The Importance of Employee Relations to Getting the Right Chemistry
The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Pancho Dizon, this chapter is titled, “The Importance of Employee Relations to Getting the Right Chemistry.” In it, Ann Aguilar, the HR Manager of Euro Chemicals, INC. (ECI) , is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in improving chemistry among employees.
Currently the HR Manager for ECI, a distributor and trader of cosmetic raw materials, Ann Aguilar is a self-described “HR generalist” who does a little bit of pretty much everything. It shows in her responsibilities; instead of focusing on just one specialized area of work, Aguilar has a hand in a variety of things from recruitment to company branding.
Though there’s certainly the danger of such a vast scope of responsibilities becoming overwhelming, Aguilar shared that keeping employee relations at the forefront helps keep things in perspective.
“Employee relations can touch everything from recruitment to engagement and even overall organizational development,” she explained, “It’s a wide range of different aspects.”
Thus, Aguilar shared that HR professionals must always be conscious of the fact that the aim of employee relations is always to help the company become a better version of itself.
Take recruitment, for example. Though it’s sometimes thought of as a process confined strictly to HR, Aguilar shows that even this can be utilized as an opportunity to foster interaction between employees.
“When we’re trying to come up with the right list of qualifications for a candidate, for instance, I take this as an opportunity to talk to different department heads since they would know best,” she said, “Finally, I also get them to sit in with me during the interviews as a partner.”
Aguilar also talked about a competency matrix that the company has designed in order to vet applicants. Designed with the help of various consultants, the matrix makes definitions for specific competencies as precise as possible and makes talent acquisition much easier in the long run. She warned against the dangers of downplaying this practice.
“I’ve realized also that during talent acquisition, sometimes we just go with the flow when you don’t have a structure to follow, you just go with the interview process, personality assessments, etc. But recruitment practices should be constantly updated and revisited, or else you risk falling into stagnation” she said.
This rings especially true when creating a job listing for a new position in the company. Here, Aguilar works with co-workers to accomplish research sometimes by looking at the best practices of similar companies. In other cases, they’ll even browse portals like Jobstreet to see what qualifications they’re looking for.
Finally though, she admitted all that is useless if the company cannot provide attractive
perks. “Applicants are smarter now and they know they have options for a local, global or an online job. So if there isn’t much to offer in terms of benefits and compensations, there is a failure in the hiring process.”
Which dives right into her next point. While employee relations in Aguilar’s world means helping out in any way that she can, that hardly means forgetting its more “traditional” definition of reaching out to employees and taking care of their well-being.
At their company, employees participate in weekly masses that the company arranges and family day activities where employees bring over their families and listen to speakers on family matters. Even their team buildings have a marked focus on professional growth, with a recent theme being “I’m not that yet”―a session where people put forward what they’d like to learn and where they’d like to go in their career.
Yet nowhere is this practice of constantly checking up on employees more crucial than during a pandemic. When COVID-19 struck in early 2020, fears surrounding the virus meant it took quite some time before the company physically went back to their offices. To assuage concerns employees had about their safety, a number of key measures were planned.
“For one, we looked into getting rapid tests done for peace of mind. When we got back to the office, we’ve also provided a shuttle service that takes employees door to door,” Aguilar said.
Even before easing of lockdown restrictions allowed them to return to the office, there were kamustahan sessions that were sometimes also attended by a priest that provided spiritual guidance. This was a means of getting employees to think positively during trying times.
“When the people are happy,” she smiled, “HR is happy.”
Of course, nothing makes employees happier when their employers are forthright with them no matter the situation. They employ what Aguilar brands as a “radical” sort of transparency.
“This means being upfront about the state of the company, even if it means warning employees that they may have to take a paycut if sales targets are not met. We also make sure they have a clear picture of how the company is performing, pandemic or not.”
She revealed that this is made easier by the fact that the company has a relatively small population (a headcount of just about 55) but also that the president/owner herself lends her the support she needs. “She’s very easy to talk to, stays positive and generally brings about goodwill. So working with her makes my life easier, definitely,” Aguilar said.
Altogether, the lesson that Aguilar paints is that employee relations is nothing short of a team effort. Their company’s case shows that when HR actively extends a hand to anyone who needs it or where they can help, it won’t be long before a company has the right chemistry for success.
To get more insights from other HR leaders like Ann Aguilar, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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