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From the time, when the industrial revolution started there has been the constant focus on concepts such as industrial relations or employee relations. Industrial relations can be defined as a multidisciplinary field which studies the employment relationship. Hence, over a period of time it has been observed that industrial relations have become synonymous with employment relations or employee relations due to growing importance of non-industrial employee relationships. Hence, when we discuss employee relations, HRM on Employee Relations Assignment can be defined as the relationship which exists between an employee and the management. The progress of an organisation is impossible without cooperation and efforts from the workers or employees working in it. Therefore, it becomes essential to ensure that a good relation between employees and employers is always maintained, especially since both are dependent on each other. Organisations in manufacturing or any other industries focus more on the concept of industrial relations where employees are represented by the employee body known as trade unions. These trade unions represented by union leaders represent the collective opinion of the employees. In the non-industrial organisation, the focus is more towards establishing a harmonious relation between the employee and the management of the organisation. Hence, in such cases it is not necessary that there might be a trade union (Bhatnagar, 2007, pp.640-663). It is also important to know, that even though employee relations originates from the broad concept of industrial relations, there is a difference between them. For example, regulatory guidelines and other legal frameworks govern the employee bodies such as trade unions; on another hand in case of employee relations it is not necessary that legal option has to be present. These relations between employer and employee might also be affected due to several factors at organisational levels along with external factors such as a state of economy etc.
Due to increasing prominence of non-industry organisations, terms like employee relations are being used frequently. The purpose of HRM on Employee Relations Assignment is to focus on analyses of the concept related to employee relations by analysing various case studies and real life example of organisations in the United Kingdom.
There is no doubt about the fact that, there has been the significant level of changes, which have taken place in the way organisation are managing their human resource, and overall employee relations. Unlike the past, when the core focus was always towards achieving business objective ignoring employee's interest, today picture has changed completely. Organisations have realised the importance of the quality human resource, and that is why they are focusing on balancing the employee relations along with aligning them in the process of achieving business objectives. When it comes to employee relations, there are two distinct approaches which help in setting up better employee relations between employee and employer. These approaches are pluralistic and unitarist approaches (Blyton & Turnbull, 2004).
In a unitarist approach, an organisation is mainly concerned as a system which is integrated and harmonious in nature, or more like one happy family. One major assumption of this approach is, that all the members of the organisation such as management and its staff are in sync with the shared business objectives , interests and purposes and work closely with each other to achieve these milestones. It will not be wrong to say that unitarist approach resembles more like a paternalistic approach where loyalty from all the employees is expected. In such approach, there is no relevance of employee bodies such as trade unions and they are often considered as disruptions. On another hand, pluralist approach resembles a structure where an organisation is perceived as being made up of different divergent and powerful sub-groups such as management and trade unions. In this approach, there are often conflicts of interests and disagreements between the supervisors and workers on the variety of issues such as salary, work time etc. Hence, over a period of time role of management is focused more towards persuasion and coordination and less of enforcer and controller. Trade unions are legitimate in this kind of structure, and conflict is dealt through approaches like collective bargaining etc. (Cascio & McEvoy, 2008).
An example of unitarist approach is of Apple Inc. Apple as an organisation is completely driven by the leadership of its CEO-Tim Cook. The entire organisation functions like a large family which is focused continuously towards achieving the goal of maintaining Apple as one of the most valued company on the work. On another hand, Sainsbury's PLC is an example of pluralist approach, where trade unions are present in the organisation and from time to time management of Sainsbury's engage with the trade union leaders, to sort issues like the hike in pay package etc.
Due to low salary there was a long list of employees who were not agreeing to pay the monthly fee for the membership. Apart from low salary there were some reasons as well which is part time job from this is the point of view this was not profitable for them to pay or spend money in the monthly membership. A trade union is the legal body of any organisations in which employee’s rights and needs are concerned, those employees who faced or faces problems regarding any issue they all go to trade unions for a solution of the problems. Problems regarding the low salary, unpaid holidays etc. all these problems are sorted out by the trade unions because it is the legal body of the organisation. Advisors not only provide the solution of problems of employees but also focus on working environment for the employees. Advisors focus on the healthy and secure working environment for the employees at organisations.
Over a period of time, there has been a gradual change in the trade unionism, which has also impacted the employee relations. Unlike the past, where employees were completely loyal to the trade unions, today they are vulnerable due to the uncertain economy. Hence, management of the organisations across the world knows that today it is relatively easy to break the structure of the trade unions if they are disruptive in nature. In fact in countries like China, there are hardly any trade unions due to stringent laws and regulations related to this aspect. However, as an adverse impact, the curtailing power of trade union also exposes the employees to potential exploitation in hands of the management. Hence, trade unions in industrial relations are like counterbalance measures which stabilises the monopoly of the management and keep them on their toes (Cully, 2005).
