Open Door Policy at Work: The Value of Keeping HR's Door Open for Employee Complaints
Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.
Employees need a safe place to voice concerns. Many employers tout an Open Door Policy which allows employees the freedom to come to Human Resources if they have a complaint about the workplace. As some employees are concerned about going outside their chain of command, employers can offer an alternative communication opportunity if they offer an Open Door Policy to its employees. Having this policy as part of your policies and procedures manual can have many benefits for the employer as well as the employee who has the concern.
Why would an HR Department encourage the CEO of a company to allow such a policy implemented in the workplace? Several reasons. For one thing, having such a policy allows the employer an opportunity to nip a problem before it erupts to the status of catastrophe. Employees often just need to be heard. A little time with someone may be what they employee needs to deal with their concerns. Some advice or information about a rule or policy may be enough information for the employee to deal with the issue themselves. In many situations, the concern stops at this step.
If a trained HR professional can listen to the concerns of the employee, the HR professional can then take the necessary to steps to proceed to an investigation should one need to be conducted. I always tell employees that anything they tell me is confidential but you might put me in the situation that I have to look into a matter that is of an illegal, discriminatory nature. If this is the nature of the problem that presents itself, Human Resources must act swiftly to look into the matter;
If there is in fact a concern needing to be addressed, it behooves an employer to act promptly to investigate and provide a sound remedy. Employers are judged for how quickly they respond to the complaint. Investigative notes related to the action HR takes are often requested by attorneys or the EEOC should an allegation of discrimination or harassment be made against the employer.
Employers offering this style of a complaint process portray an open, honest approach to dealing with employee issues. Such an organization demonstrates a willingness to investigate concerns and provide corrective action as needed. Employees working in this type of environment are encouraged to freely express themselves should a problem arise. An Open Door Policy will show employees that they want to do right by them and that their concerns are important.
Some Closing Thoughts About Open Door Policies
Leadership's actions need to reflect the true nature of the Open Door Policy. Employers must recognize that having a policy in a manual is not enough for meeting the needs of employees. An HR Department must truly receive employees and allow them to register complaints about their concerns. The courts will recognize the difference between rhetoric and a true Open Door Policy. Furthermore, there must defined steps for an employee to take in order to register complaints. HR professionals responsible for this function must make themselves available to respond to employees. This response should be reasonable and timely to address problems that arise at work. Open Door policies are only truly "open" when these realities are part of the workplace culture.