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Reflections from the Employee Relations Roundtable

Nov 17, 2020
Deb Muller

Every year, HR Acuity hosts an annual Roundtable event for employee relations leaders. It’s a highlight of my year! We just finished this year’s event this past Thursday and Friday – and of course, it being 2020, we connected virtually instead of in person.

More than 150 ER and HR leaders joined up for two days of best practice sharing, panel discussions, networking and even cooking. (Really… I will get to that!)RT Cooking

Thanks to the attendees, we all learned a lot, and I wanted to share some of the key takeaways I had. If you weren’t here this time, we will hope to see you at one of our many 2021 events. Stay tuned!

1. Connection transcends technology.

The ER Roundtable has met for more than 6 years in person – how would a virtual event compare? Our team worked hard to create an interactive online experience, but I had wondered if the incomparable energy of 50 leaders literally at a round (ok, well, rectangle) table could translate.

The great news: The answer was a resounding yes. All the best qualities of the Roundtable – community, connection, generous knowledge sharing and yes, laughter — all transcended the technology.

Of course, online is never the same in person. I missed the casual connections and the chats. On the flip side, though, some aspects were better! It was easier to have focused talks on specific topics in a virtual breakout room.

Overall, both virtual and in person events have their place – and both can be great!

2. Employee experience and culture are top of mind today.

The community discussed a wide variety of HR and employee relations topics, from selecting the right ER technology to diversity, equity and inclusion to raising the ER brand in your organization.

A common theme that emerged across all was how much a culture of transparency and taking care of employees matters in today’s world.

As employee relations leaders, we have assumed the central roles in our organizations, managing the employee experience during the pandemic. We are now communicators, educators and ambassadors as well as HR leaders and investigators.

The theme of employee experience, caring and transparency emerged particularly in talks on mental health, but it permeated all discussions. We are caring for employees and we must be as open and communicative as we can.

And – we must remember to practice self-care as well. It’s always been important. It’s more critical now than ever.

3. Data and analytics matter – and are still a work in progress.

Data, data everywhere… with apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it’s not that there’s not a drop to drink, it’s that there are too many! Many of our discussions talked about the vast amount and types of data available to us – from employee relations data to performance management to external and legal data.

Attendees talked about their desire to integrate all types of data meaningfully and use predictive analytics to tell actionable stories, visually. Some are further on the journey than others – but it’s an aspiration it seems we all share.

We also discussed the need for dedicated technology to help with the process. (May I mention HR Acuity? Please ask for a demo if you haven’t seen one!)

 4. Diversity and inclusion are driving collaboration and action across our organizations.

Diversity, equity and inclusion was a top-of-mind discussion. George Floyd’s murder in June galvanized our organizations to make bold commitments and start collaboration we had not necessarily experienced before.

For example, many ER leaders are now actively partnering with DE&I and their C-Suites on programs to drive change. These include associate resource groups, communication campaigns and more.

However, some groups commented that much work remains to be done. We need to connect the commitments at the top with the teams doing the work. Empowering managers is the way. We must equip the people who are directly leading the teams – and use data to benchmark and track our results.

5. We are better together.

As I have been at every Roundtable, I was struck by the generosity of spirit across this community. ER leaders who have never met each other said, “I’ll be happy to share my social media policy with you!” or jumped in to offer their expert practices to each other.

One of our values at HR Acuity is #bettertogether – going beyond just collaboration to ensure that we are true partners to our clients and each other. This same sense of sharing, learning, engaging and partnership stretches across the ER community. I know it – but I’m always impressed to see it in action!

6. Even the best of us can benefit from learning!

Finally, I had a chance to share some lessons myself! On the first evening, the Roundtable hosted a cooking hour with HotDish Productions professional chef Amy Currie.

She whipped up some Thanksgiving masterpieces while I happily followed alongside her – virtually – and made my own versions of them. Let’s say they didn’t all turn out perfectly: Her “caramel” looked like my “rice.” Oops.

Except in one case: I was able to introduce her to one of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes, Jiffy Cornbread Casserole. I learned this from a former colleague and it’s a favorite in my house. It turns out Chef Amy had never even heard of Jiffy Cornbread mix!

So I got to teach her something as well – fancy is great, but sometimes there’s nothing like back to basics.

That holds true in employee relations, too. Much of what we discussed was new – dealing with the pandemic, AI, creating predictive reporting – but a lot of our discussions were on fundamentals. Both are important – and we all learned a lot on both ends of the spectrum, from caramel to Jiffy cornbread mix.

2020 has been many things: long, challenging, educational, dispiriting, uplifting. It’s wonderful to know there is a community you can always count on to help you learn and thrive. Many thanks to the Employee Relations Roundtable for all your wisdom! If you’d like to learn more, please email us at

And – see you next year at the table!

Deb Muller
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, employee relations case management and investigations software that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world.