What is human relations?
The human relations theory, also known as the human relations movement or approach, is a management model that emphasises human relationships as social factors within organisations and identifies these factors as a relevant criterion for the success of the organisation. From about 1930 onwards, this model became relevant for organisational practice.
For simplicity, we will use the term human relations for that throughout this article.
Human relations is the idea that you can increase productivity and motivation by improving social bonds and working conditions for employees. This includes empowering them, giving them opportunities to participate in decision-making processes at all levels of their jobs, as well as providing positive treatment, so they feel appreciated just like every other individual on staff.
We also know the concept of "human centricity" as a key element from the New Work ideology, which we have already talked about in a previous article.
Human Relations Theory Critiques
One common critique is, that human relations can be used to manipulate employees into being more productive or working longer hours. This could be done in the name of "employee satisfaction" which eventually might lead to resentment or even burnout.
And then there is the argument that the theory is too unilateral and neglected certain aspects. Well, it is an outdated model—though it was the role model for many modern motivational theories. Therefore, we focus in this article not on the theory but on the elements which still have a high impact in the workplace when it comes to the satisfaction and wellbeing of the individual as well as the companies bottom line.
On top of that, the pandemic proves once more that the ideology of humans relations and New Work clearly define the building blocks of a successful workplace of the future.
What are Human Relations Skills?
Human relations skills are the capacity to connect with others so that you can constructively collaborate and achieve common goals. This includes being able to understand and empathize with others, as well as being able to communicate effectively. Communication is the fundamental skill upon which all human relations skills are built. Strong human relations skills are important in any workplace, but are particularly essential in the future workplace, where teams will be increasingly cross-functional, diverse and collaborative.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It involves being able to understand and respond to people in a way that builds positive relationships. In the workplace of the future, where change will be constant, emotional intelligence will be a key skill for managing stress and maintaining morale.
Active listening is the ability to truly listen to what someone else is saying, without letting your own biases, judgement or assumptions get in the way. It involves taking the time to understand another person’s perspective, and then responding in a way that acknowledges their feelings and point of view.
Conflict resolution is the ability to identify and manage conflict in a constructive way that leads to a positive outcome. It involves understanding the root causes of conflict, as well as the different perspectives of those involved. Effective conflict resolution requires good communication and problem-solving skills.
Empathy plays out big with conflict resolution because it’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In the workplace, empathy can mean understanding what someone is going through, whether it's a difficult work situation or a personal issue. It can also mean being sensitive to the needs of others, both in terms of work demands and personal preferences. Empathy helps create a supportive and understanding work environment, which can be beneficial for both employees and employers.
Cultural competence is the ability to understand and work effectively with people from different cultures. In the diverse workplace of the future, this skill will be essential for building positive relationships among multifaceted teams and remote workers from different cultures.
These are just a few examples of human relations skills that will be important in the workplace of the future. As technology continues to change the way we interact with each other, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, we are all human beings who need to be able to communicate and connect with each other.
7 Strategies to improve Human Relations
1. Human Relations improve Communication
The main way human relations can improve communication and avoid miscommunication in the workplace is by increasing transparency. This can be done by having clear policies and procedures that are readily available to all employees, as well as regular communication between management and employees.
Furthermore, it is important to foster a culture of trust where employees feel comfortable communicating openly with one another. By doing so, employees will be more likely to raise any concerns or problems they may have, which can help to prevent misunderstandings from occurring.
Ultimately, human relations can also help to resolve conflict when it does occur. By having a well-defined process for handling disputes, employees will know exactly what to do if they find themselves in a disagreement with another employee. This can help to prevent the situation from escalating and potentially leading to miscommunication.
2. Boosting Motivation and Productivity
The future of work requires us to think about how we can best empower and support our employees in order for them to feel motivated. By providing opportunities for personal growth, companies will be able to create a sense of purpose at their jobs.
Human Relations can help them find meaning at work by fostering cultures that promote trustworthiness across all levels within an organization—including leadership teams—workers feel comfortable taking risks or sharing new ideas. This ultimately leads towards more productivity within the workplace.
3. Enhancing Employee Collaboration
Human Relations can improve Employee Collaboration and the Workplace Culture by creating a more open and communicative environment. This can be done by establishing clear guidelines for communication, encouraging employees to communicate openly with each other, and providing opportunities for employees to get to know each other better.
