“Where the heart is willing it will find a thousand ways,
But where it is unwilling it will find a thousand excuses.”
Employee Relations is a very vital part of public relations. It is as important as other elements of public relations which include: customers, shareholders, community, distributors, law enforcement agents etc. The reason is that the employees are the first point of contact with the organization. The absence of employees, renders an organization inactive. This is so because in the factors of production: land, capital, entrepreneur etc. are passive while the employees (labour) are active.The employees must coordinate the other three factors of production before production can take place. But employee relations is the most neglected aspect of public relations practice. The reason for this neglect is not far-fetched.
First, many so called public relations practitioners in most organizations are not trained in the field of public relations. Some of them are company secretaries, marketing managers, administrative managers etc. who also double as public relations officers and are designated corporate affairs managers. These people are not versed in the activities of public relations and the end result of their performance is total failure. The job of public relations is not an all comers one. It is not for every Tom, Dick and Harry rather, it is a management function which can only be handled effectively by professionals who are trained in the field of public relations.
Second, the managements of most organizations don’t even recognize the importance of public relations as a profession not to talk of employee relations which is just a segment of public relations. Thus, the neglect of employee relations has engendered industrial crises in various organizations across the nation. This is because employees of any organization are brought together from different backgrounds. But these employees from various cultures, religions, education, beliefs, ages etc. must be coordinated in order to achieve the aims and objectives of the organization the employees work with. To bring these diverse groups of people into one united group whose views and perceptions will agree with those of the organization, there must be as a matter of fact, a deliberate policy that will ensure a two-way communication between the organization and the employees. This policy is aimed at winning the goodwill and support of the employees for the continuous existence and success of the organization which is beneficial to all the stakeholders-employer and employees. This is what employee relations is all about.
Nevertheless, for an effective two-way communication to exist in any organization, two factors are required. The two factors are trade union and meeting. A trade union is an organized association of employees that protect their interests. It is in the trade union meetings that junior workers bring out their views together. But the views of the employees cannot reach the management of the organization if it does not have an open door policy of holding meetings regularly with the employees. It is when the management of an organization holds meetings periodically with employees that it gets to know the needs of the employees and attend to them. So, meeting, which is one of the tools of public relations communication between the employer and employees, is vital for the peaceful existence of any organization. Other tools of public relations communication with internal publics are house journals, notice boards, wall posters, audio tapes, letters to employees, suggestion boxes, seminars and workshops etc.
Suffice it to know that most privately owned organizations do not allow trade unions. They see trade unions as threat to the peace of their organizations. But this is not true because trade unions are not formed to cause crises, rather they are formed to protect the interest of workers. They are formed to articulate their views and agitate for their rights, the right to good conditions of service.
It must be made clear that for any organization to succeed, it is imperative for it to maintain good relations with its employees. But, because of the ignorance unqualified public relations practitioners have towards the employees, they spend huge sums of money on external publics, neglecting the employees who are vital for the existence of the organization. The poor economic situation prevailing in the country made employers cultivate a nonchalant attitude towards their employees. They feel that if their employees are not satisfied with what they can offer them as salaries, they can look elsewhere for better employment. The result of such attitude is low productivity, wastages, inefficiency, strikes, low worker morale etc. Sometimes, it also results in willful damage of machinery and property. This is more prevalent in manufacturing companies where the use of machinery is more pronounced.
Employee relations like other aspects of public relations, is well planned and coordinated programme of actions that serve the interest of both organization and its employees. The Public Relations Manager works very hard in order to keep good relations with the media and other publics of his organization. He must maintain the same strength of work to sustain employee relations. To maintain a cordial relationship between the organization and the employees, the Public Relations Officer must as a matter of necessity employ relevant employee techniques for fruitful communication. An effective employee relations can prevent industrial crises and encourage cooperation between the organization and the employees.
An organization that has a policy for employee relations, will give room for dialogue and collective bargaining. In this way, the employees can express their feelings concerning issues that affect their welfare. By this, they are indirectly participating in the decision making process of the organization. This usually lead to industrial harmony, peace and increase in productivity. On the contrary, when the management of an organization takes a unilateral decision and tries to force it on the employees, there is bound to be disagreement and the end result is low productivity and strikes.
In a nutshell, the issue of employee relations cannot be over-emphasized. When there is effective communication, good employee relations will show increased productivity, high worker morale, job satisfaction, sense of belonging etc. It is noteworthy that where all these benefits abound, the corporate image of the organization will be better and attract the sympathy of all and sundry.