1. Read the chapter and take notes. Jot down concepts that are unclear and any questions that you have from the reading.
2. Watch the Accenture video on inclusion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDna1RV-tYo
Make a note of any particular element of the video that surprised you or resonated with you.
3. Visit the Harvard Project Implicit page here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ You do NOT have to register to participate.
· Click on the top left link (Project Implicit Social Attitudes). Read through the disclaimer and click I wish to proceed at the bottom.
· A new page will open with all of their implicit bias tests. Explore the tests. You are not required to take one for this class (but it’s encouraged). I just want you to see all of the types of implicit biases they are researching.
4. Watch the HR Daily Advisor: 10 Sins of Employee Documentation video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs4d7Pa2vT8 Make a note of any elements that were surprising or confusing.
5. If you have forgotten what performance management entails, then this short video provides a good review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmpVaBA2m30.
CHAPTER 6 Employee Relations
The functional area Employee Relations will be 24 percent of the
Associate Professional in Human Resources (aPHR) exam weighting. For
both human resource professionals and managers, employee relations is
a very important responsibility because it is focused on “people.” No or-
ganization can run without people to do the work necessary to accom-
plish organizational goals.
For early-career HR roles, employee relations is concerned with many
things, from how the organization communicates with employees and
creates policies, to managing conflict and performance. Many of these re-
sponsibilities are guided by federal, state, and local laws. That’s why the
Employee Relations function partners closely with a labor attorney.
However, while a labor attorney can be a helpful guide, HR is responsible
for applying the laws in practical terms so managers and employees alike
are able to perform their functions appropriately.
The Body of Knowledge (BoK) statements outlined by HR Certification
Institute (HRCI) for the Employee Relations functional area by those per-
forming early-career HR roles are as follows:
• 01 The purpose and difference between mission, vision, and value state-
ments as well as how they influence an organization’s culture and
• 02 How HR supports organizational goals and objectives through HR
policies, procedures, and operations; for example, functions of human re-
source information systems (HRISs), organizational structures, preparing
HR-related documents, basic communication flows and methods, SWOT
analysis, and strategic planning
• 03 Techniques used to engage employees, collect feedback, and improve
employee satisfaction; for example, employee recognition programs, stay
interviews, engagement surveys, work/life balance initiatives, and alter-
native work arrangements
• 04 Workforce management throughout the employee lifecycle, including
performance management and employee behavior issues; for example,
goal setting, benchmarking, performance appraisal methods and biases,
ranking/rating scales, progressive discipline, termination/separation, off-
boarding, absenteeism, and turnover/retention
• 05 Policies and procedures to handle employee complaints, facilitate in-
vestigations, and support conflict resolution; for example, confidentiality,
escalation, retaliation, and documentation
• 06 The elements of diversity and inclusion initiatives and the impact on
organizational effectiveness and productivity; for example, social respon-
sibility initiatives, cultural sensitivity and acceptance, unconscious bias,
Laws and Regulations
As with all the other chapters, you will find more details about laws that
apply to employee and labor relations in Chapter 2. Look to that chapter
for information each time you come across a reference to a law you don’t
understand or have yet to hear about. Figure 6-1 lists some of the federal
laws that apply to this functional area.
Figure 6-1 Key federal laws impacting employee and labor relations
EXAM TIP Whenever you see the term labor relations, it means you are
talking about employees who are represented by a union.
Each state can pass its own employee relations laws—and many have. At
the state level you will find such coverage as these, governing the follow-
• Expansion of benefits beyond those provided for in federal law
• State disability insurance programs
• Unemployment insurance programs
• Paid sick leave
• Equal employment opportunity protections for classes beyond those in
• Wage and hour requirements for overtime rates and rules of application
It is often the case that a state law covers the same topic as a federal
law but offers more protections for employees. In this scenario, you
should follow whichever law is more “generous” to employees.
When Congress passes a law, it is up to the appropriate department (or
agency) such as the U.S. Department of Labor (and the National Labor
Relations Board) to develop and publish proposed regulations that will
implement the new law. Once the proposed regulations are published,
there is a requirement for a public comment period. At the close of the
public comment period, the department will review the comments, make
any changes it believes appropriate in the regulation proposal, and pub-
lish either the final regulations or a revised proposal with a new public
comment period. Once published as final, the regulations will carry an
implementation date (or dates for individual components of the law’s re-
quirements). Once that date has arrived, all employment organizations
subject to the new law and regulations will be obligated to comply.
