Line managers need training to improve workplace relations, says ERI

03 July 2014 -


UK employers must invest in developing standards that minimise tensions and make the most of staff talents, according to Employee Relations Institute

Jermaine Haughton

A campaign unveiled this week has urged employers to introduce new standards and invest in skills training for line managers to help them strengthen workplace relations. Spearheaded by the Employee Relations Institute (ERI), the “How well do we manage?” campaign wants senior leaders to introduce a baseline set of standards for guiding the behaviour of line managers, trade union executives and HR officers, for the benefit of relations as a whole.

Key focal points of tension are under the campaign’s spotlight. Wages and conditions enforced by employers in the public sector can spawn organised strikes. And in many offices today – particularly in the private sector – bad atmospheres between managers and staff more often than not lead to workers jumping ship, leading companies to lose their best staff. In the ERI’s view, better workplace relations can help to prevent these scenarios by improving levels of engagement.

With help from ACAS, the TUC and the CBI – plus a clutch of other industry and employer groups – the ERI has devised four, core standards, which it believes businesses should use to coordinate their staff:

Meaningful engagement of employees and their representatives in matters that affect them

Commitment to continuously improve employee relations skills in the workplace

Openness, honesty and transparency in workplace communications

Commitment to building and maintaining trust and respect in the workplace

The ERI is also advising employers to commit investment to the skills and competencies of line managers, so they will be equipped to act effectively upon the new guidelines. And ERI believes that the investment in skills should not just apply to managers, but extend to trade unions and HR-based employee representatives.

ERI chair Andy Cook says that line managers must be given the tools to manage their staff in a fair manner. “Research has shown that people generally leave their manager rather than their job,” he said. ‘Too often, talented individuals are promoted to management level on merit of being good at their vocation, without being given the tools and competence to manage people in a fair and engaging way. On top of this, there is increasing pressure on line managers, as support functions have been cut or refocused.”

He added: “Organisations who invest in their line managers and who recognise the fundamental part they play in creating improved productivity, flexibility and performance, really do feel the commercial benefits.”

For further thoughts on this topic, check out CMI’s resources on employee engagement.

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