Employee Relations Case Management as a “new normal” HR Tool

employee relations case management

As business owners and HR professionals struggle to determine the new normal for their company and employees, we will collectively be leaning toward more automation like employee relations case management tools and online resources to get our day-to-day work done. Many, or even most, companies have implemented some form of HR technology in their list of tools, but generally, these tools relate to payroll, time management, and HRIS systems. In this time of layoffs, staggered rehiring, and remote workers becoming the majority, technology must also come into play for even the more people-facing functions. As you’ll see in our free employee’s guide “Plan to Return Employees to Work” 95% of HR professionals believe that How HR communicates with employees during the pandemic will have a direct impact on how effectively we will be able to return employees work, whatever that new work life looks like.  Many of our current processes for ensuring employee needs and concerns are heard will not work effectively moving forward, and we need new methods now or risk losing employees and liability exposure for non-compliance.

If you haven’t yet read Josh Bersin’s newest report “Why HR Technology Matters Now More Than Ever” I would highly suggest it. In the report he states:

“When combined with the support of an expert partner, HR tech can transform a SMB. The right tools can help HR grow into a true strategic partner and help employee relations become more transparent. When a crisis hits, HR technology gives leaders the data, tools, and support they need to make decisions quickly.”

Although it is no surprise to HR that technology can streamline many processes and day-to-day functions, it isn’t often that HR tech companies talk about the importance of automating employee relations. Today’s technology options allow HR to retain the interpersonal relations, while still reducing time and ensuring consistency across the company. Let’s take a look at a serious employee relations issue, and how the scenario will play out both with and without technology.

Jane’s video call

An employee (Jane) just had a video call with her Supervisor (Sarah). During the call, Sarah’s husband entered the room and seemed to be getting something from the closet behind Sarah. Sarah asked Jane to hold on a couple of times over the course of about 5 minutes and put Jane on hold while she turned around and said something to her husband. This happened 4 or 5 times, and each time Sarah came back to the call she was giggling. The last time that Sarah asked Jane to hold on a moment, she forgot to mute the microphone and said some inappropriate things to her husband. When she returned, she realized that she had not been on mute and she said to Jane, “Oh you know, we’re typical newlyweds. Maybe we should continue the call later”. And the call was ended.

Without TechnologyWith Technology
Jane was embarrassed and didn’t want to have to have any more conversations with her supervisor. But she didn’t think she had any choice.Jane thought she should let someone know, so she had a decision to make. Should she report this through the employee concern line?
  
Jane decided that she would try to avoid video calls with her supervisor as much as possible. She told her supervisor that her laptop audio wasn’t working and asked if they could just do their updates by email.Jane decided that she had to anonymously report her concerns about company video calls and asked that there be tighter rules put in place and conveyed to everyone using them. She hoped that the new rules would make her supervisor realize her error and be more careful.
  
Jane found that without these regular check-in discussions, she was missing out on critical information she needed to be successful in her job. She decided that it was time she considered a transfer to another department.HR received the complaint, and decided not only to create a strong policy, but also to conduct some training for all staff using video calls. They also contacted Jane through the anonymous reply feature and thanked Jane for her suggestion. Jane felt good knowing she had done the right thing.
  
Within 8 weeks, Jane had heard of a similar position opening with another company and decided to leave her job.When Jane’s supervisor attended the training and received the new policy, she considered the fact that maybe she had made a big mistake. She decided to ensure that her door was closed and locked during calls and began to approach video calls in a more professional manner.

Using apps and software for employee communication, both the good and the bad is no longer nice to have, but something every company must have.  I was recently on a webinar with Jason Averbook who very eloquently said, “We need to stop thinking the old world is coming back quickly. Stop waiting and do something.”  with HR and managers must be prepared and equipped to handle these communications promptly and consistently to protect their organization. But even more importantly, this is critical to protecting the strong company culture that we have all worked so hard to establish and maintain.

If you are interested in learning more about the InvestiPro employee relations case management and investigation system schedule a brief 15-minute chat or a product demo below, or cruise around our website at investipro.com.

