5 Steps To Improve Employee Relations

December 3, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

A good nonprofit manager is someone who communicates with their employees in a way that is fair and clear. This might sound like a relatively simple task at first glance but, as Dave McKhenie explained in the book “Five Good Ideas,” it takes a lot of hard work and flexibility on the part of the manager.

McKhenie, who is a partner with McMillan LLP in Toronto, Canada, wrote that there is no checklist to guide you in dealing with every issue; you have to be responsive to individuals and circumstances as problems arise. This being said there are some rules you can follow that can help improve your ability to manage your relationships with your employees. According to McKhenie, those rules can be summed up in the following five steps:

  • Step 1 – X Doesn’t Actually Mark Anything: There is no map that shows you where the treasure chest of good management is located. In employee relations, “X” is a moving target and you can only get close to it by constantly focusing on your goals.
  • Step 2 – Walk the Floor: If you want to have good employee relations, you have to be available, accessible, and in touch with issues your employees might be facing. You cannot manage or lead from behind closed doors.
  • Step 3 – Constant Chatter and Reinforcement: In sports, there’s a coach or lead player who talks to other players, telling them to watch out for a certain player, strategy, or positioning. You can create this atmosphere in your organization by engaging with your employees regularly, helping them troubleshoot as they go about their work.
  • Step 4 – Meaningful Recognition: Pay increases and bonuses don’t do what most people think they do. They acknowledge a job well-done, but they are institutional in nature as they tend to come at the same time each year. But if, during the course of the year, an employee has done a particularly great job, there’s tremendous value in recognizing that accomplishment. You can do this simply by sending a congratulatory email to everyone in the office or, if you want to do something fancier, throwing a party.
  • Step 5 – Listen, Investigate, Respond: The first step of an effective response is simple: Listen. Find out as much as you can about the problem and get acquainted with the details. Once you’ve gathered information, discuss the issue with your counsel if there are legal questions involved, or with peers and other managers if you need guidance. Finally, you should respond to the issue — always in writing.