Nearly 90 percent of companies now rely on employee wellness programs to slow rising health care costs by emphasizing preventive health strategies, according to a 2011 study. But employee wellness programs that fail to incorporate preventive employee relations are missing a critical opportunity to create a happier, healthier workforce and reap additional cost savings, experts say.
Preventive employee relations (ER) relies on the detection of trends, patterns and inconsistencies related to ER issues such as discrimination, harassment and workplace bullying, according to Dwane Lay, head of Dovetail human resources process design, an HR software developer. This enables an organization not only to take appropriate action immediately, but also to formulate long-term plans to prevent these trends from rearing up in the future.
"It's time for HR leaders to step up and be proactive in creating a program that focuses on addressing employee complaints and grievances and changing policies or practices to reduce them," said Cathy Missildine-Martin, co-founder and chief performance officer of Intellectual Capital Consulting.
The first step toward preventive employee relations is gathering ER data and metrics, Lay said. Especially critical are data on trends and patterns that would go unnoticed without a system specifically designed to gather and analyze such information.
Once the data shows where and what a company's ER "flash points" are, the organization needs to formulate an action plan to extinguish those hot spots before they become chronic, potentially litigious cases, he said.
That plan should include where and how to roll out new policies and regulations, improve training and education and provide additional coaching to managers and supervisors, if necessary, Lay said.
To make a preventive ER program work, you then need buy-in from the executive team and an environment that supports the ability to make change happen quickly and encourages employees to come to HR with questions and problems, he said.
"We encourage employers to think of it as adopting an ER wellness solution," Lay said. "The goal of both preventive wellness programs and preventive employee relations is to create a happier, healthier workforce. This means they're inseparably linked and should be treated that way—especially by employers who are looking to maximize the results of their efforts and their impacts to the bottom line."
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