Employee Complaints: Employees Want To Be Heard. What’s Your Plan?

employee complaints

Race, age and sex discrimination • Wrongful termination • Retaliation • ADA accommodation violation • OSHA violations

These are just a few of the employee complaints that are increasing due to actions employers have and are taking since the COVID-19 Pandemic began. Let’s face it, we had to act fast based on Stay-at-Home mandates, and decisions were being made on the fly. Whether or not we followed our policies, this swift action is bound to have had an impact on employee perception.

According to a recently released SHRM article, “U.S. workers have filed about 5,000 coronavirus-related employee complaints of unsafe conditions and nearly 1,400 whistleblower complaints alleging they were fired or otherwise punished for raising coronavirus concerns.”

On May 7th, EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon made a public statement on preventing National Origin and Race Discrimination During the COVID-19 Outbreak due to an uptick in reports of mistreatment and harassment by Asian American workers.

And in a conversation with Joe Werner, Asst. Vice President at Nationwide Insurance, Joe stated that EPL policyholders and personnel attorneys are reporting higher than normal numbers of claims.

Worldwide, many of the activities we do as a regular part of life are now completely different than they were just a couple of months ago. Stress and anxiety are at a high level for many people. And the impact of the pandemic on our jobs and income in the future is unknown. So, it is critical that employers initiate and embrace discussions with employees about what is and is not working.

InvestiPro conducted a survey of over 9000 HR professionals in the U.S., and an astonishing 95% of them stated they believe that how HR communicates with employees right now will have a strong impact on how successful their company is at returning employees to work. And returning employees who are engaged and ready to work, whether it be from home or in the workplace, is critical to the recovery of our businesses and the economy as a whole.

Employees need to be heard. We can’t fix what we don’t know, so it is no longer enough to just assume employees will let you know when something isn’t working. It is up to HR and business leaders to provide a means for employees to bring forward their concerns and complaints. Now more than ever we need to encourage open and honest communication. Much of what is brought forth may be perception instead of reality, but perception can be just as damaging. And once we have a clear picture of how our employees feel, we can take the necessary steps to clear up misconceptions and remind our workers why they want to return to work.

Once employee concerns or complaints are received, it is crucial that they be addressed promptly. We don’t have all of the answers yet, and it is okay to admit that. But often, just knowing that they have been heard, and the matter will be addressed when appropriate, is all our employees need from us right now.

If you are looking for a way to receive, document, and resolve employee complaints and concerns in a fair and consistent manner and reduce the amount of time involved, InvestiPro can help. Learn more at Investipro.com.

Balancing Empathy and Accountability with Remote Workers

Written by Hannah Kirkland

Maintaining a supportive environment while still encouraging employees to be productive is a tough balancing act. Requiring employees to work from home with family staying hone as well, adds a new element to the balancing act. However, there are a handful of ways that you can maintain contact with employees this balance and ensure that your employees will come out of this situation productive and happy with your organization. 

Empathize

Staying productive while working through a traumatic event is hard. It’s essential that you and your managers are available to all employees. Leaders can help work through this time of uneasiness by setting a positive tone for employees and creating a calm presence that maintains a composed environment so employees can focus on their work. Additionally, consider encouraging self-care practices while people are working from home. With the daily overabundance of COVID-19 updates, encourage your workers to exercise, establish a routine, and take walks throughout their day. And remember to take this advice for yourself as well.

Initiate stress checks

Many employees will adapt well to working from home. But even in the best of cases, there are distractions, surprises and challenges that all employees will face. This will result in one of two things, added stress or reduction in performance. While HR and Managers need to be flexible and understanding, the work still needs to be done. Ensuring you have some scheduled time to check in on how employees are doing in this difficult time is more important than ever. But time is limited. Try checking in with your whole group using surveys to let your employees know you care. Or set up a group chat where workers can reach out to each other, their manager or HR. so they know they are not alone. There are a number of of different programs that are easy to setup, including Slack or Microsoft Teams. Consider asking questions regarding if they feel like there is enough communication throughout their team, if it is clear what their goals are, and if they have all necessary items to complete their work.

