Five steps to improving employee relations cases

By Andy Shettle, Product Director at Software Europe

Employee Relations (ER) cases can be complex. Tracking, recording and monitoring all ER cases from the initial referral to HR through to the final steps in a policy takes time, and in some cases, produces a lot of data to track. This is made all the more challenging when academic and professional staff are located across separate campus sites, different cities and even other countries. 

Just keeping track of open and closed cases can be a burden, if established recording processes aren’t in place. More than that, gathering meaningful insights such as costs per case, or length of time each stage may take is nigh on impossible.

Often the reason universities are not more developed in their ER analytics is that the systems they have in place are prohibiting them progressing their journey further’

But, with analytics in play, HR teams can see common characteristics within cases, typical hold-ups or delays, and can ultimately level the playing field for employees, whether they be junior administrators right up to senior lecturers – ensuring that all employees will be required to follow the same stages, steps and procedures within an ER case.

Analytics can help measure and improve processes

Employee relations is a journey and it’s one that takes time for HR to master. HR departments are often only producing reports and managing cases on a reactive basis and, as with any job function, working on a reactive basis creates inefficiencies in processes. 

Often the reason universities are not more developed in their ER analytics is that the systems they have in place are prohibiting them progressing their journey further. Whilst excel spreadsheets and homegrown databases may be sufficient for a handful of cases, the limited functionalities mean only the most basic of information is recorded.

Recording more detailed management information in employee relations cases allows for analytics to start taking place, which can look at the root cause of why cases are occurring for example, and create interventions that can be proactively put in place to reduce further ER cases.

The five tier model below will help HR managers move from basic, reactive data recording processes to advanced recording and proactive analysis of employee relations cases.

The five steps

1.     Manage and update cases day-to-day – This is the first step that every HR manager should be doing as standard. Keeping cases updated on a regular basis is all part of good record keeping for case management.

2.     Analyse cases using various dimensions – Recording cases by department or school, line manager, outcomes and employee demographics will start to give basic insights into the ER cases you’re tracking. This can allow some analysis to take place from spreadsheets and databases, but it’s often limited by functionality in spreadsheet and database software. Typically, most universities are stuck on step two – not having the means to mature their approach further. 

3.     Analyse where costs occur and the amount of time spent on cases – Reporting on the duration of cases, time spent by HR and investigators, legal costs, mediation costs and the number of days an employee was suspended will go a long way to helping understand how long various stages of the process take. You’ll gain insights into who is involved and how much time they each spend on the case. This information can help develop improvements in HR processes. But, with basic spreadsheets or databases, it can take countless hours of manual analysis, calculating start and finish dates, and costs are not easily attributable to a single case.

4.    ‘Why’ analysis / root cause – By this stage you’ll have lots of factual information about your ER case load, which can be turned into insightful and meaningful data. Of course, by now, you’ll start to find serious deficiencies in any off the shelf spreadsheet and databases, making the analysis of data a significant drain on time.  But, if you have the means, either through man power or an advanced employee relations management product, you will start getting information that helps you understand the root causes of your cases, and will help you put in place preventative measures that will assist in reducing cases in the future. 

5.    Review and benchmark open cases – Continual improvement and efficiency of your ER case load is not an option for departments that are limited by resources and those that want to add value somewhere else. 

In my experience, most HR departments within universities are hovering around steps two or three, with very few organisations taking the time to review their cases for lessons learned and even less proactively using information to bring about interventions to reduce the number of cases. The data you collect can give valuable insights into employee relations, such as employees in certain age brackets not being as engaged, through to individual teams underperforming due to a specific manager. This data can be used to put corrective actions in place to reduce further ER cases.

The idea behind the Five Steps model is to help HR departments move from information gathering and reactive actions in cases, to using information for proactively monitoring and improving existing and future ER cases through proactive change programmes.