What Is Employee Relations? Definition + Career Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

This article explores what employee relations entails, why it matters to organizations, career opportunities, and how to improve employee relations.

[Featured Image] An employee relations manager talks with a company employee.

What is employee relations? 

Employee relations refers to an organization’s efforts to maintain positive relationships with employees. The goals of good employee relations include inspiring employee loyalty, increasing engagement, reducing turnover, and creating a positive company culture. 

In your research into employee relations (ER), you may find that this discipline shares similarities with human resources (HR). In addition, some companies may use ER and HR interchangeably, while others may outline distinct functions and responsibilities for professionals in each discipline. Here are some possible differences to keep in mind. 

Employee relationsHuman resources
A specific discipline within or area of human resourcesA broader, more encompassing field
Professionals in this role may specialize in employee relations.Professionals in this role may have more generalized training and expertise.
May deal with issues that require an investigation, such as discrimination or harassment, as well as with general issues.May deal with more general issues, such as compensation and recruiting.
May focus on improving the employee experience.May focus on setting company policies.

There are several ways that companies can optimize relations with employees, including:

  • Regarding employees as stakeholders and contributors to the company  

  • Seeking employee input when making company-wide decisions 

  • Addressing employee health and safety 

  • Creating a sense of belonging, even with many in the workforce working remotely in the wake of COVID-19

  • Sponsoring employee-led resource groups (ERGs) around shared characteristics such as gender, lifestyle, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or interest   

  • Coaching employees to perform at their best level

  • Taking a stand on issues that employees care about, such as social justice or climate change

  • Supporting career growth and professional development  


Employee relations examples

If you’re in an employee relations role, there are several junctures of an employee’s experience with your company that you might be involved in. Examples include:  

  • Onboarding new employees 

  • Managing conflicts among staff 

  • Analyzing performance 

  • Establishing health and safety practices

  • Helping employees manage work/life balance 

  • Offering events and incentives outside of work 

According to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, 20 percent of respondents (HR executives) identified employee well-being as an important part of how the workplace should be reimagined [1]. 


Employee relations jobs

If you are interested in a career in employee relations and helping to create a company’s culture, you may be wondering what jobs are available to you and the kind of salary you can earn. As of June 2022, Indeed has over 20,000 employee relations job listings, with salaries ranging from around $50,000 to above $200,000. The top three employee relations certifications mentioned in job listings as preferred or required are the Professional in Human Resources, the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), and the SHRM Certified Professional [2]. 

As you research your career options in this field, be sure to examine each employee relations job description and requirements to find jobs that align with your interests, qualifications, and career goals. 

To get a job in an employee relations role, you may need a bachelor’s or graduate degree in human resources, employee relations, or a related field, as well as an HR certification or prior consulting experience. It will also help to cultivate skills such as empathy, emotional intelligence, communication, problem solving, and leadership abilities. 

Here are three examples of employee relations roles. 

Employee relations manager

Employee relations managers lead employee relations teams within a company and oversee the work of team members. Additional duties might include collaborating with company leaders on setting policy and training managers in best practices in employee relations. 

According to Glassdoor, the average employee relations manager salary (base salary and additional pay such as cash bonuses, commissions, profit sharing, etc.) in the US is $100,274 [3].  

Employee relations specialist 

Employee relations specialists promote employee well-being, including assisting with work-related challenges and helping employees enhance their performance. Professionals in this role may also advise employees on how to comply with government and company policies. According to Glassdoor, the average annual pay in the US, including salary and additional pay, is $81,571 [4]. 

Employee relations consultant 

Employee relations consultants advise companies’ human resources departments on policies and procedures, decision making, recruitment, training, and more. An employee relations consultant’s average annual pay in the US, including salary and additional pay, is $93,836, according to Glassdoor [5]. 

How to build positive employee relations 

In this section, you’ll discover four methods for building positive employee relations in your current or future role. 

1. Create an employee relations strategy. 

Having a clear strategy can make it easier to implement employee relations efforts and measure their results. Here are three steps to take: 

  • Identify employee relations goals, such as increasing employee engagement, improving employees’ performance, and reducing employee turnover.

  • Identify the actions you’ll take to achieve these goals, such as conducting exit interviews with departing employees and then using insights to enhance current employees’ experiences. Another action might be to improve employee appreciation by offering gifts, rewards, and other recognition for excellence. 

  • Identify the metrics you’ll use to measure progress. For example, you might track employee engagement according to the number of employees who attend non-mandatory meetings or company social events. 

2. Define company culture. 

A strong company culture that employees believe in can inspire them to stay with the company longer and even perform better in their roles. Here are three actions you can take: 

  • Work with leaders to refine the company’s values and mission statement and identify ways to connect the values and mission to the work that employees do.

  • Unite employees around the company’s long-term vision, by inviting employees to share what it means to them.

  • Specify and strengthen the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Share these efforts with employees and request their input.   

3. Establish open and honest communication. 

Streamlining internal communication among managers, employees, and leaders can contribute to a healthier workplace and encourage everyone to share valuable ideas. 

Here are three ways to improve communication: 

  • Invite employees to discuss their challenges openly on a regular basis and schedule time to listen to employees’ experiences, thoughts, and feelings. 

  • Work with managers to develop documentation of new policies and procedures. Documentation might include demo videos or written instructions. 

  • Ask employees about their career goals and how their work aligns with them. 

Explore employee relations with Coursera. 

Online courses can be a great way to build skills and knowledge in employee relations and discover career options in this field. Explore the professional certificate and specializations below: 

Related articles 

Article sources

1. Deloitte. “Diving Deeper: Five workplace trends to watch for in 2021, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2021/workforce-trends-2020.html.” Accessed June 8, 2022. 

2. Indeed. “Employee Relations Jobs, https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=employee%20relations&from=searchOnHP&vjk=b3ea51f71a25356b.” Accessed June 29, 2022. 

3. Glassdoor. “How much does an Employee Relations Manager Make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/employee-relations-manager-salary-SRCH_KO0,26.htm.” Accessed June 29, 2022. 

4. Glassdoor. “How much does an Employee Relations Specialist Make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/employee-relations-specialist-salary-SRCH_KO0,29.htm.” Accessed June 29, 2022. 

5. Glassdoor. “How much does an Employee Relations Consultant Make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/employee-relations-consultant-salary-SRCH_KO0,29.htm.” Accessed June 29, 2022.

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