Establish clear performance expectations

We all know that you can’t hold employees accountable for requirements that they do not clearly understand. With remote work, it is easy to miss a message or misunderstand what is meant in a written message as opposed to a discussion. This is a great time for HR to spend some time working with managers on how to effectively communicate direction and clear goals. It is expected and encouraged that they will be empathetic to their employees challenges and fears right now, but that conversation needs to move into what is needed to ensure the work is also getting done. This requires clear communication on a regular basis. These can be one-on-one meetings or in small groups. They can be via email or chat, but expectation communications are best done via video chat to ensure everyone is providing their full attention. These types of meetings will work to provide support while also measuring a worker’s success and productivity. Which will provide a smoother transition when it is time to return to work.

Offer flexible schedules, time management resources, and clear work-from-home rules 

In order for your employees to be productive and reduce time theft, it is important to be flexible with working hours when possible. Employees that are allowed to break up their work day while working from home will often get more work done due to having more time when they can focus. This doesn’t mean that you need to allow employees to work when they want, just to have a means to allow for work outside of the standard 8-5. Providing a time management system Allows managers insight into where employees are spending their time, and allow employees to communicate when they will be working so that teams can schedule proper interaction and ensure workflow is effective. Working with employees to determine hours that will work within their home, especially if they are trying to manage their children’s homeschooling schedules can create loyalty, reduce stress, and make it more likely that the employee will return when this time is behind us. And communicating clear rules of when employees are required to be available and when they can have flexibility will ensure coverage for customers and that deadlines are met.

Make sure your employees have what they need to be productive

For many, working remotely is more difficult than coming into the office. More than likely, your company is already working from home if it is possible due to most states being under Stay-At-Home orders. In order to hold employees accountable at this time, it is up to the employer to provide the tools needed to get the work done. Encourage workers to have a dedicated workspace if there is an area in their home where they can do so. Provide a means of communications for employees who realize they do not have something that they need to do the work. Provide guidance on how to set up an ergonomically friendly workstation at a table or desk. Allow employees a small budget for obtaining items that are generally available at the office, such as file folders or a stapler, that they might not have at home. And most importantly, ensure the proper so software and/or applications needed to discourage employees from downloading solutions that may be damaging to your IT infrastructure or their individual devices. establish a working routine, and ask them if they are unable to fulfill certain aspects of their job because they are not in the office. 

Bring attention to company resources for mental health

Your benefits program is a good place to begin. Ensure employees understand and know how to access medical, and mental health providers covered under their plan or an Employee Assistance Program. Communicate relevant policies such as paid leave, benefit continuation or work-related product reimbursements. Don’t just explain these benefits one time. Provide regular communications regarding local and state provisions avaiable to those who are ahving difficulties managing such as food distribution. Suggest taking mental health breaks including yoga, meditation or walking outside. You may even want to provide a resource for employees to use such as an online exercise program. As uncertainty mounts and we are unsure of when we can go back to the office, workers will need different resources at different times. So ensure communication is plentiful.

Offer opt-in team building activities

Working from home can be isolating and mentally taxing. Offer different ways that employees can continue to interact with each other. Examples could include a virtual “water cooler” lunch every Friday, playing trivia games with each other, and creating humor channels on Slack (or whatever messaging system you use). It will be beneficial for employees to interact with their coworkers in ways that are not solely work-focused. This can help to raise organizational morale. Be mindful that these events should be optional, but available to all. 

Throughout this time, HR and managers should work together, listen to employees’ concerns, and engage everyone individually and also as part of a group, so that productivity and support both remain high. 

Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of the Employers Guide for Post-COVID-19 “Plan to Return Your Employees to Work”.

A Successful Work-from-Home Parenting Transition

work from home
A Note from the CEO:

When the COVID-19 Pandemic came upon us, InvestiPro quickly responded by taking the same actions as most of the non-essential businesses in the U.S. We transitioned to a work-from-home scenario. And as many of you have found, it isn’t quite as easy as it seems. One of the primary reasons is that our children were also transitioned to a teach-from-home situation, requiring parents to a new course for day-to-day life. While many of us struggled to figure this out, some employees were quite obviously more successful. So I asked one of our managers, Christi H., how she made it look so utterly manageable, and her advice was so good, I asked her if I could share her advice with you. If you have any questions for Christi, please feel free to leave comments below.

CHRISTI’S WORKING FROM HOME TIPS

We are currently four weeks into working from home with our 9-year old son attending distant learning school. It’s not easy but we have found the following tips to help keep our busy family on track each day. I want to be clear; I’m not saying I have it all figured out just simply saying it is possible. A bit messy but possible.

