What's your employee relationship strategy?

I’ve been asking this question pretty much anywhere I speak for the better part of 2 years. Safe to say, employee relationship strategies aren’t something people are thinking about. ‍But they should be. 

Liz Gulliver
Co-Founder, Kunik
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Oct 31, 2022
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Last updated on Oct 24, 2022

Hands up if you’ve got an employee engagement strategy? 

What about a hiring & retention strategy? 

How about an employee relationship strategy? … *cue awkward looks and no hands in the air. 

I’ve been asking these questions pretty much anywhere I speak for the better part of 2 years and to date I have had - count them - THREE people raise their hands on the last question. And when asked to tell us more about it, one of the three sheepishly said they weren’t paying attention to the questions. So safe to say, employee relationship strategies aren’t something people are thinking about. 

But they should be. 

It’s easy to focus on what we can quickly track and measure. And there’s no shortage of platforms and apps to do just that. From management dashboards to culture metrics and engagement pulse surveys, we’re swimming through a sea of data. So much so that I often wonder, who is teaching people how to interrupt and actually use all this information? That’s something we’ll dig into in another blog post though! 

Today, I want to step away from data and go back to basics. 

As HR leaders, there are a few truths you don’t need any amount of data to confirm. You already know these: 

  1. Employees want to feel: valued, seen, and heard. Those are the fundamentals that drive retention
  2. Culture is built on norms, values, and relationships 
  3. Relationships are built through conversation 

Get your people talking, and the rest will follow. Of course it’s not quite that simple, but pretty close. 

The reality is that building strong relationships with and among your employees is critical to business success. I’d go so far as to say that a thriving employee relationship strategy is the number one competitive advantage you can have today. 

Why? 

Simple. If your employees feel more connected to each other, their team, manager and company, you have a resilient, collaborative workforce ready to tackle the myriad challenges thrown at them. It builds a culture where people want to work, and if you’re bringing together the best people, you’re winning. 

So how do we get there you might be wondering? 

Below are the 3 core elements to a strong, scalable employee relationship strategy:

1. Connection

a. Intentional: How are you bringing your people together for intentional moments of connection? These should blend work and life. Think: conversations on topics like stress & burnout that impact all of us. 

 b. Human: Can we talk as humans? Work apps are great for…work. But no one feels more connected by answering an auto-generated prompt. Create a foundation of psychological safety where people can be vulnerable, open up, and connect as people. 

c. Ongoing: We’re creatures of habit who crave a sense of belonging through socialization. We can smell a 1-off a mile away. Tell us what to expect, make it repeatable, and ground it in space where we can share together.

2. Learning 

a. Soft is in: Technical skills will always be important, but the leadership skills in demand now are what used to be called ‘soft skills’ and are now recognized as leadership fundamentals (think empathy, active listening). You can only learn these by doing. Build communities of practice for your people to learn & practice these fundamentals.

b. Training is broken: Training, as we know it, isn’t working. Enter learning. Ongoing, growth mindset focused, deeply rooted in the people leadership side of the skill triangle. The key is to turn learnings into habits. Bring in outside experts to help you open channels & ensure people are comfortable asking questions. 

c. Reinforcement: Reimagining learning doesn’t have to mean throwing out what you’ve already got. Are you using an LMS currently? Great. Reinforce those learnings through live, synchronous cohorts. This enables you to accomplish a few things at once: drive cohesion, confirm the skills your people are learning, and create connection & growth through peer-to-peer learning. 

3. Growth 

a. Personal & Professional: The boundaries between work and life have blurred. Leverage that. Bring people together through topics that enable people to grow at home and work - at Kunik, we call this whole person support. Your people want to be seen for who they are in every facet.

b. Story: There is nothing more powerful than story. Spotlight the unique experiences of your people and breath your values to life through personal stories that show the power of inclusion and build lasting connections.

c. Push: The key to growth is to push our thinking and to share new perspectives. There is great power in unlocking the diverse and unique perspectives and experiences of your people through conversation. This often means bringing in outside voices to provide practical, actionable guidance and new perspectives. 

Every great culture building tool, from the cigarette break to the Kombucha bar, shares 1 secret: Conversation. The same is true of your employee relationship strategy. Creating intentional moments of connection, learning, and growth results in your employees feeling seen, valued, and heard. Do that right, and you will build a culture that attracts and retains the best talent. 

This is exactly what we do at Kunik. We partner with employers like you to build an employee experience that is driven through conversation. We’ve worked across L&D, DEI, HR and more to bring that experience to life and we’d love to do the same with you. 

Curious to learn how Kunik can help you get started in less than 2 weeks? Let’s talk! 

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