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Take care of your people and protect your business

An employee relations case can go sideways quickly if not handled appropriately. It can spiral into more employee relations cases, unnecessary terminations and even lawsuits. While we are handling these cases we might be asking ourselves: Did we follow up with all the necessary employees? Did we document everything and file accordingly? How do we know if we’ve done all we can? Keep reading to find some employee relations case management tips and tools to help you through the process.

What Is Employee Relations Case Management?

Employee relations cases happen for many reasons, both big and small. An employee relations case is when one of your employees comes to HR with a problem they cannot, or prefer not to solve on their own. HR then takes that problem and turns it into both a learning experience and potential progress for the company. Learning from employee relations cases will make us better HR professionals all while keeping our company moving forward, but managing them can be daunting. There is often extensive documentation and follow up required to find a solution for both the employees involved and the organization overall.

Let’s walk through why this information will be beneficial to keep in your HR back pocket and evaluate how to manage employee cases, explore some tools to help and answer frequently asked questions. We are all in this together, so let’s keep going!

Why It’s Important to Understand Employee Relations Case Management

Understanding employee relations case management is a great skill to have for each HR professional. Knowing how to manage these cases can save your organization from extensive issues like the ones listed below:

  • Employee turnover. None of us enjoy dealing with a mass exodus of employees leaving for one reason or another. If employee relations cases aren’t managed effectively, they can lead to multiple employees leaving one department all at once because of the poor outcome. This can lead to an overworked recruiting team, a stressed out department, an overwhelmed manager and perhaps even customers who are not receiving the appropriate service due to the internal problems that have all stemmed from the employee relations case.
  • Unfounded separation. If we do not understand how to handle these cases, they can lead to unnecessary separations when all the employee really needed was an additional accommodation to perform the duties of their job appropriately.
  • Negative reviews/lawsuits. In some instances, poorly handled employee relations cases can head in the direction of legal action. If employees feel they are not provided with the necessary tools to effectively do their job, and/or a safe place to voice that opinion, it can end negatively. Employees can leave and follow up with the organization on a social media platform or even with legal action.

How To Manage Employee Relations Cases

Every employee relations case should involve the following steps:

Actively Listen

It’s that time in your HR career where you put on your listening ears and encourage open dialogue with the employee. Make sure you have created a safe place for them to open up away from others and be ready to probe. The goal here is to provoke discussion and allow the issue to be aired out completely, according to the employee. A common example of this discussion tactic thrown around in HR circles is implementing the following questions:

  • What? This will be an overview of the situation as told by one employee (or, in some instances, multiple employees involved in the case). This is where we can evaluate what went wrong and where the issue itself came from.
  • So what? This question will bring more clarity to the situation. Understanding the issue is great, but really knowing HOW that issue has hindered the employee is what we are looking for in this section.
  • Now what? With the knowledge we have garnered from the previous two questions, we should be able to explore ideas to correct the issue for all parties involved and move forward with growth for the employee and the organization overall. This may take some back and forth. Your first solution may not be something the employee is content with and that’s okay. Trial and error can happen here as you walk through this with the employees involved.

Documentation, Documentation, Documentation

You may be thinking, “finally, that’s finished, that was a lot.” But our job in HR is far from done! Now comes the documentation portion. During your discussions with each employee you should be taking notes as if you’re in college preparing for the final exam and every word the teacher says will be on that exam. We want to make sure we highlight a few key points in all our documentations for employee relations cases to ensure that managing them each time becomes uniform. Structure your notes in the following way:

  • What was the issue? Be sure to articulate the issue according to each specific employee. The issue to one employee may look different to another. While it’s the same case, not everyone uses the same verbiage to explain the situation.
  • Who was involved? Always make sure you are listing in your documentation who came forward and when. Make it a point to list each employee involved.
  • Solution? Detail out the solution approved by all the employees involved. In most cases a simple documentation will say that “X was the solution and it was accepted by all parties.” It is beneficial to type a document with the solution and have employees sign the document to put in with your file or send an email for all employees to acknowledge. From there you would print the acknowledgement and attach to the file.

Follow Up

You’ve done your due diligence, you’ve documented, case closed! Great work! The next step is following up with each employee to make sure the solution is still working for them after the case has been resolved.

Depending on the solution, you can do this at your discretion. Usually, I recommend putting a reminder in your calendar to follow up within a few months. This step may seem like the “least critical” out of the entire process, but you are continuing to express to the employees that HR is here to support them and that the organization wants to learn and grow. That’s a huge take away for our employees.

Tools to Help With Case Management

Follow a structure

While each employee relations case may be different, they will all require the same basic structure, as outlined above, from HR. Take a deep breath and follow the structure agreed upon from your organization.

Become a detective

When you took the job in HR I bet you never thought you would be a detective too. Well, in employee relations cases that’s exactly what you are. Make sure you keep thinking about the case from all angles and evaluate all possible outcomes and solutions. It’s our job to find what works for everyone in these situations and the best way to do that is by putting on your detective hat and doing a little investigating beyond what information is being directly presented to you.

Take a deep breath

We have all been there, and will most likely be there again. You’re not alone. The more streamlined you make your HR employee relations case management, the easier each case will become until you could do the cases and all the documentation in your sleep.

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Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Relations Case Management

Every organization should have a blueprint for how to manage employee relations cases to avoid potential problems. This blueprint could be as simple as creating an internal document for your HR team to refer to regarding how the company prefers to handle these types of situations. Alternatively, your company could link to this HR encyclopedia article to show your HR team a high-level view of ways to manage the cases.

1. Pay concerns-An employee may have an issue with the way they are being compensated and elevate it to their HR department.

2. Career development-An employee sees no room for career development in their current role and feels they have no other avenue to address this concern.

3. Work environment-An employee has a grievance about their work space, they are not comfortable and need accommodations or they simply feel something else should take place for them to effectively do their job.

4. Disagreements with a supervisor-An employee should feel that they can go to their manager if they need assistance, but that is not always the case. An employee will elevate the situation if they are unable to solve the problem with their manager.

5. Issue with a co-worker-An employee and co-worker are not agreeing on an issue. Often in these situations, the employee has already gone to their supervisor but believes the situation was not handled effectively.

Shalie has over 4 years of experience working in a variety of HR positions and organizations including: working as an HR department “of one”, working with a start-up based in Europe, to working in a fully established robust USA based HR department. Shalie has experience in multiple states and countries with all aspects of the HR spectrum. She has a passion to share her knowledge and experience to benefit the HR profession!

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