Full-Service HR

Employee Relations Tips for SMBs

Ella Baker
Employee Relations Tips for SMBs
Reading time 4 Mins
Published on Mar 12

When it comes to running a small business effectively, building the right team is vital, but keeping that team running smoothly, without conflict, can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. In a small or medium-sized business (SMB), even a small upset in employee relations can quickly become a disaster. From managing conflicting personalities to communicating effectively with employees, here are our tips to help you improve or maintain positive employee relations.


When it comes to maintaining successful employee relations in a SMB, communication is key. Good communication not only helps avoid confusion, but it can also help you and your team stay focused on your goals.

Employees should have a single point person providing them with clarification on policies, procedures, and expectations so that they aren’t getting conflicting information from different areas. People absorb information in different ways, so encourage your point person to share information in a variety of ways, including conversations, newsletters, and demonstrations. When employees are given the information they need in a concise, understandable way, everyone’s job is simpler and relations can be eased.

Encourage employees to ask questions and share their own ideas. Create a transparent process for them to bring new ideas to the table that could help grow or build your business. Unlike corporate structures where supervisors often take credit for the work of their employees, SMBs benefit from celebrating the contributions of regular employees. For more tips to help you and your team become better communicators, check out Communication is Key to Business Success.

Don’t be afraid of conflict

No matter how large or small, every workplace has conflict. Taking a constructive, non-retaliatory approach to resolving problems as they arise can help you stabilize and normalize employee relations.

Employees should be encouraged to air their grievances to designated managers, knowing that their concerns will be kept confidential and that management takes every report seriously. The whole workplace benefits when employees can openly and honestly share their concerns to a supervisor without fear of retaliation. For those employees particularly averse to conflict, you may even consider implementing an anonymous reporting option that allows employees to bring potential issues to the attention of management without having to disclose their names.

Stop problems before they start

What’s the best way to solve a problem? Stop it from happening in the first place. While not all issues in the workplace can be easily resolved, there are many others that an employee handbook can proactively address.

An effective employee handbook that clearly communicates workplace rules and standards of conduct gives employees a roadmap for success. To benefit your employee relations initiatives, your employee handbook should cover a wide variety of topics, including:

  • Payroll policies and procedures
  • Scheduling and PTO requests
  • Sexual harassment policy
  • Drug-use policy
  • Progressive disciplinary policies
  • Benefit eligibility information
  • and much more.

Valuable players

One of the best ways to build positive employee relations within your SMB is to celebrate the hard work, discipline, and results of your team. While it’s often the negative aspects of the company that get the most attention, appreciation and recognition of a job well done can go a long way to help improve employee performance while also building employee loyalty.

Rather than assuming that employees know that their work is valued, make sure that your management staff tell them frequently. Say thank you for big and small things that an employee does correctly or just for a hard day’s work. Sing the praises of an employee who handled a difficult situation or customer with grace. A thank you card or simple verbal appreciation can go a long way to building a stronger, more positive team.

Looking for more HR tips

Need more tips on building a management team that inspires your staff? Check out 5 Leadership Traits of Great Managers to learn more about the qualities to look for in your company’s leaders.

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