads because this is in our nature. However, by investing the necessary time, energy and resources into an IR strategy, companies can keep conflict to a minimum and maintain positive employer-employee relations.
Let’s look deeper into industrial relations and the factors that promote healthy relationships within an organisation. We will also break down IR strategies you can integrate within your company for long-term success.
If you’re looking for a more direct approach to human resources (HR) and industrial relations, MASA is here for you. We have a specialist HR and IR division providing tailored solutions to fit your unique needs in this department. Contact us now to learn more.
IR and Employee Relations
When it comes to the health of an organisation, one cannot overlook the significance of employer-employee relations. Industrial Relations (IR) is concerned with the connection between employers, employees and the external parties involved in regulating this relationship, such as labour unions.
The goal of any IR system is to ensure this relationship remains fair, transparent and mutually beneficial and to resolve disputes effectively when they arise. The more harmony and cooperation between employers and employees, the easier it will be to resolve conflict and maintain a productive work environment.
The role of the state and unions in IR
While organisations work to minimise issues between management and the workers, regulatory bodies from the state are there to step in and enforce labour legislation whenever necessary.
Industrial relations in South Africa are managed within the framework of labour contracts, following the rules and regulations outlined in the Labour Relations Act (LRA), Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), bargaining council agreements, and other relevant laws.
Labour legislation has evolved over the years to protect workers from discrimination, exploitation and unfair labour practices. It is a fundamental part of IR that organisations must know and understand to survive and thrive in SA’s labour industry. Despite the importance of this legislation, issues often still arise in the workplace that require external parties to step in.
Unions and employer organisations play a vital role in the IR system. Together, they can apply to form bargaining councils that deal with collective agreements, solve labour disputes, establish various schemes and comment on labour policies and laws.
Conditions that lead to good industrial relations
Before we dive into specific strategies, let us lay a foundation that any organisation can examine for healthy industrial relations. You can look at these as the conditions or traits that make it easier for organisations to maintain good relationships between employees and employers:
Communication is fundamental to any relationship between people, and it’s even more relevant within organisations that seek to be as productive and harmonious as possible. By promoting open dialogue between employees and employers, organisations can quickly become aware of issues when they arise and prevent them before they happen since people are communicating with each other instead of the opposite.
Transparency in business refers to being open and honest about business processes and strategies. This entails providing workers and their representatives with information about strategy and business planning openly and honestly. Transparency allows management, even in a small company, to work toward building a partnership with employees that will help the business be agile and grow.
The more knowledgeable a company’s management and HR team are about their rights and responsibilities, the better their chances of developing a solid labour relations strategy.
Understanding the Labor Relations Act and its application in non-union settings is essential in these environments. Understanding the law and being an expert in the collective bargaining agreement that covers the company’s work is critical in unionised environments.
Developing Your IR Strategy
Developing an effective industrial relations strategy requires organisations to focus on meeting the needs of employees and preventing issues before they even arise. Despite taking this proactive approach to managing employer-employee relations, conflict is inevitable. By investing in an IR strategy, organisations can promote the conditions necessary for sound industrial relations while having a clear framework to handle disputes as they arise.
Here are three elements of an IR Strategy that your organisation can take note of and implement in its own system:
1. Encouraging open dialogue & communication
Communication became one of the biggest challenges for managers and HR departments when millions of employees were abruptly sent home from work in March 2020 due to the pandemic. This drove home the need more many organisations to work on promoting open dialogue in the workplace.
Open dialogue doesn’t just refer to regular conversations between managers and staff. It is a setting where workers aren’t afraid to offer managers their honest opinions, where communication is transparent, productive and focused on resolving issues. Open communication lines can reduce employee confusion, unneeded stress, and conflict between workers and their coworkers, particularly between management and workers.
Organisations should give employees a way to voice complaints and productively settle disputes. Workers require a safe platform where they can speak openly without worrying about punishment, express their thoughts and ask questions.
2. Instil shared values, beliefs and goals
An organisation with strong values can foster enduring relationships and high levels of employee loyalty. Most people, especially millennials, want to feel like they are a part of something bigger. Integrate your company’s values into how you handle employees, and mention your company’s mission and values frequently.
More importantly, ensure management embodies these values and leads by example with authenticity at the core. Operating from a ‘money over everything’ principle is an easily identifiable trait of most companies with toxic work cultures. On the other hand, the world’s most successful organisations have deeper aspirations behind what they do and fulfil their employees’ intrinsic desire to live purposeful lives. Employees can feel like they are a part of something important by living by core values like honesty, empathy, and producing high-quality work.
Ultimately, these shared values and the company’s overall mission promote a level of harmony in the workplace that minimises industrial relations issues.
3. Motivate and reward your workers
Rewarding workers is a powerful component of your industrial relations strategy. Instead of just handing down goals, think about developing them with employees. Employee engagement is higher when performance management is a two-way process instead of a one-way street. Encourage workers to set challenging yet attainable goals that drive them to push harder and contribute to achieving the company’s shared goals and mission.
Throughout the process, ask for feedback from your workforce. The people working on the ground often have vital knowledge or suggestions that can significantly improve their efficiency or the success of the business.
Think about offering multiple levels of incentive for different accomplishments. However, ensure that these rewards are long-lasting and consistent with your company’s core principles so they won’t be overused or become meaningless gestures.
Most employees are happier when working towards a dream or a goal. You can motivate your workers by creating a career path map for each position within your company that accounts for the growth potential and untapped potential of your workers.
You can also improve employee skills by modifying their roles whenever possible, which drives them to gain new skills in a supportive environment. Your business and bottom line will benefit from this industrial strategy while fostering a positive work environment and healthy employer-employee relations.
Take a proactive approach to IR
Developing an effective IR strategy is one of the most impactful investments that a company can make to maintain healthy employer-employee relationships and a workplace free from unnecessary conflict and regulatory overreach.
However, managing industrial relations can be overwhelming, which is why specialist HR and IR teams like MASA are here to help. We have the experience and expertise to provide comprehensive industrial relations solutions tailored to your business’s specific needs. Contact us now to learn more about how we can improve your HR and industrial relations strategies.