Effective ways to prevent PR disasters and lawsuits
Even though every employer hopes that their employees are always content and satisfied with their work and working conditions, there may still be occasional concerns or complaints that employees would want to share with you and the company. As the head of a small business, it’s your job to ensure that everyone can communicate their concerns in a professional and productive manner.
Remember that you’re not playing Aunt Agony to employees with grievances. In addition to processing the complaint, you should also be looking out for problems that might harm your business, especially if they involve harassment, discrimination, theft and violence.
Give each complaint the proper attention while assuring the employees that they are being heard. Here are some of the best ways to address employee complaints and manage their outcomes.
1. Setting Up A Channel For Employee’s Complaints
The first thing you should do is to create a formal system for employees to lodge complaints or bring up grievances so that the issues can be addressed. There are a variety of mediums available for employees to report complaints, from in-person sessions to email and text.
Complaint channels should never be on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. These public platforms will complicate matters as it can infringe defamation laws.
To make sure your employees feel comfortable using the channel, consider factors such as the average age of your employees, size of your workforce, whether they are in one office or spread out, and which department might be most likely to have complaints reported on. You should check with your PR and legal advisor on what is the most appropriate channel.
After setting up the channel, here are some of the key things you should do to ensure that the employee complaints are properly addressed.
- Include your policy in the Employee Handbook: Once you’ve established an official channel for employee complaints, it should be included in the handbooks so employees can easily refer to it. You can consider implementing an acknowledgment form to ensure that employees read the handbook. If your company does not use a handbook, the policy should be communicated to everyone through other platforms such as staff induction programmes, company intranet, posters and employee briefings.
- Assign one person or department to handle the receipt of complaints: For example, the Human Resources or Legal department or someone within it. Make sure the appointed person or department is known for their discretion and can demonstrate trust within your company, as employees typically and naturally expect assurance that they are submitting their complaints in confidence.
- Include one confidential way for employees to submit complaints: Understandably, some employees may hesitate to speak their mind, as they fear infringing laws on defamation. An example that may prevent this is to create a simple online form or survey that doesn’t require identifying information – check out free survey tools like Survey Monkey and Google Forms.
- Establish a schedule to address employee complaints: In order to instil a healthy work environment where employees feel comfortable when raising concerns, you have to prove that the company has an efficient and reliable process in place. Set a timeframe for when and how you will address complaints, communicate the plan to all employees and stick to it.
2. The First Steps Of Addressing Complaints
Once you have established the best system to receive employee complaints, you should try to order them based on significance. Any safety concerns require immediate attention, as should violations of rules and policies.
Before addressing a complaint, take note of the following steps:
- Acknowledge: Ensure that the employees know that their complaints have been received and will be addressed by the company.
- Investigate: Gather information regarding the complaint. If the employee mentions specific incidents or situations, inquire and obtain relevant data on them. (See point 3 for more information.)
- Decide: After you have obtained all relevant information, it’s time to fully examine the situation in order to formulate and decide on a solution. You may want to discuss your idea with other senior employees in your company before executing the solution.
- Act: Once you have a decision, act quickly. Employee complaints that are dragged on can negatively impact morale and productivity. The sooner you resolve the conflict, the better off your company will be.
3. Implement An Impartial Investigation
Small business owners often don’t have the luxury of hiring an outside company to investigate employee complaints. The next logical step would be to appoint a neutral party with the greatest degree of removal (no personal and as little professional connection to those involved as possible) from the rest of the staff – this person should preferably have human resources or legal background.
Do note that if the complaint is serious, such as harassment or “creative bookkeeping”, you may want to hire an outside employment lawyer or accountant immediately to investigate the issues.
The Ministry of Manpower also suggests documenting the investigation process by keeping a record of findings, complaint details, details of specific harassing behaviours and summary of interviews with the affected parties.
4. Review & Follow Up On The Outcome
After following the above-mentioned steps, you should review the situation that initially led to the employee complaint after a period of time. Check-in with the employee who lodged the complaint (if it was not confidential) to see if they are satisfied with the outcome.
If there are more adjustments to be made, do it. Proper closure can help to prevent a similar problem from happening again.
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