Employee Relations & The Rise of ER Tech

ER Tech

Employee Relations is a critical element of any organization - but are you doing all you can to avoid "Red Light" incidents and allegations? Today, tech solutions can equip you with powerful insights to ensure compliance, protect your brand, and achieve greater organizational effectiveness. This week on ProjectHR, Deb Muller, CEO of HR Acuity talks with us about:

  • Employee relations - whose job is it?
  • How employee relations professionals can improve the employee experience
  • Three ways technology can improve employee relations
  • The power of HR Acuity to manage investigations

Deb Muller

Employee Relations

“Employees do not come to work with an expectation that everything is going to be perfect and everything is going to go well, but they do want to know that when something doesn't go well that the employer's going to do something about it.”

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What is Employee Relations?

  • Employee Relations (ER) is the relationship between the employer and the employee. 
  • Looking at it from a behavioral perspective - how is the employee expected to behave at work, and how is the employer expected to behave towards the employee? When those two match, all is good, but when they don’t, that’s when a company needs to address the issue of Employee Relations.


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ER: Whose Job Is It?

  • Everyone should be involved in ER -- everyone should consider how their behavior impacts the employee and how that impacts the organization.
  • Ms. Muller sees Employee Relations as the “hub” of Human Resources.
  • Recent HR Acuity Employee Relations Benchmark studies have seen a shift towards dedicated Employee Relations being provided not by embedded HR Generalists within a company, but by outside sources. External ER sources provide:
    • Centralized processes & consistency;
    • Neutral analysis of situations;
    • Investigative expertise.

Workplace Issues Addressed by Employee Relations Teams

  • “Yellow Light” incidents: Deviations from normal behaviors -- someone goes on leave, demonstrates hiccups in performance (for better or for worse), or policies are violated. These incidents should be managed and documented to get people back on track.
  • “Red Light” incidents: allegations of misconduct, of harassment, or of discrimination. These incidents need to be handled in a structured way, to get all the facts, and need to be remediated as necessary.
  • ER teams need to be able to look at Yellow Light trends to prevent Red Light incidents.

How Can ER Professionals Manage & Improve the Employee Experience?

  • Transparency, Process & Consistency!
  • “Employees do not come to work with an expectation that everything is going to be perfect and everything is going to go well, but they do want to know that when something doesn’t go well that the employer’s going to do something about it.”
  • In 2019, HR Acuity asked 1500 workers questions about their experience when something goes wrong at work and how likely they were to recommend their company as a good place to work. The survey found that when reported issues were investigated and resolved, respondents were about as likely to recommend their company as those who never had an issue at all! 
  • Larger companies are starting to share data about how many issues or allegations they’ve had, and be transparent about it -- data which can help companies better assess where they stand.

ER and Technology

  • Leverage technology to understand the data -- but it’s important that you use technology dedicated to that purpose.
  • Three ways HR Technology can improve the Employee Relations process: 
    • Saves time and money - improves efficacy of HR Business Partners and Employee Relations Professionals by 20%;
    • Improves communications between staff and employees, multiple people will be on the same page with regards to relevant information and evidence;
    • Builds trust in the organization because there is a process.

HR Acuity Software

  • Regarding technology, Employee Relations was the “last manual bastion” in organizations;
  • This is the only software out there that was specifically developed and designed for investigations management;
  • Main users are employee relations professionals, HR professionals, the legal team, compliance, ethics, and managers;
  • This is software developed by Employee Relations/Human Resources professionals who have done the job;
  • In production for over 10 years, and the software has continued to evolve, thanks to their clients.
  • Analytics help to tell stories of what’s going on in the company -- and they are done in a way that users don’t have to have a Ph.D. to understand them. The software serves up those insights in an easily understood format. 
  • The software also provides benchmarks against similar organizations, so users can better understand their own information.

Deb Muller: Backstory

  • BS in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University
  • MA in Instructional Systems Development from University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • Former roles included Human Resources positions at Citibank, Mercer Management Consulting, Honeywell International and D&B
  • Ms. Muller’s current role is as the CEO and Founder of HR Acuity LLC


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