Favorable employee relations require competent handling of the administrative aspects of the personnel function. These include the management of:
The physical working environment:
benefit procedures, including insurance matters, and vacation and holiday schedules
Work hours must meet the needs of the business but should also be flexible enough to take the personal needs of each employee into account. For example, it may be possible to set business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and allow most people to choose any regular work day within those hours. It may not even be necessary for everyone to work the same total hours per week. You might let some employees work a shorter week to fill peak loads or to keep the business open for more than eight hours a day. In any case, allowing some flexibility in working hours will not only result in increased employee satisfaction, but will likely lead to greater productivity as well.
No matter how flexible working hours are, however, it is important that each employee understand the hours to be worked. Often a simple chart of names and work hours is all that is needed to assure that everyone knows at a glance, who is working when.
The Physical Working Environment
Conditions of facilities and equipment can greatly affect the attitudes of employees. The temperature, lighting and cleanliness in and around the working area and the general maintenance of equipment are all important to an employee's satisfaction on the job. Even a draft or a cold floor can make a difference in a person's perception of you as a good employer.
Employees need facilities for lunch, especially if there are no restaurants in the area. Good employee practices suggest that a refrigerator, a sink, and even a small employee lunch area for breaks and lunch hours should be available.
Clean toilet facilities and a personal locker or adequate closet space for clothing of employees are a necessity. Parking arrangements are also important. When an employee comes to work and finds no parking place, and has to look for one, possibly for some time, he or she will not start the day ready for high achievement. When it is necessary to ask employees to park fairly far away - such as in a shopping mall where the better parking spaces have to be reserved for customers, the need for this inconvenience should be clearly explained to employees when they are first hired.
Fairness in assigning people to equipment, or equipment to people is another important procedural matter which affects the satisfaction your people gain from their work. It is no slight matter if the new vehicle or the new computer is assigned carelessly, without good reason.
Individually, each of these aspects of working conditions can be significant sources of complaints and even grievances. Together they have great influence on the work climate that exists in your firm. Unless you consider all of them seriously, and keep the needs of your employees in mind, your employees will feel that you have little regard for their physical well-being.
Wages and salaries are such important matters to employees that it is not only important to pay fairly, but also promptly and accurately.
People want to receive their pay when they have been told to expect it. Your staff reacts favorably, not only to prompt payment, but to the immediate correction of any errors that may have occurred. Employees are rightfully annoyed if their legitimate requests are treated as impositions. Cheerful attention to such problems will generally be appreciated especially if it is clear evidence of a spirit of concern for the employee's welfare. An opportunity to show such concern presents itself every so often when a minor emergency will force someone to ask for his or her pay a day or two early. If it is at all possible, and the emergency is valid, it brings goodwill to satisfy such a request. When such exceptions are granted, however, it should be made clear, in a nice way, that they cannot become regular practice.
A benefits program brings the best results when employees who have claims are helped with filing them and if someone follows up when an insurance company does not process the claim promptly. Information on benefits should, of course, be provided to employees, from time to time.
Vacation time, too, is important to employees. Some have to coordinate with spouses, others take advantage of special travel offers or other opportunities. As much as possible, good personnel policies require that vacation schedules are prepared early during the year so employees who want to make plans find out whether their preferred dates are available. You can, of course, specify that you will close certain weeks or that, at all times, certain positions have to be covered (two salespeople have to be on the floor at all times, or someone has to be in the shop who can weld, or someone has to cover the telephone, etc.).
To prevent conflicts from affecting business performance, it should be understood how they will be resolved - by who asked for a date first or by seniority or some other way.
What applies to vacations also applies to holidays, to some extent. Your company's paid holidays should be well known to the entire staff of course. Here, too, flexibility could be used. If you are in a business which is open during some holidays, schedules should be prepared far in advance so everyone knows who is expected to work and who will have the day off. If your business can be flexible, it is a good idea to let people shift holidays if they would prefer to do so, or even allow them to work and earn an extra day's pay. Here, as in all other personnel functions, it is better to adopt flexible policies which give great freedom to employees to satisfy personal needs. With such flexibility in the personnel function, a business can be much more insistent that rules and work standards be adhered to. This is a fair arrangement. In personnel policies, the company tries to do the best possible to adapt to the needs and expectations of people. In return, employees are expected to honor the company's need for reliability, adherence to reasonable rules, schedules and work standards - all of which have to be clearly communicated by words and deeds.
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