Let’s face it: the process of HR receiving complaints and addressing employee concerns is broken. If it worked, we wouldn’t still be experiencing horrific instances of sexual harassment 30 years after lawmakers recognized sexual harassment as a workplace problem.
When Workplace Issues Are Not Reported
Emtrain’s 2020 Culture Report shows us that only 17% of employees will report sexual harassment if they see or experience it. Even in the healthiest companies, only 64% of the workforce feels comfortable speaking out about problems they see in the organization. These are not the statistics of a highly functional system. Even though Silicon Valley has invested a fortune in modernizing HR systems (benefits, payroll, recruiting, etc.), we’re still relying on a manual employee relations process to proactively address harassment, bias, and other concerns.
People are the foundation of your organization, no matter how tricky people issues can be. The healthiest organizations will still have people issues simmering under the surface that require special attention. People issues persist because business leaders are typically more focused on more measurable business levers like sales, marketing, product, and finance. At the same time, HR teams are often siloed and cannot always see what’s happening with co-workers in the trenches. Additionally, the communication doesn’t always flow between employees and HR because, depending on the organization, the HR team may lack the authority to insist on the tough personnel decisions needed to prioritize workplace culture.
Anonymously Engage with Employees to Reveal Workplace Issues
Based on Emtrain’s 2020 Culture Report, it’s unrealistic to count on all employees to share their concerns with HR. In addition to being able to report issues directly to HR, employees need a modern, anonymous channel managed by a neutral third party to provide an effective mechanism for employees to share their concerns with HR and management. Creating a modern, effective feedback channel allows HR leaders to spend more time as proactive problem solvers and less time in reactive, crisis management mode. AllVoices has built an anonymous communication platform that allows employees to safely report workplace harassment, bias, and culture issues to the company leadership that aims to address this need.
AllVoices customers have seen the value of providing anonymous channels for employees to speak up about issues. In one case, a customer changed a vacation policy last minute. Within the next 24 hours, they received more than a dozen reports from employees explaining the challenges this change would pose. The executives were briefed on the feedback, and changed the policy back.
Another AllVoices customer received an employee report about uncomfortable jokes being made about a religious figure on public channels. The employee, who was a member of this religion, felt excluded and marginalized, but didn’t feel comfortable coming forward. In response to this concern being raised, the company communicated with their employees about the inappropriate nature of these jokes to ensure that this type of issue didn’t happen again. In both situations, no employees had to speak up, and no individuals had to be singled out or punished – but the issues were resolved promptly and proactive action was taken to ensure that these issues didn’t surface again.
Employee Feedback Loop
Every organization needs an effective employee feedback channel, regardless of its size or its organizational maturity. Particularly now, as we have a multi-generational, multi-cultural workforce where respect means different things to different people based on their life experience and perspective, there will always be misunderstandings and co-worker conflict. Without a neutral, external channel that allows employees to share their experiences and concerns, employee frustrations can easily find an outlet in a legal claim, public blog post, a negative Glassdoor review, or an organized employee walkout. In fact, it’s reasonable to question whether Google would have experienced the Google Manifesto or the organized employee walkout if they’d had an effective, safe employee channel to share their concerns with leadership.
In Emtrain’s 2020 Culture Report, which surveyed 40,000 employees from 125 companies, the strongest indicator of a healthy workplace culture is whether there are strong organizational norms and practices encouraging employees to speak out and voice concerns. The healthiest companies have norms and practices in which 64% of the employees feel comfortable speaking up. In less healthy companies, only 30% of the employees feel comfortable speaking out. By integrating a tool that gives all employees a safe voice and the power to be heard by the business leaders, you let the pressure out of the system, acknowledge trending concerns, and proactively address those concerns before they escalate into bigger problems.
In summary, here are three takeaways to remember when thinking about how to create a modern employee channel to proactively solve culture issues:
- We are experiencing rapidly changing social norms, and employees are now able to raise concerns publicly — in blog posts, Glassdoor, in walkouts — in order to be heard and feel empowered. This is in part because they may not feel heard via internal channels or feel safe speaking up directly to HR or leadership.
- Per Emtrain’s 2020 Culture Report — the healthiest companies have strong norms and practices that encourage employees to speak out when they see something is wrong. Build that expectation into the culture through constant leadership communication as well as providing a neutral, anonymous third party channel.
- To complete the feedback loop — HR and People leaders need to acknowledge employee concerns on a consistent basis and strategically solve identified problems to gain employee trust and go from HR police to HR heroes.
Interested in hearing more? Check out my Linkedin Live video discussion on this topic. https://www.linkedin.com/video/live/urn:li:ugcPost:6640674762014240768/