7 Reasons You Need A Labor Relations Specialist On Your HR Team

ICYMI: strike activity doubled in 2022, and the number of workers involved jumped 60% year over year, according to a new “Labor Action Tracker” report from Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

But, it’s not just union workers who are demanding higher wages and better work conditions. If the Great Resignation and ensuing labor crisis taught us anything, it’s that workers of all kinds across the country are asking more of their employers than ever before—and it’s causing some interesting tension. 

As employees gain more ground, the interests of employers and their workforces are clashing—increasing the probability of workplace disputes, fallouts, and turnover

That’s why every employer needs to start investing in labor relations and expanding the expertise of their HR teams to ensure they have the skill set to navigate those sticky situations and fairly represent the interests of both sides. 

Ultimately, it’s about reducing risk

Labor Relations 101

A labor relations expert understands and demonstrates knowledge of laws, rules, regulations, case law, principles, and practices related to negotiating and administering labor agreements. They might have a degree in labor relations or labor studies, or an advanced certification to demonstrate their skill set. 

An expert is able to identify, evaluate, and recommend management interventions to solve complex issues that arise between employees and employers. 

To expand the expertise at your organization, you can hire an expert on your team, hire a part-time consultant, expand the knowledge of your current team through training and certifications, or hire for the skill set by making certain labor relations skills a job requirement when recruiting. 

The Case for Expanding Your Labor Relations Expertise

If you think labor relations expertise is only needed in organizations with a unionized workforce, think again. Here are seven reasons why every organization needs to expand its expertise today.  

1. Protect your employer brand

In a time where employees are choosier than ever before, your reputation matters. 

Labor relations experts assist employers and employees at all levels in forming and maintaining strong professional relationships. They help employers navigate tricky situations with disgruntled workers and preserve relationships with critical, strategic employees when the going gets tough—so that everyone leaves with a good taste in their mouths. Ultimately, strong labor relations create the conditions for a strong employer brand that helps you recruit and retain top talent in today’s labor market. 

2. Stay compliant

A labor relations expert provides an in-house resource for the laws, rules, regulations, case law, principles, and practices related to negotiating and administering labor agreements. It’s their job to stay up to date on labor and employment laws, and the workforce trends that indicate the interests of employees–meaning your business can remain compliant while cultivating mutually beneficial and respectful relationships.

3. Negotiate better contracts 

With an in-depth understanding of labor law, collective bargaining trends, economics, and your business’s goals, labor relations experts can help you interpret, draft, and administer employment contracts that respect the demands of both sides. Ultimately, this helps employers protect their finances and reputation while providing a high-quality employee experience (the key to a strong employer brand and long-term retention). 

4. Improve onboarding

Sixty-nine percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experience a great onboarding process. A labor relations professional can boost the efficacy of your onboarding experience by providing valuable information that familiarizes new hires with company culture, policies, procedures, systems, and more in a way that is collaborative, respectful, and compliant. They make clear what the rights and roles are of both the employer and employee, and set the foundation for positive relationships between the two moving forward. 

5. Get efficient advice for unlimited growth  

Businesses are always looking for new ways to grow. For some employers, that might mean hiring new employees and growing their workforce. For others, that might mean expanding into new locations or opening remote positions for candidates in different states. With any of these changes, employers always need to take into account labor laws, regulations, and trends–which vary across different locations and situations. Employers can make those decisions more efficiently and confidently with an in-house labor relations resource. 

6. Commit to DEI

Labor relations are grounded in the principle that all voices should be heard; all sides should be represented. In a time where diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to employers and employees alike, having a labor relations expert on your HR staff can help you deliver on your goals in a way that feels neutral. Labor relations professionals create an environment where all viewpoints are taken into account and weighed fairly, making employees feel like they belong–and making them more likely to stay

7. Improve your bottom line

In sum, a labor relations expert can help you save time and money for the ways that their skill set reduces turnover, improves retention, and protects your employer brand. Plus, with a dedicated in-house resource for labor relations, employers won’t waste time chasing down up-to-date labor information whenever they make a business move. 

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