Fifth Annual Benchmark Study Highlights Increased Need for Employee Relations Analytics and Insights to Guide Business Decisions

HR Acuity, the only technology platform specifically built for employee relations and investigations management, announced the release of the Fifth Annual HR Acuity Employee Relations Benchmark Study, based on in-depth research from more than 125 organizations, representing approximately 4.5 million employees globally and 2.3 million employees in the United States.

The results show that during 2020, social and political conflict along with ongoing challenges due to COVID-19, positioned Employee Relations as vital to shaping positive employee experiences. With the number of employee relations teams responsible for analytics rising 13 points over last year, it’s evident that leadership teams at organizations have grown increasingly reliant on data-driven employee relations insights to create better cultures and safer workplaces. The ripple effect of 2020 led to increases in accommodation requests, social media issues and discrimination claims along with a significant decrease in resources and diminished commitments to vital employee relations processes.

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Employee relations data increasingly drives business decisions and influences workplace culture. The majority (86%) of employee relations teams are now responsible for handling ER analytics, which is a significant increase over last year. In fact, two-thirds of respondents are sharing data and analytics directly with senior leadership to identify trends and hot spots, and develop actionable initiatives to address areas of concern. Employee relations technology continues to gain traction with 75% of organizations now using technology solutions to manage employee relations issues and nearly all organizations are tracking a wider range of employee relations data.

Employee relations cases were directly impacted by 2020 challenges. One-third of organizations report the most significant increases in accommodation requests (33%), followed by social media issues and discrimination complaints. The vast majority of respondents attribute increases in issue volume to the pandemic (89%), social movements such as Black Lives Matter (77%) and the political landscape (73%). With employee relations cases in every issue category remaining open longer, the average time to close common cases such as leave management, time and attendance, wage and hour cases as well as policy violations rose to 2-4 weeks. Last year, nearly half of the organizations surveyed closed these cases in 5 days or less.

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Signs of significant loss in momentum and commitment vital to employee relations processes. Use of a required, structured process for conducting investigations which trended steadily upwards for the past 5 years, saw a sharp decline with only 44% now using a required process for investigations. Last year, nearly one-third of organizations reported sharing aggregated, anonymous investigation or employee relations data with employees, but this year less than one-in five organizations is sharing this information. Many organizations expected to increase ER head counts, and more than half predicted hiring to remain flat in 2020, but the results show an unexpected decrease in staffing. This cancels out the increase gained in 2019 and unfortunately returns resource levels to that of two years ago. Almost three-fourths of organizations expect employee relations resources to remain the same for the entirety of 2021.

“The drop in the use of required investigation processes, the decrease in transparency and the reduction in employee relations headcounts is disappointing. Each is essential to drive accountability and show employees that their concerns will be taken seriously,” said HR Acuity CEO and Founder Deborah J. Muller. “I suspect that COVID-19 and the events of 2020 are the root causes, as employee relations leaders shifted focus to respond and adapt to remote work, employee health, safety and wellbeing. Employee relations leaders have worked tirelessly to make great strides in elevating the function. I hope that this year’s data is just an anomaly and that organizations will re-commit to the processes that are critical to create consistent, fair workplaces and deliver positive employee experiences.”

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