5 Effective Techniques for Dealing with Staff Complaints and Building a Positive Company Culture
Getting bombarded with staff complaints can be frustrating, time-consuming, and, for some, taken personally.
But anyone in People Operations knows a great company has to value the voice of its workforce - even if it's negative.
In fact, researchers recently found that teams perform tasks better when their members believe their colleagues respect and appreciate their opinions.
And most of the time, employees complain through formal channels for a good reason.
Now, individually, a single complaint is unlikely to break your company. Still, like grains of sand, it can grow to be a mountain, so it's vital that you do something about it immediately.
Suppose you do not help them get to the bottom of their complaints.
In that case, you could be looking at not only a negative impact on the overall productivity at work but the decline in engagement, inefficiency, low employee morale, and more.
So here is a guide with five techniques and multiple tips for handling staff complaints and building a positive workplace culture.
- 🔍 Understand the types of grievances that could emerge
- 📝 Create informal and formal avenues to lodge complaints
- 📚 Create a straightforward framework for handling complaints
- ⏰ Handle employee complaints promptly
- 🤝 Deal with complaints in an unbiased manner
🔍 Understand the types of grievances that could emerge in your workplace
An employee grievance or a staff complaint is a work-related concern an employee has often caused by a gap between what your employee expected and what they got.
Significant or not, you need to address it carefully.
If not, it could result in more problems and could snowball into a disaster.
Identifying employees' grievances can be a challenge in personnel management.
Consider the following points to understand the nature of their complaint better:
- Employment - They express dissatisfaction with their job. These may be about job descriptions, duties, activities, and roles.
- Non-employment - They feel they were a victim of wrongful termination. They think it's unfair, unreasonable, and managed incorrectly.
- Terms of employment - They complain about what they get from work. It could be satisfaction or dissatisfaction with employee wages, allowances, rewards, or benefits.
- Transfer of employment - They discuss how it is working under another employer.
- Work conditions - They refer to discriminatory acts, safety and health conditions, and other work-related issues.
Tip: Emotional intelligence is a crucial competency for your People team when handling any grievance.
But a routined informal and formal avenue should be available to allow periodic occasions when direct observation can be the most effective.
📝 Create informal and formal avenues to lodge complaints
Imagine an employee festering on a complaint. While they want to vent to you, they have to wait another three months (or so) before it happens.
Now, it's where creating avenues to complain comes into play.
As a small business, you may not have the resources or the need to develop an involved procedure for dealing with employee complaints.
Instead, you should have a set of general guidelines so that employees know what to do if they have a complaint. And even if you are a large business, it is vital to create informal avenues of communication. This way, you can ensure complaints or grievances fester.
Here are ways to do that:
- Have an open-door policy: An open-door policy is an excellent employee empowerment technique encouraging transparency and open communication. Open-door systems allow the staff to communicate their grievances to upper management and address them appropriately.
- Distribute employee surveys: employee surveys are vital in understanding employee opinions regarding workplace satisfaction. When creating this form, consider how you design, word, and structure the product to avoid survey response bias. For example, use a semantic differential scale.
- Give out formal complaint forms: these forms can give employees an appropriate avenue to express their issues. As a result, they and the people around them can perform better and feel more positive in a work environment.
- Conduct just exit interviews: Make employees feel that leaving a company is not wrong. If they want to take a different route, let it be their decision. So, during an exit interview, understand their sentiments and avoid changing their minds. Also, if answered honestly, exit interviews provide constructive feedback in a manner that allows the company to grow and improve.
📚 Create a straightforward framework for handling complaints
Sometimes, employees complain to their colleagues or publicly when there is no proper framework or effective action plan for them to do so. Or in cases where, although a framework is in place, it's challenging to understand and enforce it.
So you need to set up a transparent grievance redressal system to help your employees lodge their complaints. Everyone will thank you for a boost of simplicity and transparency.
Tip #1: Choose a mechanism convenient for all.
Give all employees a fair opportunity. It doesn't matter if you use an official complaint form, suggestion box, or periodic reviews.
The idea is to offer enough alternative avenues that your employee finds one that feels comfortable.
