Employee Relations: Stories from a Gumshoe

Employee Relations: Stories from a Gumshoe

There are few things that aggravate and cause the blood pressure to rise in HR and Employee Relations professionals quite like receiving an email, phone call or having someone come into their office to talk about an Employee Relations Investigation. There is the immediate fretting over the seriousness of the charge(s) being leveled from one employee/party against another. There is the research to see how similar matters have been handled in the past, and then the settling in to begin scheduling interviews and discussions with all of the involved parties. I cannot tell you how many of these investigations I have had to conduct over the course of my career. You’d think that after the first few you would be able to separate the emotion and play the role of investigator and tell people, “Just the facts.”

The simple fact of the matter is that none of these investigations are ever easy, and most don’t follow any sort of defined path. They can meander down several paths and there will be times you need to defuse some intense emotions. You then have to spend time digging through interviews trying to find common threads and separating them to get to what you believe is the “truth” about what led up to the incident and what actually happened. This can take hours and weeks of work depending on what occurred.

After you believe that you have a firm grasp on the situation, it is usually time to sit down with an attorney to talk about how you are going to handle the outcomes of the investigation. In order to prepare yourself for those meetings, you will start by transcribing all your notes from various sources – OneNote, Microsoft Word documents, notebook pages, post-it notes, the back of the envelope that you documented something on because it was the only piece of paper you had handy. You will walk them through the case. You will talk about precedents this may set and those that have already been set. You will talk about how litigious you believe the party and/or parties involved may be. Finally, you will come together on a recommendation for resolution and move forward with it.

Upon reflection, I thought back about how nice it would have been if there were a system/tool that would better enable me as an HR professional to keep myself and the investigations that I conducted organized and moving. Wouldn’t it be nice if I did not have to transcribe everything in an email to send to legal counsel while transcribing the words “Attorney Client Privileged Material” in the subject line?

Fortunately for me – and you – ServiceNow offers such a solution with its Employee Relations application. Because of the sensitive nature of employee relations (ER) cases, there are expectations for tighter security to protect privacy. What this means is that prying eyes cannot see what they should not see. Even if an investigation is opened for an HR or an ER professional, they do not have the ability to see that case.

The tool(s) that ServiceNow provides allow HR Professionals to keep everything together about the investigations they are conducting. When it does come time for an employee relations investigation, you have everything right where you need it.

Out of the box, an Employee Relations (ER) case in ServiceNow is called “Report Misconduct,” but changing the name of the service to something that is more organizationally relevant is something that can be done. Normally, agents will log cases for people internal to the organization, but ServiceNow has enabled organizations with the ability to open cases for people outside the organization using “External Opened For.” This is used to log cases that may come in from customers or patrons/visitors.

A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated

The real power of this particular case type comes from the multiple tabs within the case form for ER agents to log the following:

  • Involved Parties: Complainant(s), Witness(es) and Subject(s) of the Allegation

  • Allegations: There are several different Allegation Types and Subtypes which can be added to or changed

  • Interviews: Can be logged directly in the system “freeform” or the organization may choose to configure their own interview templates

  • Evidence: Associated with the allegation

  • Attached Knowledge: Articles which may help to answer questions related to the investigation

  • Approvers: If the organization has a set review/approval process

  • Child Cases: Which may be opened or associated with the Investigation

  • ER Cases for the Involved Parties: Agents can see what other cases have been logged in the past, and what happened in them

  • Allegation Outcomes: Where agents can log the outcome(s) of the Investigation

A screenshot of a computer Description automatically generated with medium confidence

The ability to give your teams this level of access to information gives them such a boost because they do not have to search through old emails or depend on others' recollections of how cases have been handled in the past. Even if an agent does have those things, they can be attached/uploaded to the case.

The Utah release of ServiceNow is increasingly pushing tighter integration between Human Resources and Legal. It allows users to:

  • Submit ethical violation complaints via the Employee Center portal without having to know who should investigate the complaints.

  • Maintain a single triaging queue for all complaints through a universal request. They can create tickets for the appropriate department to work on (Legal vs. HR).

  • Support inter-departmental transfer of sensitive case details between the Legal team and Employee Relations.

The Employee Relations module does not just stop there though. It also provides employees the ability to:

  • Request Accommodation, which allows users to request accommodations to help them do their job.

  • Report Cases/Incidents Anonymously via the Anonymous Report Center. This functionality is amazing because it actually logs the user out of the system and sends them to a web page where they can log their case without being associated with their account/identity.

The Employee Relations Module also comes out of the box with reports to help the organization monitor their ER caseloads. These reports are:

  • Case Volume by Month

  • Case Volume by Allegation Type

  • Case Volume by Location

  • Case Volume by Department

There is so much great functionality contained within this module that organizations can benefit from. In my time at The Anti, I have already worked on three Employee Relations projects with different clients and each one has been immensely rewarding because this work is so important to the organization.

If your organization is struggling with how to handle Employee Relations or is looking for a potential solution for how to handle them in a more efficient manner, The Anti is here and ready to help you design and build your solution.

A bit about Stephen: Stephen has over 20 years of HR and Change Management experience working for various organizations. He started his career in IT consulting doing ERP (HR) implementations and when he discovered The Anti in 2022, he knew it was something special and decided to make the move back into consulting from HR.

About The Anti: In 2017, we realized traditional HR technology consulting desperately needed an overhaul. So, we flipped the script on consulting culture.

  • We grew a team with expertise in real world HR process design and technology implementation

  • We aggregated and refined the best practices we’d already proven elsewhere

  • We rejected traditional friction points and changed consulting culture for the better

It caught on, and we have since delivered 250+ ServiceNow HRSD engagements as the only elite ServiceNow Partner committed to the employee experience workflow products. The Anti brings a unique blend of HR Consulting experience, HR Technology backgrounds, and HR Practitioner expertise to every engagement.

Types of engagements and how we can help

We offer a comprehensive range of assistance that encompasses five key types of engagement:

  • Implementation Readiness Assessments

  • User & Experience Design

  • Initial Implementations (Phase 1)

  • Follow-on Deployments (Phase 2+)

  • Advisory and Managed Services

Our mission is to meet you where you are in your ServiceNow journey to ensure your project is a success. Whether you require help with the initial setup or need guidance on optimizing your deployment, we are here to help every step of the way. With our expertise and commitment to excellence, you can be sure you are in safe hands.