Do you know how to identify your riskiest employees?

Do you know how to identify your riskiest employees?

By Andy Shettle
10 April 2017

There are many reasons why employees pose a risk to a business. Those employees with points on their driving licence and who drive for work purposes will likely pose more of a risk to a business than others, there are the employees who are regularly absent from work, or those that have been taken through disciplinary proceedings too, are all risks to a business. 

But what about the less obvious risks - are there bad managers causing undue sickness and absence of employees? How do they factor in to employee relations cases?  

It’s an unfortunately common theme that managers themselves can cause absences of those they manage. This means that the root cause lies with the manager rather than the employee themselves – which is altogether a more difficult correlation to identify. Providing proper training and structure could mean a manager is more successful in intervening; looking for signs of a stressed employee for example, but also less likely to be a cause of stress and absence too.

Spotting the risks

The challenges of managing a large and diverse workforce are significant. Even modestly sized organisations can potentially have upwards of 100 active employee relations cases at any one time, with many hundreds more closed cases. 

I think it’s fairly easy to identify those employees that are taking a consistently high amount of days off sick, but what is harder to do is understand the root causes of the absences or recurring trends. It’s all too easy to blame the problems directly on an employee but, I’d argue, trying to understand why the employee is off will pay dividends in the long run.

I refer to my comment above – what if the absence is because your employee is poorly managed by a specific manager, or is feeling harassed? How do you identify this? Replacing a member of staff with a high rate of absence with another doesn’t solve the problem of a bad manager.

Therefore, I’d suggest that before you start managing employee relations cases through a disciplinary or absence management process, it is worth looking at when and how often they’re absent, their demographics, which team they work on, and other data about the case and employee.

Do this for every absence case, for example, and you start to build a picture of the common causes of absence that may previously not have been obvious. I use absence as the example, but collecting demographic information on all employee relations case types such as grievances and managing performance can bring up interesting results, such as showing that certain age groups or teams are not as engaged due to fewer training sessions – it could be as simple as that.

Using data to take control

Our own experience here at Selenity (formerly Software Europe) is that we see numerous cases in our own customers where employees are staying off work sick for longer than they need to because there’s little-to-no management or control of the overall absence by HR – in this case, the ‘risk’ is the HR person themselves.

The majority of organisations we talk to are still relying on shared Excel spreadsheets to manage employee relations cases; some 80% of the prospects we’ve spoken with still rely on spreadsheets. The benefits of using Excel is that it is readily available whereas dedicated employee relations software tends not to be seen as a priority; there are low barriers to adoption; and there’s no real learning curve with Excel.

But, there are also limitations to using Excel – there are no automatic alerts or reminders so it’s quite easy to miss critical dates and deadlines for employee relations cases. The other challenge is that spreadsheets simply hold and record information, they don’t help to correlate or identify trends, or even rate risky employees – something you can expect from an employee relations solution. 

HR case management made easy

The job of human resources staff is possibly the hardest of all because you’re dealing with people and not just processes. We all have our idiosyncrasies, personalities and ways of working, and spotting how to best take advantage of that is just one aspect of an HR Director’s job – the other part is managing staff when they may not be performing well.

Identifying the staff that need the additional help early on and putting proactive strategies in place to improve their working life (such as more effective training, communication, or just support) can pay dividends both to the staff member but also to the business.

As such, effective absence reporting and measurement means you know exactly what you're up against. This knowledge can lead you to early interventions on health, bullying or engagement issues, which in turn will dramatically reduce absenteeism levels and a happier more productive and engaged workforce.

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