Employee relations is a legal concept, which is observed in company wherever work is exchanged or undertaken for wages, remuneration or payment in between an employer and employee. Employee relations smooth flow has become a significant aspect for company. Basically, this can be said that employee relations focus upon interaction between employees and employer. The particular concept is also concerned with resolving employee’s issues that affect their work. In this report, the relationship in between employee and employer is being evaluated by taking real circumstances of Unilever PLC, which deals in cleaning agents, beverages, food and personal care products. The following discussion will incorporate changing scenarios of employee’s relations in organizations as well as the way in which Unilever accelerates fair negotiation during situations of conflicts at workplace. Further, the paper will be concluded by understanding importance of employee’s active participation in distinct activities to enhance their value and connection with firm.
Unitary perspective – This frame of reference is referred to a manner of thinking, attitudes, values, practices and assumptions related to organizational membership and management. Such perspective grounds on statement that to reach adequate success, members in company irrespective of their roles must share common objectives, values and goals. This perspective determines expression with the execution of mission statement in working context as well as measuring success by real attainment of decided objectives. Accordingly, employees are considered as loyal and management prerequisite is accepted as parental in favour or the best interests of everyone (Atkins, 2012).
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Pluralistic perspective – As per this perspective, corporation is considered as being made up of different and powerful subgroups, each with its individual set of objectives, loyalties and leaders. Particularly, there are two main sub-groups comprised in pluralistic frame such as trade unions and management. The management role would lean more towards co-ordination and influence and less towards controlling or enforcing. Moreover, trade unions are recognised as employee’s legal representatives. They deal with employee’s conflict through collective bargaining and if managed properly can lead to positive change at workplace (Barry and Wilkinson, 2011).
In the past 20 years, one main challenge or change for trade unions has been the programme of privatization. It has particularly affected the workers of public sector. Under such programme, some local government services and nationalized industries were contracted out or sold off as single entities. Due to this, many individuals found themselves functioning for a very different or new employer. These circumstances called for the establishment of union, i.e. UNISON. The transformation of ownership to private from public sector resulted in huge modifications in approaches that are used by organization to run its operations. Private enterprise chase profits as well as seek for options to save their money by reducing costs (Brewster, Mayrhofer and Morley, 2004).
One of the main jobs of UNISON is to ensure that new employers honour and respect existing conditions or pay of employees such as right to take pension, holiday entitlement, maternity leave, etc. Besides this, if conditions and terms are to be re-assigned, such union will handle business activities on behalf of each affected entity to make sure that right of its members at work are positively advocated. The legislation of employment rights can be opened for the misinterpretation and full of legal terminology. Therefore, UNISON provides free expert advice or help to its every member. In addition to this, many females prefer to work for part time at some stages during their professional lives. Recently, trade unions have forced administration to improve the part-time worker’s rights by which several women that are connected with union have been benefited (Craver, 2015).
Employees and their managers play a key role in employee relations; however, other parties like organization, unions and government etc. also affect the relationship in between employer and employee in both direct and indirect manner.
Employee’s role: Employees are the most important part of managing employee relations. All organizational decisions are impacted directly by employees as they significantly take part in making solutions and recommendations (Daniels, 2006).
Manager’s role: Managers are the second most important part in such association. They have the ultimate power of taking decisions and employees can only put objections in form of movement.
Organization’s role: The size, culture and structure of organization also create impact upon employee relations.
Government role: They affect relations between employer and employee by introducing regulations, rules and guidance for fair conduct. Administration develops and maintains harmonious affiliation at workplace (Dicker, 2003).
orkplace conflicts take several forms. It may be an issue between a manager and employee or a person with grievance or conflict among two colleagues. Conflicts can be developed in the working manner and reduces the productivity of an organization. At an early stage, dealing with conflict to stop the condition developing into complete disagreement will save money, stress and time later on, for both employees and employer (Goddess, 2010). Some problems that can lead to conflict in between groups and individuals at work comprise:
The following process can be followed by human resource director at Unilever for dealing with conflicts:
Step 1: Identification of conflict source – When the directors have complete information about the main reason behind conflict then would be able to make productive measures for its resolution. The HR manager can use range of questions to determine the cause or gather information like: Do you see a relation within this and that event? When did a person involved in conflict feel upset? How did the particular event begin? The director as a mediator has to provide both parties with a chance to share their standpoint. It will facilitate complete understanding of situation and will also display the manager’s impartial attitude (Gorey, 2014).
Step 2: Look beyond the incident – Even, it is not the circumstance but its perspective results in anger to annoy as well as shouting match or other disruptive and visible indication of conflict. The stress level from previously occurred conflicts can grow to the level where two parties start attacking one another individually rather than addressing actual issue. Therefore, when situation calm down, the manager can get them look afar from the generated circumstance to see the actual reason behind it.
