Will an open-door policy help employers?

As an employer, it is critical to manage any employee complaints. This means it is often better to address these concerns as soon as possible, so they do not fester and escalate into a lawsuit.

But a common question that California employers share is how they should handle these situations effectively and proactively.

The strategy will differ for every employer and business. However, many sources agree that a good way to handle employee complaints is through establishing an open-door policy.

What are the benefits of an open-door policy?

An open-door policy essentially states that employees can speak with their supervisors or Human Resources about their concerns or complaints directly, without fear of punishment or retaliation.

Employers might worry that this will lead employees to share every type of grievance, but there are many benefits to note:

  • These policies encourage communication across levels of the business
  • They often help employees feel more comfortable reporting concerns
  • They can increase morale in the workplace
  • They help employers stay informed about the day-to-day in their business

However, the business overall will not experience any benefits if the policy is not created or implemented effectively.

What makes these policies effective?

It is critical to create an open-door policy that actually works. The most important thing that employers must remember is the common saying: actions speak louder than words.

So, while employers must take great care to evaluate their business’s needs and develop a realistic policy, they must enforce and implement it as well. For example, employers must make sure they:

  • Communicate the policy and expectations with employees
  • Train leadership and supervisors to handle these reports and concerns appropriately
  • Listen to concerns actively, and have conflict-resolution strategies prepared
  • Follow-through and look into concerns in a timely manner

Employers must foster an open-door environment for an open-door policy to actually work.

Open-door policies can help in more ways than one

If employers implement an open-door policy successfully, it might help employers do more than just handle employee complaints.

When employees feel comfortable in the company, they often begin to feel a sense of loyalty. This can help employees invest in the workplace and feel comfortable giving feedback to leadership that can help the business grow in the long term.

Separate policies describing how to report discrimination, harassment and retaliation are also important.

Employers should also have a policy against unlawful harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.  That policy should have a clear statement informing employees that all concerns regarding such behavior must be reported and describe the options for employees to inform the employer about those concerns.