While many businesses say they have an open-door policy and welcome employee feedback, it isn't always clear what the avenues for employee complaints are.
Tip #2: Acknowledge every complaint.
Listening more than talking is best at the beginning of any complaint process.
Avoid giving advice or interrupting the employees when they're talking at the point. Instead, you want to let your employees know you have received their grievances openly and are willing to do something about it.
Tip #3: Assess and investigate.
Determine the responsible party and evaluate complaints based on severity or type.
Ask for them to present their evidence if the issue requires it. Then, store data and explore an ideal resolution.
Tip #4: Focus on quality assurance.
Have a standardized, consistent, auditable system for handling complaints and other relevant data. Then, track the performance of complaint handlers and set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your process.
Tip #5: Decide, act and be transparent about it.
It is also good practice to send around an update of the complaint and how it was resolved, with personal details removed.
Advise employees on how they should deal with similar situations in the future. You will signal openness to receiving complaints and proactiveness in responding to grievances.
⏰ Handle employee complaints in a timely manner
When employees file complaints, addressing problems as soon as possible is essential.
If not, misunderstandings can happen, and things can quickly escalate.
Here's how you can speed up the complaint-handling process.
1. Create a system
As previously mentioned, your formal complaint procedure is your best friend. It lends structure and organization to the complaint process and can help you handle complaints faster, more efficiently, and in a manner that transparent to the employee
2. Automate workflows
Save time and automate your workflow. Easy wins would be to automate your complaint form to your HR system or a CRM like Nextiva, send out automated emails to the relevant parties, and integrate progress markers through the system.
3. Design simple or dynamic forms for complaint intake
Use form builders to create an engaging and professional plan. Then, you can integrate the form with your complaint system and your existing document management or other systems. For example, use Workday for HR Management, Slack for collaboration, and Google Drive for content.
4. Set escalations, delegations, and reminders
Manage employee complaints effectively and consistently. The goal is to prevent situations from going south or worsening.
5. Track all actions taken regarding a filed complaint (including user and time/date stamp)
You can use complaint monitoring software to help you.
🤝 Make sure to deal with complaints in an unbiased manner
Unless you have solid evidence of a problem, you may keep going about as usual — as if there's nothing wrong. The truth is, there is something wrong.
For example, when one employee — with a longstanding reputation as a grumbler— complains about a complex new instruction, you may dismiss them, assuming they are a doomsayer.
But, if another employee — without a negative reputation — complains about the same thing (a complex instruction), that's when you proclaim the legitimacy of a complaint.
While you may be right in some cases, this approach can lead to more significant problems. After all, you're only listening to the voices of specific employees over others.
Here are ways to deal with complaints without biases:
- Understand unconscious bias - When we have preconceived ideas, unconscious bias happens. We let negative attitudes, feelings, stereotypes, or beliefs affect how we see others.
- Identify bias - Often, it's subconscious behavior. With our minds processing about 11 million pieces of information each second, bias can be a way of basic survival and making sense of overwhelming information. It's vital to rise above and acknowledge it.
- Promote accountability - If someone is at fault, point out their mistake. Let that person be accountable for their actions. And as a result, you can make the employee (with the grievance) feel gratitude for approaching you and getting closure.
➡️ Create a positive workplace culture with Zavvy
Managing staff complaints can be overwhelming, but it's important to remember that it's vital to creating a positive work environment.
And here's where Zavvy comes in.
Our employee enablement platform will make it easy to collect employee feedback, run surveys and connect your employees. These are critical steps in ensuring a supportive and positive work culture.
Show your employee that their concerns are heard and addressed in a timely manner, and watch your engagement and productivity rates grow.
Don't let staff complaints get you down.
Instead, use them to empower your employees and improve your company's performance. Zavvy is here to help you.
Book a 30 minutes demo now and see the possibilities for yourself.
Kayleigh Berry is an growth marketer at Paperform. Her strong history in psychology, marketing, and creativity, combined with her 100 miles per hour personality, keeps her up to date with all the latest trends in the new and changing digital marketing industry. Outside of work, you’ll find Kayleigh surfing or training her Australian Shepherd puppy.