Do Employers and Employees Trust Each Other in 2021?
As experts in international HR and payroll consulting, we frequently study the evolving landscape of human resource management. An important aspect of this study is anticipating and assessing information gaps and pain points in employer-employee relationships.
Recently, we analyzed Google search trends to explore what HR-related questions people are frequently researching, and by extension, what pain points these searches implicate in the modern workplace. To complement this analysis, we also surveyed 1,000 full-time employees, working across more than a dozen industries, to better understand their experiences with HR management and their concerns about employers.
To conduct the Google search analysis, we began with a list of more than 300 common HR-related questions, then narrowed that list to the top 50 most commonly searched. This concentrated list of questions sorts into eight categories: privacy, compensation, surveillance, rest, interpersonal, benefits, scheduling, and termination.
According to our data, privacy and surveillance are the top concerns for employees, together representing 42% of the top 50 most common searches. Not surprisingly, compensation is a hot topic as well, representing 22% of the most common searches.
Trust is a central dynamic in employer-employee relationships. Employees have a lot of questions about the limitations of their privacy and the extent to which they are monitored by employers. As our data will show below, employers have reasons to be concerned too.
Do People Trust HR to Protect Their Interests?
After conducting our Google search analysis, we followed up on certain themes in a survey of 1,000 full-time workers. The first dynamic we explored is the relationship between employees and their HR managers or departments. In so many ways, HR managers are tasked with supporting and protecting employees’ interests, or at the very least facilitating open and healthy discussions about employee concerns.
The good news: 83% of workers say they trust their HR manager or department. However, a few industries have not established such trust consistently. Around 50% of people working in media and 69% working in hospitality say they don’t trust HR. Additionally, entry-level women are the least likely to say they trust HR to protect their interests (68%), versus everyone else (79%). On the other hand, entry-level men (83%) have a nearly equal expectation that their interests will be protected as do senior-level women (84%).
While a majority of people say they trust HR, that doesn’t mean they find HR effective, or that they don’t harbor other concerns when they consider making formal complaints. Two-thirds of workers say they’ve neglected to report something to HR because they didn’t think HR would fix the issue. The most frequently cited problems were: having too much work, a personality clash and bullying.
A reluctance to make reports is not just about the specific nature of the issue, or the employee assuming that HR won’t act. There’s also a fear of retaliation to contend with – 49% of workers who have neglected to report something cited this fear. Given that personality clashes, bullying and sexual harassment are oft-cited issues, it’s no surprise this fear of retaliation is a high bar to cross.
Are Workers Hiding From Their Bosses?
One of the main themes to emerge from our Google search analysis is that employees are very concerned about being monitored or surveilled during their work. This applies to both on-site workers and remote workers. No matter where you work, there are countless ways an employer can track what you’re doing and how often you’re doing it.
Of the workers we surveyed, 74% of those who work remotely are concerned about their employer monitoring when and how much they work, and 76% of workers who use a computer are concerned about their employer monitoring their communications.
Our survey shows it’s a common experience to feel the need to hide things from your boss. Two in three workers are concerned about their location being disclosed by their laptop or phone. Plus, 64% have deleted their browsing history at some point and 53% have deleted a Slack or similar instant message so it can’t be seen by a boss. People working in finance, accounting and HR are the most likely to say they’ve hidden things from their bosses.
Of the remote workers we surveyed, 60% said their employer would be upset with them if they tracked when and how much they work. When we asked on-site workers that same question, only 31% reported their employer would be upset. Additionally, men (58%) were more likely than women (44%) to say their employer would be disturbed by how little they’re working.
Two-thirds of all workers we surveyed (67%) admitted that software to track their productivity would likely make them more productive.
The Looming Threat of Employee Monitoring Software
If you’re a typical knowledge worker—dependent on email and instant messaging software to do much of your work—at some point you may have found yourself regretting something you just typed. The question is, will your boss see it?
As mentioned, three in four workers who use a computer (76%) are concerned about their communications being monitored. In describing the communications they regret, 44% say they’ve talked about something inappropriate for the workplace, 35% say they were gossiping or being negative, and 21% say their communications were simply off-topic from work and could be viewed as wasting time.
Those working in insurance (89%), HR (85%) and accounting (83%) were most likely to say they’re concerned about being monitored, and 59% of all workers say their employer would be upset with them if they knew everything they’ve ever said or written while at work.
There is much room for progress in building trust and accountability at the center of employee-employer relationships, and the exponential rise in time spent working remotely will only make this more important. Additionally, HR managers should take note of the many thousands of queries being made in Google each month, and look for ways to better answer these questions upfront.
Between June 11 – 12, 2021, we surveyed 1,000 Americans about their experiences with HR management and concerns about employer surveillance. Our respondents were 57% male and 43% female, between the ages of 18 to 68, with an average age of 39 years old.
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About Elements Global Services:
Elements Global Services is a global tech firm, focused on software that is built to go beyond country borders and simplify a company’s ability to Expand their Business, Onboard Employees, Manage Compliance and Pay Globally. Visit elementsgs.com or LinkedIn for more information.