By Gean Botha, MD at Programmed Process Outsourcing (PPO)
Employee relations involves far more than managing the employee cycle from recruitment through to end of contract. The term ‘relations’ implies the building of relationships, which are key in creating an environment conducive to positive interactions. This cross-functional capability needs to become a holistic experience, centred on employee happiness and wellbeing, and this is where a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) partner can assist.
Happy staff are productive staff
In the narrow sense, employee relations is a human resources and industrial relations role, necessary for onboarding staff and ensuring they subscribe to company rules and regulations. However, this rigid definition fails to take into account the human element, which lies at the heart of staffing. Employee relations are critical to business productivity and efficiency. Many studies show that when staff are happy and motivated, they increase output and are more productive.
For example, when issues such as lateness and absenteeism arise, disciplinary action may be needed. However, an approach centred more on employee wellness would look deeper at the issue, possibly to discover that transport has become an issue for staff from a certain area, or that disruptive action where they live is preventing them from coming to work on time. The second approach will help to not only discover the root cause of a potentially significant long-term problem, it will also help to build long-term relationships and develop a deeper understanding of employees. This is achieved through the implementation of workplace forums on client sites, by the BPO provider, to ensure good employee relations.
Motivation is a foundation of good employee relations – understanding what drives people and how to improve morale and productivity is vital. This also extends to incentivising staff, not necessarily in terms of financial reward, but appropriate remuneration and benefits, as well as training.
A snowball effect
Without effective employee relations, there is the potential for a knock on effect to occur. Demotivated employees are not only unhappy and less productive, they will also demotivate others, which snowballs into a detrimental impact on overall staff morale and wellness. This in turn affects productivity significantly, which in turn impacts business profitability, and may even result in strike action.
Demotivated employees over time also affect the entire company culture, creating a problem across all areas of the business and impacting the morale of new entrants. Managing relationships effectively can avoid all of these negative impacts, while enhancing the business in several other areas.
The outsourced solution
A BPO model can outsource the employee relations function to create a happier, more motivated and productive workforce, with direct supervision on site to manage the function effectively. This starts by performing due diligence and getting the right structures, processes and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place, which in turn forms the basis for training. SOPs also set guidelines, so staff know what is expected of them and what they are being measured against, which helps to improve motivation.
While outsourcing employee relations to a BPO can be beneficial and avoid administrative headaches for a business, it is critical to partner with a reputable and experienced partner. BPO partners must have the skills and expertise to deliver effectively, and have relationships to assist with staffing and legal issues. This will help to ensure businesses get the best support and are compliant with minimum wages and benefits as per specific industry regulations, an important element in staff retention. It also helps to provide peace of mind that labour and business risk can effectively be mitigated.
Another important element to consider is the financial position of the BPO provider. When providing an outsourced service, the partner takes on the entire role, including management and payment of staff. However, without financial liquidity, the BPO provider may not be able to ensure staff are paid accurately and on time, and to provide the necessary benefits for staff, which will have the opposite effect on employee morale.
Ultimately, the successful implementation of a BPO model can dramatically improve employee relations, enhancing and driving a positive company culture, which will in turn positively impact on business performance and productivity. Good employee relations drives efficiency in a business, because a motivated workforce is a productive workforce.