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Four ways to put the theory of Employee Relationship Management into action


Lynn Fraser of The Wayland Partnership is the contributor of the following guest article which follows last week’s articles on Managers and communication

Employee Relationship Management means applying the principles of Customer Relationship Marketing to your relationship with your employees. It means treating employees as individuals and developing a long-term, evolving relationship with them based on trust, two-way dialogue and the fulfilment of mutual needs. There are a number of practical ways you can implement this theory through communication and training:

1. Shape communication of the benefits package to the ‘employee lifecycle’

The ‘lifecycle’ of an employee goes through four key stages: recruitment, induction, career building and career maintenance. The basic facts about your company’s benefits remain constant throughout this lifecycle. However, you can tailor what you communicate about the benefits package – as well as possibly the package itself – for the different stages.

At recruitment you need to give applicants a very top-level summary of what you are offering. At induction, people will want much more detail. Depending on whether you offer benefits from day one or from the end of a probationary period, you will have to decide when to provide help with making any decisions necessary plus information about the more individual aspects of the package. During career building you will want to remind people of the value of what you are giving them and underline those elements linked to reward for success. A period of career maintenance may be the prelude to a job change – a major promotion, for example, which could start the cycle all over again – or a period of winding down. You need to help the individual prepare for the future.

2. Develop and deliver a flexible learning programme

In the past, you employed a person to do a specific task and trained them to make sure they did it well. Nowadays, companies need to ensure that employees learn the core skills and knowledge that will enable them to perform as wide a range of tasks as possible, and adapt quickly to change. Equally importantly, individuals need to be offered personal development programmes targeted to their exact needs. This provides personal satisfaction and ensures that the best is made of the raw material every individual has to offer.

Truly flexible learning programmes reflect these requirements. You need to identify not just training needs, but how these needs map across your workforce and the individuals that make it up. Both in fact and in presentation, the programme needs to be linked to individual performance and ambitions.

3. Encourage and facilitate a genuinely two-way briefing system

Briefing systems have been around for years. Virtually every organisation has one. Done well, a two-way briefing system using line managers as the channel to reach front line employees is very effective. All too often, though, they are implemented in letter but not in spirit.

The obsession is frequently with the process and the rules – there must be a meeting every month, employees must get to see the presentation, you must ask if there are any questions…and so on. The process is only the skeleton – and that’s the easy bit to get right. The flesh is provided by high quality information (you might need an editor to help you get that right), a good relationship between managers and staff (lots of factors to consider here) and a real understanding of what the objectives of the exercise are (ongoing communication, leadership and training will help achieve this).

4. Take a co-ordinated approach to managing your relationship with employees

Often, a single manager or small team manages every aspect of the relationship with important customers. When it comes to employees though, a number of different departments – HR, Internal Communication and Training – handle different aspects of the organisation’s relationship with them. Often, these departments are not linked – and if they do not work together, they miss the opportunity to exploit synergies between their skills and what they do.

Departments (and general managers) should liaise on an ongoing basis, taking joint responsibility for the achievement of shared goals linked to the relationship with employees. So, if you wish to improve the performance of line managers as communicators, you need to involve those responsible for communication and performance measurement and reward and training. Consider implementing a specific project to kick-start such co-operation – to encourage discussion, the sharing of ideas, greater understanding and the drafting of practical action plans.

Lynn Fraser is a senior partner with The Wayland Partnership, a communication and training consultancy based in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.

see Lynn’s previous articles:

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