- The number of employee relations professionals at U.S. companies grew "significantly" in 2019 to a count of 1.2 such professionals per 1,000 employees, and the industry is increasingly standardizing, according to a report published this month by tech platform HR Acuity.
- Respondents indicated an uptick in the number of requests for employee relations data from leadership, and an increasing number of employee relations professionals are reporting their data to compliance and diversity and inclusion teams as well as managers, HR Acuity said. However, nearly one-fifth of those tracking employee relations data are not actually using it, and many respondents indicated that tracking resources are manual, bulky and time consuming. More than half (59%) said access to more advanced or predictive analytics would be "very helpful" in helping them do their jobs.
- Employee relations teams handled more job performance, accommodation and policy violations cases in 2019, but the biggest decrease in terms of case volume occurred in harassment allegations, HR Acuity said. Respondents were most confident handling policy violations, performance issues and behavioral issues, and were least confident handling retaliation and discrimination cases.
Employee relations is an increasingly important HR discipline, judging by HR Acuity's previous research of employee relations reporting structures. In 2018, the company's benchmark study found that 34% of employee relations teams reported to a CHRO. In this year's version of the survey, more than half of respondents said they reported directly to the CHRO, while 28% reported to a vice president of HR.
The growth of predictive and people analytics in the report also speaks to broader HR trends. A 2019 report from Thomson Online Benefits found that the number of organizations building people analytics teams had increased from 15% to 68% over a three-year period. Moreover, 35% of respondents to the same survey said they opted to upskill HR teams to handle people analytics, while 21% chose to hire external specialists.
Experts caution, however, that analytics are not always accurate. In a 2018 opinion piece to HR Dive, Erik van Vulpen, co-founder of Analytics in HR and HR Analytics Academy, wrote that people analytics in particular can help HR teams hone in on business outcomes, but that leaders must also focus on the quality of data and on focusing research questions that are related to what the organization is dealing with in the moment.
On the compliance side, employee relations teams may be seeing decreased incidences of harassment allegations thanks to an industry-wide focus on the issue, and HR Acuity's findings may line up the downward trend in sexual harassment charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during its 2019 fiscal year.
But there are still obstacles to addressing harassment generally: a March survey of U.S. workers by Workhuman found more than one-third did not trust their HR departments, while substantial shares of both male and female respondents either did not report incidents of harassment or did not have their claims investigated.