Step 3: Request solutions – After taking viewpoint of each party on the conflict, subsequent step is to allow each for determining how circumstances which have been arisen can be modified. The director, as a mediator is needed to be an active listener and it should be a good body language reader and must be aware of all verbal nuance (Hayter, 2011).
Step 4: Identification of solutions supported by both disputants – The main thing to be considered by the manager is that he must listen for adopting the most suitable actions. The HR should emphasize advantages of several ideas, not only from perspective of each other’s but in terms of organization benefits too.
Step 5: Agreement – At last, manager is required to get two parties agreeing upon any one alternative determined in preceding step. In this way, the discussed mediation procedure perfectly works out in between individuals and groups (Hunter and Saunders, 2007).
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The main cause of issues at Unilever is conflict of line staff. The production unit undertakes essential activities which contribute directly towards business. On the other hand, human resource department merely assists the production unit, thereby indirectly contributing to overall business. Generally, line manager holds definite predetermined notions regarding employee manager that gradually results in development of conflicts at workplace (KJERULF, 2006). The below given are some beliefs:
Right support is not provided by human resource function – Staff/line conflicts arise at times production manager believes that HR manager does not provide balances and sound advice. Manufacturing units feel that for the final outcomes, employees are not held responsible and they experiment or innovate without considering its costs. It sometimes can lead to negative significances for the production division. They also claim that in most situations, employees are not properly aware with few basic facts like business, product, production procedures and market (Kleynhans, 2006).
Human resource executives try to take attention – The line manager’s common perception is that for all success at workplace, HR members take credit as well as withdraw to take responsibility of any failure, which leads to disputes among two.
The whole picture is not comprehended by HR executives – One more cause of conflicts is when line manager complains that HR members fails to understand the entire picture because having narrow view of problems. They inclined to perform in terms of restricted goals concerning to their individual speciality instead of employing an integrated approach of distinct business aspects. It may be due to insufficient skills of HR staff with respect of other operations of company (Lewis, Thornhill and Saunders, 2003).
The line manager’s above discussed views results in regular conflicts in between them and human resource director. Therefore, employee relations manager at Unilever stress on developing conflict-free and amicable workplace along with collective bargaining among disputants. Such initiatives will definitely support the line manager to change views for human resource role.
In the above paragraph, it has been given that Unilever adopts collective bargaining process when any dispute occurs among line and human resource manager. The particular process can have both negative and positive consequences for organization. Furthermore, resolution of conflicts in the corporation involves determining source or origin of problems, effective negotiation, total costs incurred in resolving issue for the company and employees perspective (Avgar, 2010). Sometimes, this system can become harmful, as the cohesive steps implemented for resolution of conflicts at all the time cannot encounter whole problem for every employee, because of which they may not be satisfied after reaching the final agreement. Similarly, the procedure could be harmful for economy of country too. On the contrary, corporate demand and requisites might not be satisfied properly by chosen process (Bagguley, 2013).
Though, an effective process to be agreed in sensitive situations of workplace is informal and formal method. An appropriate method can be used for sorting out problems regarding minimum salary or salary range in the corporation. Mainly, the formal procedure is suitable in cases when mistakes can result in huge costs for firm. Also, the process is applicable while occurring of sensitive or uncommon problems. On the contrary, in regular and less complex issues, the organization can make use of informal practise (Behrens, 2007).
Collective bargaining is a kind of group process in which employer’s representative and employee’s group jointly negotiate on employment conditions. Negotiation and bargaining occurs among Unilever representatives, employers and employees to develop equality and fair strategies at workplace. Negotiation takes place by an ultimate aim of attaining definite agreement. Arrangement of bargaining can have the form of separate unions jointly negotiating and individual unions separately negotiating that is called as single-table bargaining. But it must be noted that simple arrangements of bargaining are not encouraged by unions, even promoted by employers too. The coverage of bargaining is other aspect of collective bargaining which outlines the percentage of employees whose wages are decided by bargaining negotiations between employer and unions (Boulanger and Kleiner, 2003).
The representatives of UNISON can form an assembly for the collective negotiation to complete agreement of better salary, over planned dismissals or alterations to pensions. It can be taken place either at local or national level. Moreover, these representatives can make negotiation on non-payment related problems, i.e. flexible employment right for carers and parents or total working hours. In situations, when employers are not required to accept request of flexible working legally, then bargaining can be a beneficial way for inspiring employer to organize flexible working conditions for employees (Gennard, 2009).
