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How to improve Labour-Employer relations in the workplace

  • MAY 22
  • Tags Employee relations, Labour

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South Africa has the worst labour-employee relations in the world, ranking 137 out of 137 countries, according to the World Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 released by the World Economic Forum.

Gawie Cillié, employment relations expert and lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), says the alarming result is directly linked to the low levels of trust between employers and employees in South Africa – a mistrust that has been cultivated over many years. This coupled with poor reliance on professional management, the country’s capacity to retain and attract talent, as well as the high unemployment and poverty levels, have all contributed to a negative labour-employee relationship.

“The unhealthy state of our labour-employee relations will have a direct impact on organisational performance which can seriously threaten our ability to create a sustainable and productive future for the next generation.”

Cillié says South Africans should be alarmed. “The efficiency of a country’s labour market is directly linked to GDP, long-term growth, overall prosperity and competitiveness on a global scale. The unhealthy state of our labour-employee relations will have a direct impact on organisational performance which can seriously threaten our ability to create a sustainable, lucrative and productive future for the next generation.”

He says that employees need the opportunity to influence decisions made, have clarity on why certain decisions were made by management, and be the judge on how fair they were based on the fact that no employee input was consulted at the time. Following a fair process in decision-making builds trust and commitment, trust and commitment produces voluntary co-operation, voluntary co-operation drives performance, leading people to go beyond the call of duty by sharing their knowledge and applying their creativity”.

Eleven tips for better relations

In an attempt to improve the level of trust in employer-employee relations, Cillié shares some pointers for organisations who want to view conflict as an opportunity for collaboration, rather than a clash or disruption, for the benefit of the organisation as a whole:

  • Realising the potential value of conflict;
  • Dealing with conflicts as soon as they register themselves;
  • Learning how to have difficult conversations;
  • Keep employees, both individually and collectively engaged and informed;
  • Developing an organisational conflict management strategy;
  • Promoting conflict literacy;
  • Measuring conflict management styles;
  • Building conflict management skills;
  • Developing team working approaches;
  • Creating options for conflict resolution through internal grievance procedures that provide for ‘loop-back’ to collaborative processes for resolution such as internal mediation; and
  • Embedding a new conflict management culture.

About the author

Gawie Cillié is a lecturer in labour relations and labour law at the Department of Industrial Psychology at Stellenbosch University, lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) and employment relations expert.

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