Rights and Responsibilities
One important aspect of employee relations is rights and responsibilities.
As with any relationship, each party (employee and employer) must allow
for certain rights and responsibilities for the relationship to continue in a
healthy and productive way. Doing this is part of complying with the laws
that are passed.
Employer responsibilities include such things as treating employees in ac-
cordance with the principle of “good faith and fair dealing.” It is more
than an ethical requirement. Good faith and fair dealing is a legal
covenant. Employers are expected to honor commitments made to em-
ployees when employees are convinced to act based on those employer
promises. For example, when a manager interviews the best qualified job
candidate and says, “We really want you to move out to our state and be
part of this organization. We will have a job for you for as long as you
want it,” the employer has enticed the candidate into action based on the
promise of permanent employment. If the employer cuts the new em-
ployee off the payroll when downsizing the organization, it has broken its
obligation under the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The result
can be a lawsuit based on contract law.
Employer rights include the expectation that employees will work for a
full 8 hours each day they are scheduled for 8 hours. The employer has a
right to ensure worker behavior while on the job meets with policy re-
quirements, and the employer has the right to inspect employee work
product, work space, and communication related to work.
Employees have the right to expect they will be treated with good faith
and fairly by their employer. They have the right to proper wage calcula-
tion and prompt payment. They have the right to full benefit provisions
as provided by organizational policy and contract provisions.
Employees also have responsibilities. Those include the responsibility
to give a full 8 hours of effort for an 8-hour workday compliance with all
to give a full 8 hours of effort for an 8-hour workday, compliance with all
employer policies, and treatment of everyone in the workplace with
Employee relations programs should be aligned with an organization’s vi-
sion, mission, values, goals, and objectives. All employee relations pro-
grams communicate organizational strategy in some way. For example, a
performance evaluation usually rates employee performance based on
certain expectations, outputs, and behaviors. These may be attendance,
customer service, following policies, creativity, and so on. The options are
endless. However, what is important is that the categories chosen for the
performance evaluation align with the things the organization cares
about and hopes to accomplish.
Employees and the organization are ultimately more successful when
there is a shared understanding of the things that are important. For ex-
ample, a core value of “honesty” may not be relatable to employees if
there are not programs for constructive feedback, mediums for reporting
employee concerns such as an open-door policy, or an option for anony-
mous reporting of serious breaches of organizational policy.
A mission is a written declaration of an organization’s core purpose and
focus that normally remains unchanged over time. Properly crafted mis-
sion statements do the following:
• Serve as filters to separate what is important from what is not
• Clearly state which markets will be served and how
• Communicate a sense of intended direction to the entire organization
A vision is different from a mission. A mission is something to be accom-
plished, whereas a vision is more of an inspirational statement. It de-
scribes what the organization envisions for the future if it fulfills its mis-
sion. A vision is intended to serve as a clear guide for choosing current
and future courses of action.
Values are important and lasting beliefs or ideals shared by the members
of a culture about what is good or bad and desirable or undesirable.
Values have a major influence on a person’s behavior and attitude, and
they serve as broad guidelines in all situations. Some common business
values are fairness, innovation, and community involvement.
Goals and Objectives
Objectives define strategies or implementation steps to attain the identi-
fied goals. Unlike goals, objectives are specific and measurable and have a
defined completion date. Objectives follow the SMART test (specific, mea-
surable, achievable, relevant, and timed). They outline the “who, what,
when, where, and how” of reaching the goals.
Strategic planning is a regular process that executive management in all
functional areas is involved in. It flows from an organization’s mission,
vision, values, goals, and objectives. It describes the direction the organi-
zation wants to go in and how resources should be allocated to pursue
this direction. The annual budget each year is usually an output of strate-
A common technique for strategic planning is a SWOT analysis. SWOT
stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths
and weaknesses are looked at as internal factors within the organization
that can be managed. Opportunities and threats are controlled by exter-
nal forces. SWOT analysis is a long-standing simple process used in strate-
gic planning for collecting information about an organization’s current
state. Four foundational questions are posed:
• S: What are the organization’s strengths?
• W: What are the organization’s weaknesses?
• O: What external opportunities might help the organization to progress
toward its vision?
• T: What external threats could foil the organization’s plans and business?
