When you hire an employee, you are getting into a relationship.
And everyone knows that for good relationships to work, you need good communication.
That is why the obligation to act in good faith (which underpins all employment relationships in this country) requires that you actively work on your relationship, and which means you need to be responsive and communicative with your staff.
So when does communication need to take place and what does it look like?
Communication of terms of employment
Start off on the right foot by communicating the terms of employment in writing.
Not only is it necessary to retain a signed copies of every employee’s employment agreement to avoid a potential penalty, you give clarity to the boundaries for the relationship from the start.
And with each new amendment to the Employment Relations Act 2000, Parliament is increasingly putting the onus on employers to reduce unusual terms to writing. The consequences for not doing so is that in some cases employers will not be able to enforce their rights.
Communication of expectations of behaviour
In addition to the terms that govern each individual’s employment, you will also want to communicate what standards you expect of your staff.
These may change from time to time, but employees may not be brought to account for failing to observe them unless policies and codes of conduct are fairly brought to their attention.
Put them in writing, send them by email, post them on walls and talk about them in your team meetings so that employees can have no doubts about what is expected of them.
Communication when things go wrong
Perhaps the worst thing in a relationship is to have one party who is passive aggressive – restraining themselves while they seethe in anger, until one day they explode.
If that is you, think about how your employees perceive you. They have no idea that you disapprove of their performance or their conduct. They may not appreciate that you are having to restrain yourself at their every mistake. And they will be sorely surprised when you suddenly boil over at them in a fit of rage (and you will be miffed when they present you with a personal grievance that cites your extreme behaviour).
Aim, so far as possible, to have no surprises in your employment relationships. If things are not going well, talk to your staff about them well before you blow your stack.
Communication is at the heart of employment relationships. If you’ve signed up to be an employer, then you have, by default, agreed to also be a good communicator.
So get the expectations clear at the start and communciate with your team when things are not going well.
Not only will you find your employees thank you for it, you’ll be complying with the law.