Turning Employee Grievances into Positive Solutions

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on February 9, 2016
The Next Generation of IWMS: iXMS

Workforce management teams share a greater set of responsibilities today than ever before. Each decision directly (and indirectly) affects the entire organization, from the C-suite all the way to outsourced employees. Regardless of the size of your company or industry you’re a part of, most enterprises share many of the same challenges. The facility has to run smoothly at all times, budgetary goals must be met or exceeded, and workforce needs should be provided for maximized productivity and stellar customer service.

There is much debate regarding exactly what traits make a great leader. But those who have climbed the ranks all agree that every successful leader maintains an open line of communication and recognizes that “it takes a village” to find true success. There is not a single individual in this world who has all the answers but, as a collective, we can solve just about anything. Makes sense, right? After all, we do all have a stake in the final outcome.

Open Door vs. Closed Door Policies Define Workplace Culture

It’s human nature for us to be quelled into a false sense of security when business is thriving and the complaint box is empty. But the reality is, in the facilities management profession, no news isn’t necessarily good news. Studies reveal that: 

“Fewer than half of unhappy customers will bring a complaint to your attention. Those who never say anything will tell an average of 11 other people about their bad experience.”

That’s a pretty large game of telephone, and the impact on the organization can be devastating. Thus, it is critical that those in management positions encourage feedback from both clients and employees, seizing complaints as opportunities to improve.

How often have you heard a manager say “I have a closed door policy”? I would be willing to bet the answer is “never.” In fact, every manager likely believes they have an open door policy, but few really do. How often do you have an employee come to you to air their grievances simply because you told them it was okay to? Whether it be a poor annual review or overlooked for that next promotion, most employees fear the repercussions of telling management the unvarnished truth regarding suggestions or complaints.

To combat these fears, many organizations have implemented a variety of strategies, such as suggestion boxes, satisfaction surveys, and whistle-blowing hot lines. But these strategies come with their own set of issues. First, these methods all rely on anonymity, further solidifying the mentality that it isn’t safe to openly voice an opinion or suggestion. Second, if a suggestion or grievance is reported, with no indication as to who raised them, the anonymity makes it virtually impossible to delve deeper into the issue.

So, what can you do to ensure your workforce is coming to you with their complaints?

Developing an More Vocal Workplace Culture

Though organizational leaders often struggle to get their workforce to speak up, it can be done. From our research, we’ve gleaned the following best practices:

Be Present Regularly and Make Interaction Casual

Part of the facilities manager’s job is to ensure employees have the tools they need to succeed. The best way to do this is to be present, walking the floors frequently. When you step outside your office, you level the playing field. You break down barriers and show you’re part of the team and genuinely care about everyone’s well-being. It’s also a great idea to schedule regular meetings, involving representatives from each department. Communicate ahead of time what sort of conversation you’ll be having and express the issues or topics you would like to discuss. The best way to get answers regarding what people think about something is to just ask them.

Be Transparent

Successful leaders create a culture of transparency, consistently communicating the mission and vision for the organization and where employees fit into the picture. This empowers the workforce, making them feel like their are part of both the process and the solution.

“Companies often invest a great deal to engage with and listen to customers, but often fail to do that with their employees – the people who make or break their business every day” –Michelle Glover, ROI Communication

Keep Everyone Updated On Progress

One of the biggest reasons why employees fail to voice their opinion is futility. If they never see any results or aren’t updated on progress, what’s the point? They start to believe it’s just falling on deaf ears and react accordingly. While they may not always be able to visibly see you taking action, you can tell them what is happening and involve them directly in any follow-up steps. Even if the end result isn’t exactly what they were looking for, your workforce now knows you’re willing to go to bat for them and will be more apt to come to you in the future.

Feedback Should Offer Insight But Should Not Derail the Company’s Mission

Employee (and customer) complaints and feedback offer valuable insight into how organizational procedures could improve; but management should never use this as the sole driver for the business’ mission strategy.

While it is important to listen to your workforce and ensure they have what they need to succeed, keep in mind that you are the facilities management professional. While an employee might bring an innovative solution to the table, it might not always be a viable option. Keep in mind the enterprise’s overall goals regarding growth and company culture. If the insight doesn’t fit, draw what knowledge you can from the input and offer an explanation as to why this wouldn’t fit. Your attentiveness will go a long way in letting the workforce know you value their opinion and will foster that vital open door policy. The key is to strike a healthy balance.

The FM team is often considered the “fountain of knowledge,” there to solve most organizational challenges. To ensure success for your team and the enterprise, surround yourself with a team of individuals that is dedicated to the cause and is always open to new ideas. Keep your door open and listen to input regarding what is working and what isn’t. View them as opportunities to solidify the company as an industry leader and in predicting how to satisfy future needs.


Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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