On another hand, reduction in the activities of trade unions has also reduced the disruptions which were caused due to such trade unions. Hence, organisations, especially in non-industrial sector constantly push for the removal of trade unions from the organisation, or they resist any attempt to create a union. However, organisations have also realised that in order to satisfy employee's interests it is important for them to set up robust and fruitful employee relations policies so that employees can be motivated and managed in a much better manner.
With employees, becoming increasingly aware of their rights, they are pitching for a fair relationship with the organisation due to which relevance of trade unions remains.
In an organisational setup, there are several main players who are responsible for the employee relations implementation and its maintenance. In order to have a better understanding, examples of Sainsbury's has been taken, which is one of the largest retailers in the United Kingdom today.
The first important player is the managerwho manages employees and allocates the day to day tasks to them. Often employees working under a manager look up to him for any issue or consultation they need on any aspect. In Sainsbury's there are store level managers who are responsible for entire store management and acts like a bridge between the top management and the employees working at the store. Store employee's first point of contact for any issue etc. is the store manager. Hence, the way store manager manages his employee, listens to their problems and helps them to grow, decides the overall growth of the employees and the store. A store manager in Sainsbury's is also responsible for motivating the employees to perform better and help them in achieving their individual goals. Overall, managers are also responsible for ensuring that interests of the employees working in the store is taken care off, along with ensuring that organisational objectives of Sainsbury’s are met. After manager, other important players are the trade unions/employee unions in the organisation. In Sainsbury’s every store has a small group which is connected with the overall unions of the Sainsbury’s employees spread across the different stores. Trade unions are critical for maintenance of the employee relations because they act like a collective voice of the employees under them. Hence, management of the organisation also finds it easy to deal with a collective voice and understand the concerns of employees rather than going through each and every individual in the organisation to understand their issues. However, such employee unions or trade unions should function within the regulatory framework set up by an organisation; else they might prove to be disruptive in nature (Greasley et al,2005). Lastly, for an organisation role of government or public agencies is also equally important in the employee relations. For example, employee commission in the UK has defined specific guidelines for the employees in the retail sector, their packages, working hours etc. Hence, it becomes essential for Sainsbury's as an organisation to implement these guidelines and ensure that these guidelines are met. However, if such guidelines are not met by the organisation then it can also lead to exploitation of employees in various forms resulting into disruption of the employee relations.
Every organisation faces situations of conflict. However, the way they handle and resolve the conflict segregates the successful organisation from the ordinary one. Similarly, in Sainsbury’s also there are several methods used based on the situation to resolve a conflict.
Mediation by the third party is one of the popular ways through which Sainsbury's resolves its conflict. For example, there have been several cases of conflict between two employees at a store over shift timings of the job, in such cases manager of the store steps in, understands their problem and accordingly helps them to resolve the issue by taking the decision to resolve the conflict. This method is more of an informal method of conflict resolution and might not involve and legality around it. Apart from meditation, Sainsbury's also uses arbitrationas one of the methods to resolve the conflict. For example at times suppliers and Sainsbury's are in the situation of conflict due to several buyer-supplier issues, in such case the issue is resolved by arbitration done by some industry conflict resolution body which hears the case of both parties and accordingly announces the judgement which is acceptable by both the parties. In such cases of conflict resolution, there is the level of legality around the judgement announced, and both parties in the conflict have to accept the judgement. Lastly, negotiationis also one of the popular ways of resolving a conflict. For example if a store manager who is highly talented and useful for the organisation decides to quit, then higher management negotiates with him and pursue him to stay, in the process of negotiation they might increase his pay package or offer him added benefits over what he might be getting in present scenario (Harzing, 2001).
In the case of Sainsbury's, there was a situation in 2009 when there was unrest among the employees due to impending layoff announced by the organisation due to a downfall in the economic conditions of UK. Due to an economic recession, Sainsbury's turnover was also impacted due to which it decided to trim its workforce to optimise its operational expenses.
However, in such situation when certain employees are about to lose their jobs, then it becomes important for the organisation to use effective communication methods and framework to communicate the message in a way that it is able to convey the message clearly, without hurting sentiments of the employees. Hence, Sainsbury's focussed on firstly communicating the decision along with the proper reasons behind the decision. It was clearly communicated that due to an economic recession, revenue of the company was not-up-to the mark resulting into cost cutting across an organisation. It also offered pay package of next two months for the employees to be laid off.
Hence, the important feature which Sainsbury's represented in its employee relations was, that it not only effectively communicated its decisions with the proper logic behind it, but it also showed concern about the employees to be laid off by paying them the package of next two months. This strategy of Sainsbury's helped in minimising the resentment among the employees and ensured that minimum conflict situation was created. It can be said, that Sainsbury’s indirectly negotiated with the employees and their unions in order to convince them about the decision taken by the company.
Selected conflict situation for this task will be the employee lay off during 2009 by Sainsbury’s in order to trim down its operational expenses. One of the key features of employee relations is effective communication between the parties involved in the conflict. Hence, a role of negotiator becomes important, who should be an effective communicator in order to resolve a situation.
