It’s never easy to learn that your staff is unhappy with their work environment. Whether their grievances are simple (we need healthier snacks in the break room) or complex (I want to be paid the same as my coworkers), it’s important to address employee concerns in a way that makes them feel heard and valued.
When you make the improvements your team wants, you’re likely to see increased retention, engagement, and productivity. It also gives you the opportunity to recognize unintentional blind spots and improve your company culture. Here’s how to identify concerns and address them in a way that builds better employee-manager relationships.
How to Identify Employee Issues
The first step to addressing employee concerns is to figure out what the issues are in the first place. There are several ways you can solicit information, including:
- Frequent one-on-ones: Your managers should meet regularly with staff to build trust. When employees feel comfortable speaking up, they are much more likely to share their concerns openly. Have managers ask for feedback on improvements for their direct report’s role and the company culture.
- Employee surveys: Another way to solicit information is to send frequent surveys. Keep in mind that some employees are more willing to be honest about complaints when they aren’t afraid of repercussions. You may get more information if you keep the surveys anonymous. Send surveys quarterly or slightly more often (you don’t want to send too many) to keep your finger on the pulse of employee satisfaction.
- Town hall meetings: Large employee gatherings are a great way to get everyone engaged and excited about the future of your business. Whether you hold them in-person or online, ask how your business culture is excelling or needs improvement. Some people might not feel comfortable speaking up in a group setting, but when employees get candid, it can help others come forward as well.
- Open-door policies: Having an open-door policy can go a long way in helping employees communicate more with their managers, HR, and senior executives. This lets workers feel welcome to discuss issues as they come up. The more ways you can encourage communication the better.
- Exit interviews: In an ideal world, your business would address concerns before an employee leaves, but you don’t always get the option. When employees resign, do your best to find out why in their exit interview. If someone was struggling with work-life balance or feeling burned out, others might be experiencing the same issues. This gives you the opportunity to address these issues before other employees leave as well.
How to Address Employee Concerns
When employees come to you with their concerns, what should you do? Here are a few tips for properly addressing these sometimes. difficult conversations:
- Listen intently: Listen, be fully present, and let them talk.
- Demonstrate understanding, even if you don’t agree: Sometimes employees bring up issues outside of our control. Show that you understand where they’re coming from, even if there’s nothing you can do or you don’t agree that the issue is important. This will build more trust with your employees and make them feel more open to bringing up more concerns in the future.
- Get permission about what’s okay to share: If other employees are involved, make sure to get permission about what you can share. Otherwise, you might unintentionally make matters worse.
- Explain the next steps and follow through: Once you’ve had the conversation, share what you’re doing next. Are you escalating the issue to HR? Will you speak to coworkers and schedule a follow up? Be clear about actions and next steps to set expectations quickly.
- Do something: The final step is to do something. No matter how small the grievance is, when employees see you act, they appreciate it. It shows that you care about their satisfaction. This builds loyalty and is valuable to your organization.
Here are some of the most common employee concerns and how to best respond:
- Bad relationship with coworkers or managers: Ask if they’ve spoken about the issue. If they haven’t, encourage them to meet one on one and talk through it themselves. If the matter is serious, consult with their supervisor or HR. Work on improving your overall company culture by encouraging collaboration and communication and hosting team-bonding activities.
- Feel undervalued or unappreciated: When your employees don’t feel appreciated, it’s best to listen and ask how you can do better as their manager. Maybe there are things you can do to make the employee feel more valued, such as treating them to lunch or being more complimentary of their work.
- Unfair treatment or pay: For complaints that have to do with pay, your response depends on the situation. Check the salary standards against their job description and seniority level and come back to them with an honest assessment. If they are being paid fairly, say so. If there is a gap, be honest about that as well and talk about next steps.
- Work-life balance concerns: If employee concerns surface about the balance between their professional and personal life, find out what they’re looking for. Are flex hours or remote work possible a few days a week? Be open to these options so your employees feel comfortable asking.
- No upward movement or promotion: When your company doesn’t have a solid path to promotion, employees can lose momentum. Have conversations about possible promotions or mobility. Work with them to create a specific career trajectory. If they understand there is room to grow and know exactly how they can get there, they’ll be more likely to stay.
A Better Work Culture Starts with You
Addressing employee concerns with care will help your business build a better work culture. For more concrete, actionable steps to help your organization thrive, follow along with Monster for more hiring and management tips.