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The Meaning of Employee Relations



The Meaning of Employee Relations

Workplace culture and strong internal relationships are undeniably critical for your company’s long-term success. Focusing your efforts on employee relations, and cultivating good relationships between employers and employees can help your Human Resources department mitigate conflict, build trust between team members, and decrease turnover rates.

If the term ‘employee relations’ makes you furrow your brows in confusion, we’re here to help. We’ll explain what employee relations is and why it’s important below.

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What Employee Relations Is

Employee Relations Examples


Employee Relations Best Practices

What is employee relations?

Employee relations is a branch of human resources that deals with policies regarding your employees’ relationships with their employers, and each other.

Essentially, employee relations is any effort or programming a company implements to ensure their employees are treated fairly, feel safe, and are happy in their work environment. Additionally, employee relations cannot be successful unless employees feel there is a level of transparency from management.

Employee Relations Examples

Employee relations programming will vary from one company to the next, however, the issues they tackle are very similar. That said, there are a few common categories most fall under:

1. Unsafe Work Environment

Employers are tasked with providing a safe work environment for employees. If an employee is injured on the job or has an accident, the employer may be liable. Having safety protocols in place and communicating them to the team is a must.

2. Employee Performance

It’s not a fun conversation to have, but there will come a time when an employee’s performance is not up to company standards. Employee relations teams and managers may be tasked with creating a program to address underperformance to get employees back on track.


3. Pay Raises and Promotions

Employee relations may also be involved with career growth and development programs. They are often tasked with making sure pay and promotion guidelines are transparent and communicated properly so employees know what to expect.

4. Sexual Harassment

Employee relations may also work with HR to develop and implement policies surrounding sexual harassment and other forms of abuse. If you’ve ever taken a harassment course at work, chances are it was made possible by the employee relations team.

5. Conflicts Between Workers

While co-workers don’t have to be best friends, it’s important everyone treats each other with respect. Employee relations teams can establish conflict resolution and mediation frameworks to help employees resolve issues in a respectful manner.

6. Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion programs allow employees to bring their whole selves to work. Employee relations teams are responsible for coming up with D&I policies and providing employees with the tools they need to create an environment where everyone feels welcome.

Employee Relations Best Practices

Riley Stefano, a Culture Content Creator at HubSpot, explains employee relations like this:

“At its core, employee relations is about trust and transparency. But that doesn’t just happen overnight — you have to build it. And every department, team, manager, and leader is responsible for building and adding to that culture of trust and transparency. In People Operations, we strive to create remarkable experiences for employees throughout their time at HubSpot so that they can do their best work and help HubSpot grow better.”

How can you ensure your employees can do their best work? By providing them with a work environment where they can thrive. Here are a few best practices to keep employee relations positive.


1. Encourage open dialog.

Employees should feel safe giving feedback, asking questions, and fleshing out ideas. This requires establishing trust. Instead of just saying “we welcome dialogue,” practice it.

Host a Q&A with team leadership and key stakeholders. Using anonymous surveys is also a great tool for getting honest feedback. Empower employees to ask for clarification and share ideas during meetings.

2. Establish a career development program.

When people feel like they have agency in the workplace and control of their career path, companies are more likely to retain them. According to LinkedIn employees that get a new role internally are 3.5x more likely to be engaged and those who participate in Learning and Development programs stay nearly 2x longer than those who do not.

3. Encourage and facilitate a work-life balance.

Work-life balance is a popular corporate catch-phrase, but how many workplaces actually embrace it? This doesn’t mean you have to offer unlimited paid leave, although that is a generous perk.

Facilitating work-life balance can look like:

  • Offering a more flexible schedule.
  • Not sending urgent emails outside of established work hours.
  • Discouraging working after business hours and unpaid overtime.
  • Respecting employee vacation time.
  • Monitor scheduling and workloads to help prevent overwork.

Implementing these small changes will help your employees prevent burnout and make them more productive.

4. Embrace core values and company culture.

Keeping the company mission and values at the forefront of all initiatives will help create cohesive messaging in addition to promoting a sense of belonging. Employees will feel a sense of camaraderie knowing that everyone is working toward the same goal.

Employee Relations best practices example: company core values

5. Lead with empathy.

As a core component of HubSpot’s culture code, empathy is a strength. It’s not just an important attribute for external business needs, but internally with your coworkers as well. Approaching employee relations from the perspective of an employee will help you develop programs and policies that are more effective.

