Activities to improve employee relations can make a big difference in any business, particularly if that business is experiencing labor problems and poor communication between management and workers. Creative activities that show employees that their employers care about what they think and how happy they are at work can help to create a mutually supportive work environment.
In too many businesses, policy decisions are made by management, then presented to employees as a done deal. Improve your employee relations, and possibly your policy decisions as well, by including employees in the decision-making process. Employees are the ones on the front lines of any business, and they know, often better than management, what is happening on the ground. Brainstorming sessions in which all employees are free to express their opinions, concerns and ideas will often yield surprising and useful results.
Spending time with your coworkers outside of work produces a different experience. Companies that host annual picnics for all their employees give everyone a chance to socialize without being concerned about being productive, and to meet one another's families. Getting to know your coworkers as people can help you to work more effectively with them during work hours. If someone is going through a difficult time at home, other people at work will be more sympathetic to them if they know about it. Working with strangers whom you never get to know leads to alienation.
Roll swaps are a fun activity that can teach very valuable lessons. Every month or two, spend a morning or an afternoon with people in the business doing someone else's job. This activity needs to be limited in situations of safety or critical production, but to the extent that it can be practiced, it gives employees a chance to learn about what their coworkers do every day. The exercise is particularly useful when labor and management trade places.
Having individual meetings with employees is perhaps the best way for managers and owners to keep in touch with the experiences that their labor force is having. Some people are shy in large meetings but will express their viewpoints quite eloquently when in a one-on-one conversation. Private meetings give employees the opportunity to express ideas for improvement, concerns about coworkers and complaints about employers that they might not be comfortable expressing in a group.