HR’s role in the strategic plan is to align its initiatives with the
organization’s objectives. Having the right number of people, with the
right capabilities, at the right times, and in the right places, engaged and
motivated to do the right things is HR’s primary support role for the orga-
nization. For example, recruitment initiatives must align with plans for
opening a new facility. Retention incentives such as compensation and
benefits should fit into the organization’s plans for holding on to key em-
What will be the human resource department’s contribution to the en-
terprise strategic plan? Table 6-1 outlines some things that are fairly
Table 6-1 HR’s Contribution to the Strategic Plan
A business structure, otherwise known as an organizational structure, de-
fines how activities such as task allocation, coordination, and supervision
are directed toward the achievement of organizational aims. It can also
be considered the viewing glass or perspective through which individuals
see their organization and its environment.
The four main types of organizational structure are flat, functional, di-
visional, and matrix, as detailed next:
• Flat A flat organization (also known as a horizontal organization or de-
layering) has an organizational structure with few or no levels of middle
management between staff and executives. The advantages of this type of
structure are that it elevates the employees’ level of responsibility in the
organization, and it removes excess layers of management, which im-
proves the coordination and speed of communication between employ-
ees. Fewer levels of management encourage an easier decision-making
process among employees. The disadvantages are that employees often
lack a specific boss to report to, which creates confusion and possible
power struggles among management. Also, flat organizations tend to pro-
duce a lot of generalists but no specialists, and the specific job functions
of employees may not be clear. A flat structure may limit the long-term
growth of an organization; management may decide against new oppor-
tunities in an effort to maintain the structure. Larger organizations strug-
gle to adapt the flat structure, unless the company divides into smaller,
more manageable units.
• Functional A functional structure is set up so that each portion of the or-
ganization is grouped according to its purpose. In this type of organiza-
tion there may be a marketing department, a sales department, and a pro-
duction department. The functional structure works well for small busi-
nesses in which each department can rely on the talent and knowledge of
its workers and support itself. One of the drawbacks to a functional struc-
ture is that the coordination and communication between departments
can be restricted by the organizational boundaries of having the various
departments working separately.
• Divisional A divisional structure typically is used in larger companies
that operate in a wide geographic area or that have separate smaller or-
ganizations within the umbrella group to cover different types of prod-
ucts or market areas. Many automotive manufacturers such as Toyota
have a divisional structure, with divisions for each car brand, a parts di-
vision, and divisions for each geographic area. The benefit of this struc-
ture is that needs can be met more rapidly and more specifically; how-
ever, communication is inhibited because employees in different divi-
sions are not working together. Divisional structure is costly because of
its size and scope. Small businesses can use a divisional structure on a
smaller scale, having different offices in different parts of the city, for ex-
ample, or assigning different sales teams to handle different geographic
• Matrix The matrix structure is a hybrid of the divisional and functional
structures. Typically used in large multinational companies, the matrix
structure allows for the benefits of functional and divisional structures to
exist in one organization. This can create power struggles because most
areas of the company will have dual management—a functional manager
and a product or divisional manager working at the same level and cov-
ering some of the same managerial territory.
EXAM TIP The advantage of a functional structure is that it promotes
skill specialization; the disadvantage is that it reduces communication
and cooperation between departments.
Following from organizational structure is the consideration of how com-
munication flows through the organization. Depending on an
organization’s structure, communication may be easier or more difficult.
For example, in a flat organizational structure, employees in all depart-
ments may work together closely, and communication is relatively seam-
less. In a divisional structure, especially where employees are separately
geographically, other departments can be “out of sight, out of mind,” re-
sulting in strained communication.
Workplace communication is the process of exchanging information,
both verbal and nonverbal, within an organization. An organization may
consist of employees from different parts of the society. They may have
different cultures and backgrounds and can be used to different norms.
To unite activities of all employees and restrain from any missed deadline
or activity that could affect the company negatively, communication is
crucial. Workplace communication is tremendously important to organi-
zations because it increases productivity and efficiency. Ineffective work-
place communication leads to communication gaps between employees,
which causes confusion, wastes time, and reduces productivity.
Communication starts from the top. Management should always be
thinking about whether communication is effective and which new meth-
ods of communication could be more productive. For example, are more
meetings needed between departments? A monthly newsletter to all em-
ployees? More e-mails updating employees on the status of projects? The
options are endless. Whether interacting with colleagues, subordinates,
managers, customers, or vendors, employees’ ability to communicate ef-
fectively using a variety of tools is essential.
