We’ve all been there. Business is good, the work is flowing, the team is collaborating and then you hear it: an employee complaint. Maybe they feel the workload isn’t fair. Maybe they’re frustrated with the communication, or feel a lack thereof. Whatever it is, your first instinct may be to put on the boxing gloves and come back on the defensive. However, what if you can turn that complaint into what it likely is: an employee’s desire to make the company truly great? By doing this, you just may begin to see those complaints as opportunities instead.
Let’s clear this up right off the bat: complaints are good, because they mean that employee engagement is good. A complaint is a sign that your employees are so actively engaged in their jobs that they want their company to equal their passions and their contribution. They want to make a suggestion for improvement and see that they have a voice in how they spend those 40 hours every week. If your business doesn’t have a clear and effective avenue for these suggestions, they may just turn into complaints.
To prevent suggestions from turning into complaints, your company needs to have a way for employees to communicate their desires. The first and easiest way is to advertise an open-door policy. Include language in your employee handbook that you welcome feedback as a tool to constantly improve your program for all those involved. Schedule open office hours for employees to express any concerns or share new ideas. Foster positive employee relations by demonstrating that not only are you open to the contributions of your team, but that you will actively try to make changes within your power when they fit with your mission and your company’s needs.
Of course, no amount of open doors and feedback-based policies will prevent the occasional complaint from squeezing between the cracks. When this happens, don’t be disheartened. Nobody is perfect, and every company can find room for improvement. To handle complaints constructively, start the conversation by giving your employee the power to find a solution. For example, if your employee is complaining about a lack of opportunity for professional growth, ask them what areas they would like to develop and what suggestions they have for fostering these skills. If they complain about a long commute, have them propose a plan that outlines how they can get the job done from home occasionally — and be willing to give it a trial. If an employee has a suggestion to make, don’t feel it is all on your shoulders to make those changes. Rely on the strength of your team and the skills of your employees — you hired them for a reason, of course — to come up with constructive solutions as well.
Whether your employees have been with the company for decades or — perhaps even more importantly — are millennials just out of college, having an open and transparent organizational culture will ensure that all workers don’t just feel heard, but are heard. In order to minimize employee unrest and complaints, you need to make a clear and obvious effort to communicate openly in an effective way about employee concerns — not just what they are, but how your company is going to address them. Show that you are willing to put yourself out there and make a mistake in order to improve employee engagement and satisfaction. In this way, your employees can work with more passion and more trust in the company they support.
Most important of all is for the company to communicate that employees are being heard. Whether that takes the form of live meetings, regular video messages, or even an online resource, regular communication fosters understanding. This is particularly true when feedback from employees involves something systemic that may take some time to address. Creating custom training resources to address employee concerns can go a long way toward addressing the opportunities employees present to you. By fostering an environment of feedback, action and communication, you can create a culture that rewards growth and provides job security for every team member.