Human Relations is an important aspect as it can help create a positive workplace culture by promoting team-building activities and providing recognition and rewards for employees who contribute positively to the workplace.
Ultimately, Human Relations can help improve employee morale by ensuring that employees feel valued and appreciated. By taking these steps, Human Relations can play a key role in improving Employee Collaboration and the Workplace Culture.
4. Scaling Employee Retention
Human Relations can improve Employee Retention by creating a positive work environment. This can be done by fostering a sense of community among employees, providing clear and concise communication, and offering opportunities for growth and development. By creating a positive work environment, Human Relations can help to create an atmosphere in which employees are more likely to stay with the company for the long-term.
Over and above, Human Relations can improve Employee Retention by providing support during difficult times. This may include offering counselling or financial assistance during periods of unemployment or when an employee is facing personal challenges. By providing support during difficult times, Human Relations can help to show employees that the company cares about their well-being and is committed to helping them succeed.
By offering programmes and perks that attract and retain top talent, HR can ensure that the company has a strong pool of candidates to fill open positions. Certainly, few companies can compete with the amenities of top companies like Google – but with creativity and affordable digital offerings, companies can set themselves apart from the competition.
5. Nurturing Employee Creativity
Human Relations can foster Employee Creativity in a few ways. First, they can create an environment that is encouraging and supportive of creativity. This could mean providing employees with the resources they need to be creative, such as workspace, materials, and time.
You can also encourage creativity by praising your employees for their innovative ideas and giving them feedback on how to improve their ideas. Finally, Human Relations can help employees feel safe to take risks and experiment with new ideas. By creating an environment conducive to creativity, Human Relations can help your company increase innovation.
6. Managing Diversity
Strategies for managing diversity in the workplace can include policies and procedures that value and respect diversity, training and development opportunities that focus on cultural competence, recognition and reward systems for employees who demonstrate successful intercultural interactions, and assistance in resolving conflicts that may arise due to differences in cultural background or perspective.
Similarly, human relations professionals can work to create a culture of inclusion in the workplace that can help eliminate feelings of exclusion or discrimination among employees.
7. Accelerate employee development
Human relations can significantly improve the development of your workforce if you create an atmosphere in which your employees feel comfortable and communicate openly with their supervisors. This also includes setting clear and achievable goals for staff to strive for.
A positive working environment in which employees feel valued and appreciated also means a working environment that is conducive to employee development. Mentoring and guiding employees in developing the skills and knowledge they need for their professional development is very important in this regard. In this way, Human Relations plays a key role in promoting the professional development of employees.
What are future developments based in human relations theory?
Future developments in human relations theory will likely be based in more collaborative approaches to work. With the increasing use of technology, workers are becoming more dispersed and working remotely.
In addition, a recent study about remote/hybrid work (March 2022) by Harvard Business School found out that working in a hybrid model one or two days in the office is the 'Sweet Spot'. Therefore, employees who worked (partly) remotely were more likely to report better work-life balance, had a higher job satisfaction as well as increased productivity and struggle less by work-family conflicts. A hybrid work model could be the work scenario of the future for many professions.
Managers will have to use more modern means of communication and team-building to better manage these remote teams and create a more collaborative working environment. Human relations theory can help managers to understand how to better motivate and manage workers in a remote setting.
Furthermore, future developments in human relations theory may address various issues of diversity and inclusion. With the global workforce becoming increasingly diverse, managers will have to learn how to manage teams with a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives. Finally, future developments in human relations theory may also address the issue of work-life balance. As more workers are looking for ways to achieve a better work-life balance, managers must learn how to accommodate these needs. By understanding the principles of human relations theory, managers can better prepare for the challenges of the future workplace.
Conclusion – Why Human Relations is more relevant than ever
Human relations is a relatively new approach that only emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it has quickly become an essential part of corporate management. The ongoing digitalisation of the world of work will further increase the importance of certain sub-aspects of human relations.
The workplace of the future will be increasingly collaborative, diverse, spatially distributed and focused on work-life balance. Human Relations provides an understanding of how best to manage these trends. Leaders who embrace the principles of Human Relations are best prepared to meet the challenges of the future world of work.