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Changing Paradigm of Employee Relations

Source | SHRM : By Vivek S Patwardhan

The subject of this blog is ‘Changing Paradigm of Employee Relations.’ As I thought about this subject, I realizedthere are four key aspects to it. So, let me begin by sharing these with you as I ‘set the approach’. I will then move on to other details.

Setting the Approach

Firstly ‘Employee Relations’ [ER] is about the relationship between an employer and his employee, both individually and collectively. This relationship begins with the contract of employment or what we call the ‘Appointment Letter,’ and usually ends with his resignation letter, or what HR Managers call the ‘Disappointment Letter’ in a lighter vein. Between the exchange of these two letters we witness high drama, just as in any other relationship.

The second aspect is about the word ‘paradigm.’ We know that a ‘paradigm’ is a mental map or a pattern of something (as per the Oxford Dictionary definition). We are going to discuss ‘changes in paradigm’. It does not take great intelligence to understand how difficult it is to identify a change in paradigm, because the same is usually very slow. It is so slow that occasional anomalies are not even noticed. I am reminded of an experiment, which Collin Wilson has described. A psychologist asked people to watch as he held a pack of cards and quickly started dropping cards one by one. The interesting aspect was that in his pack of cards there were some red clubs and black diamonds. As the cards were dropped rapidly nobody noticed this anomaly. As he started dropping them again, but a bit slowly, in the second round people realized that something was wrong but could not say what it was. Then he dropped the pack again even more slowly. This time, many observers realized what was wrong.

We as observers of Employee Relations are in the same position. I am going to discuss what, in my opinion, are the black diamonds and red clubs – whether they make paradigm changes or not is for all of us to discuss here.
Now the third aspect – I would like to pick up here the word ‘relations’ as it exists in Employee Relations. The definition of the verb ‘to relate’ has not changed in the last several decades. So what do we really mean by ‘changing paradigm of ER?’ I believe we are really referring to changing paradigm of building healthy employee relations.
And now I come to the fourth and the last aspect: If the paradigm, which is a patternof employee relations is changing, it is because we are behaving differently, and it must be obviously because we see our role differently. So I am going to discuss with you whether the parties to the employee relations think that their roles have changed, and if so, what are the telltale signs. Needless to say these are all my impressions.

The Broad Picture:
1. Let me begin with the broad picture first. I already mentioned earlier that we are really referring to building healthy employee relations. So, the next question is ‘What would be the manifestation of healthy employee relations?’ Needless to say that all employees should feel that this is a great place to work, and they should feel a sense of belonging. Let us ask ‘how do we fare as a nation? Where does India stand today?’ This question is relevant because we are trumpeting ‘Make in India.’
2. Every year The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) publishes Global Rights Index. It demonstrates the worst countries in the world for working people, with the erosion of rights and increases in insecure, unsafe and informal work. The protection of fundamental rights of working people, they say, has become more critical than ever. India ranks as one of the worst countries to work in; it is placed at level 5, which means that there is ‘no guarantee of rights.’ This is on a six-point scale. ‘One’ indicates ‘irregular violation of rights’, ‘Five’ indicates ‘no guarantee of rights’. Even in 2014 India was placed at level 5. We have here China and Korea for company!

Read On…

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