Unilever has been committed to freedom of association and basic rights of collective bargaining. In relation to protection of employee’s representatives, the policy comprises a requisite that manpower should be treated fairly without any illegal or sexual discrimination at the place of work regarding positions. With respect of right for joining or creating a union, the company’s policy states that: At Unilever, every department must value staff member’s right to not join or join trade union as well as any other association representing their mutual interests. That means organization itself and government should not influence representative choice of workforce (Hansen, Byrne and Kiersch, 2014).
In addition to above, the company’s internal policy regarding collective negotiation states that management must bargain fairly regarding employment conditions, matters of general concern and labour management relations. Unilever provides complete framework for these rights. However, actual problem arises at the time of implementation, as organization’s industrial policy is determined on the basis of local environment and requisites. The assurance to proper implementation at global level is shown by management’s action to resolve industrial relations conflicts and by its successive obligation with IUF (Jefferys, 2011).
Industrial democracy is a procedure that implicates employees sharing authority, responsibility and making decisions at workplace. A much more conspicuous role of human resource has been encouraged by European legislation in a decision making procedure of organization. The new policy “partner based relationships” where management plus union functions together for reaching common objectives, be present in the British industry due to the influence of European Union. Consequently, in the firm’s decision making the engagement of workers become useful which positively affects performance of staffs as well as increases their contribution in the business success (Gennard, 2009).
Moreover, the Union has introduced options for Worker Partners and Worker Shareholders to have employees stake in business ownership. Holdings of share are often exhilarated by utilization of saving schemes or share option. Also, such schemes have led to success in several UK companies, with few organizations putting great emphasis on significance of having employees stake in business. Even though, the fear exists that “wage dumping” will be increased by European Monetary Union which is referred to a practice of paying employees lower than industry’s standards rate (Ladd and Marshall, 2004).
Involvement of employees in decision making plays a significant role in business organizations and hence in Unilever too. It can affect overall performance of employees at the workplace. The positive attitude of manpower regarding their individual job roles can be lessen if they are not adequately informed, valued and considered in decision making system by top management. Attitude survey is one of the good methods of engaging employees by taking their views on issues affecting them. This can be adopted to get views regarding procedures, like pay determination, performance management and job evaluation, for the reason to evaluate their effectiveness as well as level to which workers are satisfied with it. Moreover, the method can be used for eliciting views related to personnel strategies and in what way they function in areas like employee development, health & safety and equal opportunity. The methodology, i.e. interview, focus group discussion and structure questionnaire can be carried out to take attitude surveys (Moses and Åhlström, 2009).
One more way to overcome with problems are Improvement group and Quality circle that result from approach of top down management, in which executives ignores the talents available at other levels in a company. Small group of volunteers are combined in quality circles and get involved in related activities. It offers opportunity for tapping employee’s knowledge who may be aware more effectively about issues that might be unseen to top executives. Besides this, the method “suggestion scheme” offers a productive means to staff members for participating in enhancing company’s efficiency. In such procedure, workers have chances to show management that what they perceive about operations of organization. Finally, with the help of direct participation, manpower is involved in activities of decision making which directly influence their daily routines tasks (Poitras and Tareau, 2008).
The practices plus policies of human resource management concentrate on soft and hard versions. Among these, soft version puts emphasis on treating employees as an essential asset of business and source of competitive edge due to their high level of talents, adaptability, commitment, performance, etc. With an aim to determine specific impact of human resource management on employee relation, one should be aware by the fact that both employees and management of company comprises in its entire strength of human resource (Therkelsen and Fiebich, 2003). The best practices of managing human resource assists in improving the employee relations at work. This can be achieved by developing collective agreement in organization along with the intervention of trade unions or with effective communication plus commitment between two parties. All matters concerning to human relationships are handled or managed by human resource director. They build or change worker’s behaviour and attitudes at workplace in line with standard policies of organization (Scott, 2010).
The employee’s directors are also responsible for the administration of social system. In this regards, the director is needed to evaluate whether economic satisfaction of working as team members and staff’s personal satisfaction with their job is attained or not. In addition to this, regarding employee relations practices, the human resource management of firm develop strategies to sort out problems connected to manpower. The strategies also describe main objective of company behind managing relationship in between employees and employer (Stevens, 2005).
The above report concludes that effective or sound policies for managing overall workforce in a company are significant to develop good employee relations. Further, it is essential to consider involved parties and unions together with their ideologies or motives. Also, the two main divergent perspectives of business organizations are unitary and pluralistic. These distinct views influence the nature of employee relations and their management at place of work. Therefore, adequate management strategies are important for building good employer-employee relations those grounds on combination of legal and behavioural dimensions.
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