Employee Relations is a Team Sport

By Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady, on February 19, 2021

Do you remember your high school gym class, or did you block it out, like most of us do?

Why was gym class so awful? It was the team sports, wasn’t it? You threw a group together based on their schedule and nothing else, and no one wanted to be there. Some had talent, some didn’t. But, everyone had to play.

Contrast that with being a member of a team. You have to try out and prove you have skills. Everyone there wants to be there. They are willing to work together to get the ball in the basket. A good coach can build a cohesive team that works as one, even as each individual has different responsibilities.

Employee relations is very much a team sport, and you want it to be a cohesive team instead of the gym class equivalent of picking teams. Here’s how to make your employee relations team win the championship.

Knowledge sharing

What do you know that I don’t know? There’s plenty. There’s plenty that I know that you don’t know either. When you’re on a team, you share knowledge. For employee relations this is critical.

Within one company, you need to be unified--such that if an employee came to you with a complaint, you would handle it in a similar way to your colleagues. Sure, you don’t want it to be exactly the same, but the result and consequences should be the same. If one employee comes to you and complains about sexual harassment, every single person on the ER team needs to investigate. 

You need to share information so that consequences don’t Multi ethnic group of succesful creative business people using a laptop during candid meeting-2inadvertently violate the law. You need to treat similarly situated employees who behave in similar ways the same way. You can’t do that without knowledge sharing!

If a manager asks about a policy or procedure, the same answer needs to come out of everyone’s mouth. This is critical for a functioning employee relations team.

Fortunately, today’s technology can help employee relations staff share information without shoveling paper all over everyone’s desks. It can even allow you to look at your colleague’s notes when she’s out with Covid-19. 

Working to improve

You can hold tryouts for your sports team and have the absolute best talent, but if you don’t work together and practice regularly, you won’t have any chance of winning. Natural talent will only get you on the team, not to victory.

You can work as a team to gain new knowledge. Fortunately, unlike sports, you’re not competing against other employee relations teams--you can even look at the entire profession as one team. HR Acuity’s online community, empowER, helps ER people share knowledge and best practices. The result is everyone’s teams are better. And with great employee relations, companies and employees benefit as well.

Working smarter

Employee relations is basically a problem solving job. Sure you can plan and prepare, but problems you never thought of before will appear. If you work independently, you start from ground zero with each new challenge. If you work as a team, you can build on other’s knowledge and experience.

When necessary you can “pass the ball” off to a teammate, or huddle to determine your next move. You can use resources that you gather from one another and establish best practices.

When you work as a team, you can accomplish far more than you can on your own. You can bounce ideas off each other and gain knowledge and insight. It can make you smarter than you ever realized. Working smarter makes a huge difference.

Hopefully, you can use some of this to make sure your employee relations team functions as a team rather than a bunch of surly teens forced into gym class. The latter is a disaster but the former can bring wins to the company and employees.

Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady
Suzanne Lucas, The Evil HR Lady

Suzanne Lucas is a freelance writer who spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She's sure not evil. She's super nice! Learn more about her at www.evilhrlady.org and email her directly for decidedly unevil advice.

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