HR analytics: using data to manage employee relations

Could more data help HR keep on top of employee relations issues?

Use of analytics software is growing in some areas of HR such as recruitment and talent management, but could getting to grips with data help with employee relations issues? 

It takes an average of 53 weeks to close an employment tribunal case – and more than 200 weeks if there is more than one claimant, according to the Ministry of Justice.

But despite the cost involved, many employers have little more than a basic insight into what is happening in their organisation from an employee relations (ER) perspective.

Employers could be using technology to their advantage here, argues Andy Shettle, product director of analytics tool ER Tracker, which was bought by Software Europe last year. He believes that, in analytics terms, ER is greatly lagging behind other areas in terms of maturity.

“It’s not dissimilar to where e-recruitment was 10 years ago. Most people put up with what they have, but there’s not good integrity or reporting and most of the information is pretty basic,” he says.

In fact, Shettle gives most public-sector bodies a two out of five based on his own analytics maturity model, while private-sector companies range from one to three. This is what each ranking means:

  1. HR departments typically use spreadsheets or home-grown databases to keep records about ER cases and update information on a day-to-day basis.
  2. Some analysis of the spreadsheets and/or databases take place, but it is often limited to basic summary information, which includes numbers of cases based around departments, line managers, employee demographics and the like.
  3. HR analyses where costs occur, how long different stages of the process take, who is involved and how much time they spend on each case in order to take action to ensure continual improvement. But to do so involves spending many hours manually calculating everything and trying to cost it out.
  4. Analytics tools enable root cause analysis, which means that employers can start exploring why a given case happened in the first place. These insights can then be used to make interventions and introduce preventative programmes, for example at line manager level, in order to reduce the number of future cases.
  5. HR is in a position to monitor, review and benchmark how long cases have been open, the average length of an individual case and when any related tasks become due or overdue so they can be acted upon. Responding proactively in this way should help boost efficiency and cut down on case lead times.

However, specialist ER analytics tools to help with stage four and five are currently thin on the ground, Shettle claims. As a result, most organisations use the non-dedicated products found in their HR management systems, legal case management or US-based labour relations applications.

ER Tracker is one of the few applications that can cope with this, he argues. With such long lead times on formal tribunal cases, an investment in this type of analytics technology could save a lot of money in the long term.

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