HR data and the pandemic: How has it shaped the way that disciplinaries are handled within an organisation?

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

9th August 2021

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As your business inches its way out of the constraints imposed by COVID-19 and considers how it can support a new workforce dynamic, the need to understand what your people data is telling you has never been more important.

We work with many corporate clients from multiple sectors and over the past 18 months, a number of themes have emerged from the MI data captured across these organisations.

In this blog, Richard Little, our Analytics Team Manager, and Megan Whalley, one of our HR Technical Consultants, home in on managing disciplinary matters in the workplace, look at some of the themes that have emerged during the pandemic, and forecast the future of effective misconduct management.

How did the pandemic affect disciplinaries?

In the Spring of 2020, discipline cases raised by our clients’ line managers fell off a cliff to half of their previous levels. The reason for this makes sense, as Megan explains:

“When the pandemic broke, almost all of our clients shifted their immediate emphasis in terms of line managers’ priorities. The refocus was almost purely on adjusting to new working practices and conditions, the wellbeing of their teams, and striving to maintain business-as-usual levels of productivity.

“As the pandemic restrictions continued and employee morale waivered, many managers chose to be lenient in respect of matters that they may otherwise have addressed. Additionally, encounters with employees were often in group situations so there was less visibility of individual contribution.”

What other dynamics changed during the pandemic?

1. The reason for disciplinary cases arising.

For many organisations, the different working dynamic meant that, matters of theft reduced because opportunities were removed, insubordination declined due to fewer face-to-face interactions, and managers dealt with fewer instances of lateness with the adoption of adhoc and informal agile working practices. However, on the other hand, due to homeworking being an unfamiliar working environment for many, issues concerning misuse of equipment or data, and failure to follow company policy increased over this period.

2. Reduction in duration of formal investigations.

Surprisingly, our clients have seen on average a 20% reduction in the duration of formal investigations. Richard explains: “When correlating various data points captured through our case management, our analytics team pinpointed a number of factors which contributed to this. Firstly, the time to appoint an investigation manager reduced considerably; secondly, investigation meetings with witnesses were held in a much more concentrated timeframe; and, thirdly, investigation reports were produced far more quickly.”

In our experience, previously, investigation timelines were heavily influenced by the availability of an investigation manager and witness, and of course their availability to travel. With the enforced adoption of video conferencing across our clients, this led to investigations being arranged and executed more swiftly.

3. Reduction in conclusions with no case to answer.

The third key finding from our data is that there was a reduction in cases where a formal investigation took place, the decision to proceed to formal hearing was taken, yet the case concluded with no case to answer. Across our clients, these cases reduced by an average of 50% which indicates that better judgment was exercised when considering which matters should proceed to investigation and which cases should proceed to formal hearing.

So, what’s the situation now?

Our data has revealed that, after the initial drop in discipline cases, numbers have rallied. Richard explains:

“After the initial halving in the number of disciplinary cases raised, over the past six months we’ve seen the number of new cases opened rally to a 25% reduction on previous volumes. When we look more closely at the path that these cases take, we’ve noted an 18% reduction in formally managed cases and a 35% reduction in informally managed cases.”

Will this trend continue? Megan thinks so:

“As the pandemic has worn on, line managers have increasingly felt compelled to drive their workforce to the levels of productivity that they saw pre-pandemic, and moderate some of the leniency shown at the height of lockdown. They have also grown more confident in managing their teams remotely. As such, disciplinary cases are on the increase, and I expect they will soon return to close to pre-pandemic levels.”

What has HR analytics taught us during this period?

Our analytics has given our clients real-time visibility of the changing dynamic of disciplinary matters in their organisations over the course of the pandemic. They can see the trend of matters arising and why, how effectively cases are being managed and the profile of case outcomes. With this visibility, the benefits that have been realised by our clients have been threefold.

As a result of reason analysis, our clients have refined and recommunicated policies; internal benchmarking has enabled them to pinpoint business areas for attention that sit outside the norms; and, as a consequence of tracking case outcomes, our clients have been able develop a risk profile.

Help us gather more insight

Does your business have this level of visibility on disciplinary matters? Do you know how many disciplinary matters are arising and why? Whether they’re being informally or formally concluded and how this compares across different areas of your business? We’re interested to hear your thoughts. Take our quick survey and we’ll let you know how your organisation compares in our forthcoming guide.

If you would like to understand more about how empower® by AdviserPlus enables line managers to take ownership of people matters, drives consistency, efficiency and an unrivalled visibility of employee relations people metrics across a range of measures, not just misconduct, get in touch and we’ll show you how:

Find out more about our empower® solution here.


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