- Centralization of the ER function: ER has traditionally been organized using one of the three models – decentralized, centralized, and mixed. Centralized design refers to an ER team that is responsible for managing employee relations issues and conducting investigations across the organization. The team does not have to be geographically centralized. The mixed ER model relies on a centralized team for managing some or most of the employee relations cases and investigations with field representatives (HR professionals) to manage some employee relations issues. In the decentralized model, employee relations issues are managed within specific functions or verticals by ER and HR professionals. A recent survey by HR Acuity suggests a shift towards the centralization of the ER function. The survey report noted a year over year decline in the number of organizations using a decentralized approach for employee relations. Industries like pharmaceuticals and technology were found to be heavily dependent on the centralized model, while other industries like finance, insurance, and healthcare took the mixed approach to ER.
- An increasing focus on metrics and analytics: Like other HR functions, ER is also becoming more data-driven and outcome driven. Organizations are increasingly focusing on cost, root cause, and tracking metrics to drive continuous improvement. By analyzing key trends, ER teams can also benefit from significant cost savings and determine the actual cost of grievances and litigation. In 2019, the ER function will increasingly rely on prescriptive and predictive analytics to predict, mitigate and even prevent ER issues from blowing up.
- Workplace safety will be in the spotlight: 2017 and 2018 brought to light numerous new allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. The #MeToo movement gathered momentum and raised uncomfortable questions about ER practices in the organizations affected. ER professionals could expect more employees to open up and report sexual misconduct and be ready to act in anticipating employees’ public allegations. Building awareness of anti-harassment laws isn’t going to be enough, ER professionals will need to proactively create an environment in which all employees feel safe.
Trends in Employee Relations
For the last 25 years, lots of changes have been observed in the arena of employee relationship in the UK. Almost all the norms which were considered to be major in the industries of England have been done away with. This has occurred as the kind of work people do has changed, also the kind of workplace that the people are in has changed over the years. The changes in structure have also brought about a change in the culture. The attitude of employers towards their employees and vice versa has changed tremendously over the years. On course of this book, you will come across lots of changes that have affected the different areas of the workplace. All areas of HRM activities have changed henceforth. However the most astounding of changes have occurred in employee relations. You can say that the different changes have progressed at different speeds in the various fields. You will find lots of workplaces in the public sectors, where even today the traditional models of employee relations are followed. The governments have come and gone trying to undermine these things. Hence as a result of this, in the present times, there exists, a lot of variety in approaches in different sectors of industry than it was in the past.
Trade union decline
The most striking of changes that has been seen, is the lessening in the number of people who join the trade unions. Even if these people join, they do not take part in the activities of these unions. In the United Kingdom, the number of memberships had reached its pinnacle in the year 1979. It was seen that more than 13 million people, which is roughly 58% of all employees had opted for being member of the unions for trade. In the years that follow, there has been a decrease in the numbers continuously for every year. The older members of the unions have retired, and new people have not substituted them. In the year 2002, the membership was seen to be standing at just 7.3 million. In the most recent times, there has been some decrease in the deterioration of numbers. Some unions have also claimed that they have seen some increase in membership. This has happened as more number of people has become a part of the workforce. However the density of the trade union has kept decreasing for the past two and half decades now.
Window on practice
The trade unions mainly face problems in getting members from places which are also called dispersed sectors. Here actually the different employees lay scattered in small places of work throughout the entire country. The people are seen working in quite small teams which can even include less than six people. Hence the traditional approach of unions which included communicating from a higher authority to people such as stewards from shops is not quite practical. Hence different new methods and technologies are required to be used such as SMSs sent from phones and alerting these people.
In spite of different difficulties, the big unions have enjoyed some successes over the years. This has been done by setting up of special sectors for people who work in dispersed environments. The IRS will provide you with lots of good examples regarding this matter. The union of GMB has actually started looking for professional sportsperson as well as drivers and sex workers. The Union for transports as well as workers in general have also set up unions and enrolled more than 2000 people working in small nurseries. You can say that the most famous success story was seen in the case of clergy and church workers of Amicus. This union has got 2500 members for now and has also succeeded in ensuring that the right of the Clergyman would not be dismissed off in any manner.
Collective bargaining and industrial action
One of the major effects which was felt after the decline in number of members in the union, was a continued decrease in the number of people whose terms and conditions for a particular job was set according to collective bargaining. In this particular segment too lots of lots of changes have occurred. In the present times, it has been observed that people have moved on from a position where many members worked in companies having proper trade unions to places where most people were not working in them anymore. In the year 1970, it was seen that more than 80% of the people belonging to the general workforce in the UK, belonged to jobs determined by collective agreements.