3.1 Discuss major areas of responsibility in people management work in
People Management (21 April 2023) reported that “Almost half of HR professionals claim they are dealing with more employee relations issues than before Covid”.
Discuss how people professionals can adopt an effective approach to managing employee relations issues. Justify your answer by drawing upon academic theory and research evidence. At base this is quite a general question about the effective management of employee relations in workplaces, but it is also framed in a contemporary manner with a specific reference to post-covid challenges. So strong answers will reflect current challenges while also reflecting more generally on the most effective ways of managing employee relations issues.
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This question does not reference the learner’s own organisation, so the expectation should be that for the most part the examples and statistics that are used to justify key points come from wider reading. The current context should focus primarily on inflationary pressures which are partly caused by energy and oil price rises emanating from the war in Ukraine (ie: cost-push inflation) but are also a consequence of savings having been built up during the pandemic period leading to a lot of consumer spending (ie: demand-pull inflation). The pressures are global and this has led to international labour shortages and increases in wages which have further fuelled inflation.
In unionised sectors, and particularly the public sector, we have seen a deterioration in employment relations and a good deal of industrial action in the wake of increases in the cost of living. People’s living standards have been eroded and they have responded by organising collectively to push for higher pay rises to help them and their families cope. People professionals are thus placed in a difficult position. On the one hand they need to try to settle disputes, build positive employee relations climates and, more generally, look successfully to attract, retain, engage and motivate their people.
On the other hand Advanced Diploma they need to help ensure that their organisations remain financially viable over the long term, and this will often mean resisting unaffordable pay demands. Compulsory redundancies are, after all, even harder to handle than pay disputes. While the present challenges may be particularly acute, the best way of handling them is no different than is always the case with employee relations.
Collaboration and partnership are better than confrontation. There needs to be a great deal of communication and consultation, both collectively and individually. Openness about financial pressures and affordability is needed and, where relevant, collective negotiation needs to be approached in a transparent and trusting manner. Part of good employee relations thus concerns the style in which managers approach it.
This can be robust without being unpleasant. Secondly, strong answers here will appreciate that building a constructive employee relations climate is a long-term endeavour. Breaches of the psychological contract should be awarded and appropriate forms of employee involvement championed. In all these areas there is a vast amount of authoritative published research to draw on to justify key points and plenty of examples too.
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