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Investigate the shift from industrial relations through to employee relations and the relationship with employee engagement


Industrial Relations
Industrial relations is the relationship between employers and employees, in particular groups of workers who are represented by unions. It looks at the interactions between employers, employees and the government. Originally, industrial relations included all aspects of employment relationships, including; HR management, employee relations and union-management relations. However it has become more specific, with HR management becoming separate and dealing with non-union employment relations and personnel and policies (Industrial Relations, 2007) One reason why industrial relations is no longer widely used is due to the decline in union memberships in the last 40 years. Trade union memberships grew in post-war years in order to secure industrial peace and efficiency. However memberships have fallen from 12 million plus to around 7 million today. This could be due to the dramatic reduction in industrial action since the 1980s (CIPD, 2012) and the introduction of the national minimum wage (Eurofound, 2009).

Industrial Relations (2007)

Employee Relations
Industrial relations is now referred to as employee relations due to the importance of non-industrial employment relationships. Whilst industrial relations focuses on union-management with a collective workforce, employee relations involves all employment relationships, including from employee to employer, and is a far broader term. The main principles underlying the shift towards employee relations are: -Recognition of individual differences -Trusting employees’ competence and ability to perform -Providing support -Facilitating individual development -Collaborative work environment -Promotes healthy work-life balance Furthermore, the scope of employee relations includes not only the relationship between the employees and their employer, but also group relations and community/public relations. Having these relationships means there is an improvement in working conditions and effective administration resulting in improved employee morale and maximising employee development and engagement. Industrial relations on the other hand looked to promote and maintain industrial peace and avoiding industrial conflicts (Singh and Kumar, 2011 p. 130-131).

Employee Engagement
Employee engagement refers to employers being engaged in their work. This results in less conflict and disputes as they are too busy doing their work. Whereas an employer sitting idle all day can create problems, such as gossip and unrelated work discussions. Furthermore, engaged employees will tend to speak more highly of their workplace, work to their best level and be serious about their work (MSG, 2012). By employee relations focusing on employer to employee relationships, it results in trust, support and collaboration meaning employees will be happier and more engaged with their work. As industrial relations did not focus on employer to employee relationships, staff were left feeling undervalued, therefore their work was not to a high standard. During the industrial revolution, staff were not satisfied with their jobs and were therefore unmotivated, unwilling and had no loyalty towards their workplace. With employee relations, staff are more engaged, committed and satisfied with their jobs (CIPD, 2012).

RiseSmart (2012)