Employees speak freely to HR
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HR: Can your employees speak freely to you?

10 Apr 2017

Are your employees dropping like flies and you’re left stumped as to why? Is morale down without your knowledge?

As a HR professional, it’s your job to know how your employees are getting on. What is staff morale like? Are they happy? Would they tell you if they weren’t?

If you’re not checking in on how your employees are with reviews and the right questions, then you shouldn’t be too surprised when they want to leave.

If it seems like morale is dropping, then you need to ask yourself: can employees speak freely to you about how they really feel?

Even with an open-door policy, many employees can feel intimidated voicing their feelings, especially if they have some negative opinions.

If you feel like you’re not getting the full story from your employees, you need to look at why that is. There are also a few quick fixes that you might be tempted to put in place, but they will actually make things worse.

Anonymous feedback

If your employees clam up in fear of being reprimanded for speaking about certain policies or complaining about management, you might be considering anonymous feedback as a way to soothe their concerns.

However, there might be negative effects to this. If you put an anonymous feedback policy in place, you will give the impression that employees have to stay anonymous in order to be safe in their jobs.

This can make enforcing any real changes difficult when you can’t pinpoint the problem. It could also inadvertently start a witch hunt from management.

Open-door policy

You might think your open-door policy is doing the trick. Employees can come to you whenever they want and confide in you in the safety of your HR office.

While an open-door policy is always a good thing to have in place, it might not be enough. It’s often too passive to encourage employees to actually walk in and say something negative about the company.

If your employees aren’t coming to you beyond their set reviews, then they don’t really feel comfortable. Setting up more frequent meetings might encourage them to relax and talk to you about any issues.

Suggestions only

One of the biggest reasons employees don’t feel like talking about their feelings is the inertia that often accompanies it.

When listening to your employees, you need to show them that their suggestions and feelings matter. Can you change anything to make their situation easier? Or, at the very least, can you show them their concerns have been heard?

There is little point in encouraging your employees to confide in you or having an open-door policy if you’re only there to listen and do nothing more with the information.

How to instil trust

Recognise your employee’s fears. Without looking for personal information, be familiar with their circumstances. Acknowledge where they are in their career. Ask them where they want to go and what their goals are.

Reward positive input. Employees need to see that their suggestions are being taken seriously. If they benefit the company, reward them. This will encourage more input from other employees and make them more comfortable about talking to you when they’re unhappy.

Organise feedback sessions. Go beyond your open-door policy and invite employees in more often than their annual review to talk through any concerns, thoughts or worries they have. The meetings don’t have to be long, but the more you meet and talk with your employees, the more they will feel they can speak honestly with you. This means you’ll become more aware of employees who aren’t as happy as they could be.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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