Employee Relationship Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay A recent study by HR Acuity, entitled People Leaders and the Gap in Managing Employee Issues (registration required), found a shortfall in people management skills. The HR Acuity platform enables leaders to identify, investigate and track employee issues.

The study identifies a huge gap between managers skills sets and what the employee relations experts within HR perceive. 52% of managers are confident in their ability to document issues effectively and compliantly. Only 2% of employee relations experts think they are. Worryingly only 51% of the managers believe that HR can help them resolve issues. What wasn’t clear was the overlap between the two.

The study

The study is fairly short, presented in a long infographic of roughly five pages, and divided into six sections. It is based on a survey of 662 people leaders participating in the HR Acuity Manager Survey and 126 employee relations leaders in the Fifth Annual HR Acuity Employee Relations Benchmark Study. Key responses were:

  • The reality is problematic
  • Why does it matter
  • The status quo isn’t working
  • The challenge is getting worse
  • But there is good news
  • The bottom line

Each section reveals some interesting statistics from both managers and employee relations experts. As noted in the first section, there are some differences between the viewpoints. Both managers and ER experts see benefits from handling employee relationships effectively. The top three were common:

  • Help retain high performing employees (60% of managers/53% of ER experts)
  • Improving employee morale (51% of managers/61% of ER experts)
  • Driving higher productivity (42% of managers/59% of ER experts)

While the benefits are there, HR Acuity believes the shortfall in delivery is due to the tools in use. Only 7% use an appropriate tool; most use email (61%), documents (50%) or spreadsheets (43%). While the report highlights that training programs can help, it does not identify how extensive these are. Often managerial training is delivered once per career, and once trained, managers rarely revisit, relying on experience to gain expertise. With better tools in use, training can be delivered in context, helping to improve best practices.

The pandemic effect

Though not called out in the study, the pandemic is having an impact in making things worse. The report cites five reasons why remote working is causing further problems

  • Lack of access to and inability to print/sign documents
  • Lack of in-person or face-to-face interaction
  • Issues with phone and video calls
  • Difficult to monitor and track time, work behaviours
  • Process changes

Of these, several are alleviate by simple technology such as signature tools. However, that may be putting a bandaid on a problem rather than introducing proper workflow tools for employee relationships that automate and does away with paper documents that need a signature. Some challenges would benefit employee management tools such as HR Acuity. However, others need wider solutions that manage the operational processes of an organisation, such as PSA.

The penultimate section infers there is good news, but it identifies that those companies using technology and tools to solve employee skills are more confident (65% vs 48%) than those without. It still means a third that use tools are not confident, a huge gap. One that might be covered by trained.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

HR Acuity certainly builds a case for companies to use its tools, but there is still a gap that it has not identified how to close. Does this mean further enhancements for its tools are needed, better training or better processes?

Deb Muller, CEO and Founder, HR Acuity
Deb Muller, CEO and Founder, HR Acuity

Deb Muller, CEO and Founder, HR Acuity, commented, “This survey confirms the importance of enabling people leaders to manage employee issues in a timely, consistent and thorough manner to build trust with employees and reduce organizational risk. As the first point of contact for employees, people leaders need the necessary tools and training to easily manage, document and track employee issues with consistency – and to know when to involve employee relations.”

“Employers understand the value of a great employee experience, but they continue to struggle with how to empower those closest to employees – people leaders. To create inclusive workplaces, eliminate bias and build trust with employees, organizations must empower people leaders to handle employee issues effectively. Embracing technology that upskills managers, ensures consistency and provides visibility across the enterprise is critical to achieve these goals.”

There are some useful insights in the report that should make both HR and Manager think about their approach to employee relations, their processes and expertise. While there are some respondents comments throughout the study it is not supported by an in-depth qualitative study which might have provided further insight. The lack of cross-analysis from the questions also disappoints.


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