Secondly, in such situation of conflict as faced by Sainsbury's one important feature of employee relations which was displayed was related to the flexibility of management to listen to the concerns of employees, and to see if their demands can be adjusted or met through some ways. In a conflict situation, one critical key feature is to ensure that the problem is defined. Without defining the problem, the entire process of negotiation might prove to be directionless. In a situation of conflict, it is also important for the negotiation to make both parties express their opinions freely, because in such situations at times total silence of any of the party might be an indication of passive resistance which is not good for the process of negotiation.
Every situation has two sides which are known as good or bad so the same thing applies here in which one side which was good for the employees at Sainsbury and for others not good.
As it can be seen in the above section, that Sainsbury's used negotiation method of conflict resolution, it clearly indicated its decisions, along with its intent to support the affected employees in various ways. Hence, it will be not wrong to say, that negotiation as a method to resolve conflict is effective when it takes into account points of all the parties involved in the conflict. If the negotiator becomes biassed towards any party the then possibility of failure of negotiation becomes high (Marchington & Parker, 2005).
Considering the fact that negotiation is focused on resolving internal conflicts, hence it is effective to involve a party as the negotiator who is well aware of the internal processes and the overall structure of the organisation. Also, negotiation is effective because it not involves formality or legality in the processes. Due to which parties involved in the situation of conflict can easily discuss their concerns with each other and come to a concluding point. That is why, by negotiating with employees, Sainsbury's displayed its intent to resolve any possible issue in consultation with the employees, which in turn gave confidence to the employees that they are part of the decision-making process.
Collective bargaining and negotiation method helped a lot for those who were not satisfied with the Sainsbury management. Negotiation and collective bargaining are the methods which can solve the problems of employees in which voice can rise up in front of the organisation management. Negotiation is the prominent way to solve the problems while on the other hand it is very necessary and mandatory for the trade unions is to involve in the negotiation process. With the help of trade unions in a negotiation process, basic needs or rights can be met with the employees.
With the help of trade unions in the process of negotiation, payment structure can be increased for the employees and some extra benefits can be given to employees. Negotiation process pushes the management to think about the employee's rights and about the payment structure as well.
The role of collective bargaining is quite crucial and important in industrial relation. It not only provides the solution of the problems but also recognise labor management problems. Apart from this it is the method to introduce those rights which are civil in the industry. some restrictions and rules are setups by the collective bargaining method in which employees rights are concerned.
Self-respect develops in employees through collective bargaining
In employee relations, when there is a situation of conflict then often different ways of conflict resolution are used. Among them, negotiation is also one of the important ways through which situation is resolved. However, in order to do an effective negotiation, concept of collective bargaining is important to be understood. Collective bargaining can be defined as a process of negotiations which takes place between employers and a group of employees. The core objective of this bargaining process is to reach an agreement where the certain issue of conflict can be resolved.
Unlike other methods of conflict resolution, in collective bargaining issues of the employees are represented by representatives of the trade unions to which the employees belong. Hence, it will be not wrong to say, that process of collective bargaining is focused more towards considering the collective interest of the parties involved in bargaining. Hence when the process of collective bargaining takes place then both parties, i.e. employers and the employees try to reach to a bargain where interests of both sides are taken care of without any negative impact on either of the sides (Matlay, 2009).
Negotiation strategy in situations like the one explained above for Sainsbury management has always been effective to resolve the conflict, within a short span of time. Unlike other ways of negotiation, negotiation is less formal in nature, hence not too much preparation has to be done in order to implement this process that is why time consumed to resolve an issue is less. Although there are situations when a process of negotiation might be questioned for its intent or objectivity, but in such situations it is necessary to appoint a negotiator who is not biassed and understands all the aspects related to the conflict, then only there will be a transparent process of negotiation which will take place. Also, negotiation is more effective in breaking barriers between different levels of organisations such as working class and management class etc. through this process both parties come to known about each other’s issues in a more clear way. Ultimately, negotiation is a flexible process which considers benefits of both the parties involved in the situation of conflict (Tansel & Gazîo?lu, 2014).
After analysis of above tasks, it can be concluded that in present business or industrial environment, the role of employee relations is critical in ensuring the success of an organisation. Organisation strategy cannot be considered to be complete without including the aspects, principles and policies related to employee relations. If an organisation chooses to ignore its employee interest, then possibilities of failure of that organisation become high in future. Also, the role of leadership/management and supervisors are important to ensure a positive work environment.
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Blyton, P. R., & Turnbull, P. J. (2004). The dynamics of employee relations. Palgrave Macmillan.
Cascio, W. F., & McEvoy, G. (2008). Managing human resources: Productivity, quality of work life, profits (Vol. 2). McGraw-Hill.
Cully, M. (Ed.). (2005). Britain at work: as depicted by the 1998 Workplace Employee Relations Survey. Psychology Press.