Also, nonverbal communication must be taken into consideration. How
a person delivers a message has a lot of influence on how it is perceived.
HR is often responsible for management communication training, which
emphasizes skills for nonverbal and verbal communication.
As technology becomes even more prevalent, workplaces find themselves
communicating via e-mail more than ever. E-mail communication is an
art. It is easy for a reader to construe a whole different meaning from an
e-mail message than what was originally intended.
Here are some tips concerning e-mail etiquette:
• Start on a personal note.
• Tame the emotions.
• Keep it short and sweet.
• Read it twice.
• Master the subject line by making it clear and concise.
Human Resource Information Systems (HRISs)
HR professionals coordinate a wide variety of employee activities that in-
volve large amounts of data over time, so having a human resource infor-
mation system (HRIS) can be an important part of the HR strategy. An
HRIS provides data management and accurate and timely information for
decision-making. It also streamlines HR processes by reducing the
amount of time spent on daily transaction activities, such as tracking em-
ployee status changes. It frees the HR team to work on tasks that are more
aligned with the organization’s goals and strategy.
An HRIS functions as a productivity tool for HR. Increased speed and
accuracy result when HR transactions are performed with computer soft-
ware rather than manually. Routine transactions such as employee head-
count, payroll tracking, and time and attendance reporting become auto-
mated and more cost effective.
Data for legal compliance and reporting can also be housed in an HRIS,
such as data about staffing, turnover, benefits, and regulatory compliance
issues. HR staff can provide reports on the total number of employees,
cost to hire, vacant positions, benefits costs, required reports such as EEO-
1, and the cost of raises and bonuses.
A company’s HRIS also functions as an executive information system to
aggregate high-level data for long-range planning such as succession
planning. The system provides information for strategic needs such as
forecasting, staffing needs assessment, and employee skills assessment.
Lastly, an HRIS can also function as an office automation system to de-
sign employee documents such as job applications and requisitions, to
schedule shared resources such as a conference room, and to schedule
and track employee training. All employee communication, such as news-
letters, employee handbooks, and benefits changes, can also be housed in
Human Resource Policies
HR policies are guidelines on the approach the organization intends to
adopt in managing its people. HR policies are written statements of the
company’s standards and objectives and include all areas of employment.
They contain rules on how employees must perform their jobs and inter-
act with each other.
EXAM TIP HR policies serve three major purposes: to reassure employ-
ees they will be treated fairly and objectively, to help managers make
rapid and consistent decisions, and to give managers the confidence to re-
solve problems and defend their decisions.
The terms employee handbook and policy manual are often used inter-
changeably. Regardless of the term used, this document sets forth expec-
tations for employees and describes what they can expect from the com
tations for employees and describes what they can expect from the com-
pany. It should also describe legal obligations such as the employer’s and
Many states have rather strict laws about employment policies and
their communication with workers. Generally, it is not acceptable to make
policies effective retroactively. Plan to circulate any policy changes or ad-
ditions to your employees with sufficient time for them to digest and ad-
just to the requirements before the implementation date.
NOTE Attorneys recommend having employees sign a document ac-
knowledging receipt of the employee handbook. It doesn’t mean they
agree with everything in the handbook but rather that they have received
a personal copy. This is helpful in preventing legal claims.
Developing an employee handbook can take a short amount of time or
a considerable amount of time. It is important to involve other depart-
ments and employees in the process to make sure the handbook is both
legally compliant and accurately communicates organizational values
and goals. If the organization has unions, it may be necessary to negotiate
policy changes through the collective bargaining process.
When writing an employee handbook, keep in mind that it typically in-
cludes the following topics:
• ADA policy The duty to provide reasonable accommodation is required
under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To comply with the ADA,
attain diversity goals, access a larger labor pool, and take advantage of
tax incentives, most employers adopt a written policy with a formal, com-
prehensive approach to employing people with disabilities.
• EEO policy Employees must be informed of their right to be free from
workplace discrimination and retaliation. EEO policies also apply to ven-
p p pp y
dors, contractors, and other third parties with whom the employer con-
ducts business. State or local laws may expand the list of protected
• Harassment policy It is important for employees to understand that the
organization has zero-tolerance for harassment and what avenues are
available for reporting and resolving complaints.
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