Create a workspace
  • For you and your kids
    • Dedicate a space and include everything you need to get your job/schoolwork done. If you don’t do this, you’ll be tempted to finish that load of laundry you have tumbled 5 times already.
    • Take time to make sure it’s comfortable. This will help you feel like you are “going to work” each day. My husband likes to put jeans on to make it more official but I’m pretty sure that just makes him an overachiever. 
Create a schedule
  • Set expectations
    • Set some ground rules for both your family and you.
  • Plan for interruptions
    • There will be distractions and that’s okay. Learn what they are and how to limit them.
    • Create a “Be Quiet” sign when you are on a call, so your child knows not to interrupt unless it’s an emergency.
  • Make time for your family during the workday
    • Eat lunch together or take the dog on a walk. We find this to be a great time to reset and check in with our son abut the work he has completed and still needs to finish for the day.
  • Give kids options
    • If they finish all their work, they should feel empowered to move on to the next activity. Give them options that they can do by themselves with little to no help at all. Some examples are:
      • Art time
      • Legos
      • Listening to music
      • Reading
      • Physical activity outside
Seek help
  • Setup weekly Skype or Zoom calls
    • Have your child(ren) interview family members to get to know them better. (Feel free to download the Family Interview form below)
    • Try to schedule time every week for them to talk with their friends.

Most importantly, try to make the most out of the situation and appreciate the extra time with your family. We are all in this together and we will get through it.

A Young Worker’s Look at Company Culture

Less discrimination among young workers

Written by Amanda G. Kassis

The 2019 EEOC numbers regarding workplace discrimination charges were recently  released and show a 5% decrease from 2018. This is a promising improvement but don’t be so quick to let your guard down. We have a long way to go. The EEOC still reports 72,675 reported cases of discrimination (including harassment) in the last year. And that doesn’t include claims made to state agencies or through private legal counsel. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.  Retaliation, sexual harassment, race, and disability are still the leading reasons for discrimination charges followed by age and national origin. So how do we improve? How do we get these number down? We work on our company culture. Make changes that lead to inclusive, respectful, unprejudiced, work environments. Implement a fair investigation process to increase the chances of every party feeling that a fair resolution can be met before resorting to litigation. And, we teach our employees the meaning and practice of civility.

Unemployment is down to 3.5% and it is changing the way people look for jobs. Job seekers are becoming more critical of the companies they want to work for, and expectations are high. With so many options available the incoming workforce is focusing more on company culture, values, and priorities. Job seekers are above all looking for a company who puts their people first.

Hello Heart reports than half of U.S. employers have implemented wellness programs to meet a growing demand that has emerged from employees who are prioritizing their mental and physical health. To sustain a healthy culture, employers need to be actively listening to employees about what it’s like to work for their company, and what they’re experiencing. It is also important to be aware of how communication is changing. Many companies are implementing online portals where disputes can be worked out or complaints can be lodged. The younger generation of employees may be more inclined to deal with conflict though these resources, rather than in person.

It’s all about the people. Foster relationships with your employees as you would with any other important relationship in your life. Create a trusting rapport with your employees. You want them to feel like they can go to their HR team in times of turmoil and be treated fairly and with compassion. They want to feel appreciated and listened to. Employees want to know that even their smallest concerns are being addressed and taken seriously. As Aretha Franklin once so eloquently put it, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Create a respectful environment and, most importantly, model the behaviors you want to see. Most often good patterns of behavior start at the top. Employees will look to management to see how they are expected to act and handle conflict. And the difficult but most important part, hold yourself and others accountable for their actions and communications. Don’t be afraid to admit where your company is lacking, make an effort to change it, and be transparent about the process with your employees.

A company’s culture is the sum of many parts and is ever changing and growing. Employees spend a large amount of their lives at work, so do your best to create a place they can enjoy and feel safe. If we can create a culture within our companies that doesn’t just respect but celebrates people for their unique and diverse backgrounds and experiences, not only will business thrive but it is without doubt that we can continue to drive discrimination out of the workplace.

If you want to review the amount and types of cases prevalent in your state you can find it here.

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