Stefano adds, “To cultivate strong employee relations, we have to have empathy. We have to listen, share information, take feedback seriously, and adapt with our employees to maintain long-lasting and trustworthy relationships with all of our employees globally.”


How to Implement Programming

At HubSpot, employee relations includes utilizing HR Business Partners and implementing culture programming and events to help build stronger relationships with HubSpot employees.

However, employee relations programming might look different at your company. Perhaps your employee relations efforts include ensuring a good work-life balance for employees, or giving each employee stock in the company, so they are treated as stakeholders in the business.

Alternatively, perhaps you hire an employee relations manager to provide guidance on new and existing contracts and policies so that you can ensure each employee is treated fairly and feels safe in the workplace. Perhaps your employee relations manager can also gather employee feedback, and use it to create new benefits packages that incentivize and properly reward employees for their hard work.

It’s critical you take the time and effort to ensure you’ve cultivated strong relationships between employers and employees. If your employees respect leadership, they’re more likely to work harder, communicate better, and feel more engaged at work. All of these things can motivate employees to go above and beyond in their roles.

Positive Employee Relations is Key to Success

Ultimately, a company can’t be successful unless there’s a universal alignment of vision, goals, and purpose between employers and employees — and that alignment doesn’t happen naturally. It must be cultivated, in large part through strategic employee relations efforts.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Build-A-Bear using data to make itself into an all-ages brand



Build-A-Bear using data to make itself into an all-ages brand

Build-A-Bear is remaking itself for the 25th anniversary of its founding this year. This means using its experience and its data to appeal to older customers and create stronger online connections.

“The goal that was stated for us was to diversify our brand, evolve our retail portfolio and build stronger relationships with our consumers,” said Ed Poppe, Build-A-Bear’s vice president, loyalty and performance marketing for Build-A-Bear, in a presentation at The MarTech Conference.

That’s why they launched HeartBox, an e-commerce play which the company says will let it move into “the adult-to-adult gift-giving and gift box market which has been meaningfully expanding over the past few years.” This goes along with its new Bear Cave line of “adult” bears (in this case adult means they have alcohol in hand). The brand has also expanded through partnerships with film, entertainment and streaming TV properties like Harry Potter, Pokémon, The Matrix and the Marvel series WandaVision.

These efforts are designed to give more options to customers who buy online, and increase options for engagement. This has required integrating new teams and new sources of data.

Connecting customer data and teams

“Over half of businesses now say that they expect the majority of their revenue to come from digital channels,” said Loretta Shen, senior director, product marketing, marketing cloud intelligence for Salesforce. “To meet changing consumer behavior, marketers are adopting digital channels like video, social media and digital ads across search and paid media. But it’s not just adopting these channels, but how you use them, and in particular how you use them in tandem.”

Build-A-Bear adapted to customers’ increased digital use by adding new digital experiences while also reorganizing customer data to better understand what customers want.

“We have to understand our guests at Build-A-Bear,” said Bryce Ahrens, Build-A-Bear’s senior analyst, CRM, loyalty and performance marketing. “How do they engage with our email, our websites, our advertising and, of course, how do they engage and experience our in-store environment?”


They keep a large CRM database made up of loyalty program members, website customers, retail customers and sales prospects. Additionally, through access to the CRM, the organization is pulling together different teams: web development, analytics, marketing and also data privacy people.

These teams have to remain connected because data is coming through different systems. Build-A-Bear has a first-party data warehouse, a commerce cloud storefront, an order management system, marketing cloud, an email platform and different analytics solutions, not to mention ad platforms for campaigns.

“We need to be able to bring this information together, prioritize what we look at, and identify strategies to move quickly,” said Ahrens.

Read next: What you need to know to grow your e-commerce business

Count Your Candles

Data and digital experience come together in an ongoing Build-A-Bear effort called “Count Your Candles.”

The promotion is a special offer for customers to order a discounted bear (regularly priced at $14) that costs a dollar amount that matches their age.

The dedicated webpage for this promotion also allows customers and gift-givers to buy gift cards and become loyalty members. Additionally, there are a number of other ways that customers can celebrate birthdays, including in-store birthday parties and special birthday gift boxes that can be ordered and delivered.

These strategies came from marketers looking at the data and seeing what sparked their customers’ interests. In this case, it was birthdays.


“We’re lucky to have a team up here who wants to jump in and help drive our business forward,” said Poppe. “But it also brings us back to where it’s important to aggregate data, identify patterns, see your opportunities, and pick your path forward.”

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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.


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