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The Hearing Aid: Employee Grievance Redressal System

October, 3 2017

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Studies say and it is fairly obvious to assume, an employee with grievances is twice as likely to attrite compared to an employee without any. To top it off, poorly addressed grievances can leave a bad taste for more than just the victim. Trivial issues can manifest into major disputes if not given the needed time and attention. Hence, it becomes extremely important for HR professionals to identify this phenomenon and nip it in the bud.

“To launch a business means successfully solving problems. Solving problems means listening.” - Richard Branson

Just as the quote goes for businesses, it is no different for the problems of an employee. The solution starts with a system/person that can listen to and record their problems thus becoming the hearing aid of the organization. Having proper grievance redressal systems in place is a measure that organizations are actively adapting to boost job satisfaction amongst their employees. In an age where the modern, new and emerging workforce spends an average of not more than 2 years in an organization, it is also becoming a tool to ensure better talent retention.

Organizations like Google and Intuit have been following the best practices for grievance redressal and as a result of which they have successfully retained top talent and are considered one of the best places to work for in the world. Grievances can range from something as simple as employee facilities and unfair pay to something as sensitive as sexual harassment, gender discrimination that can blow out of proportion if not dealt with on priority. Improper relations with managers and seniors are also a major contributor. We can broadly categorize the causes below to understand these better:

  1. A break in the expected workflow: So, the organization has policies for certain workflows that are supposed to govern them; things are functioning according to them. But suddenly, there is a break or a deviation that disrupts the flow.
  2. Non-existent policies: Consider the scenario; an employee looking forward to encashing his/her leaves, save them throughout the year, only to know at the end of the year that the organization never had such a policy in the first place. Or in a more serious scenario, if an employee wants to report a case of sexual harassment at work. She/he approaches the manager but does not get a satisfactory response or escalation of the matter at hand. Because the company never had a policy for it.
  3. Issues with colleagues: Grievances can also arise because the employee might be having troubled working efficiently with his/her colleagues. This can be due to multiple causes, like; personal disputes, conflicting vision, or difference in opinions to name a few.
  4. Issues of a whistleblower: In many cases, it is observed that one employee raises his/ her voice against a system or a department that follows unfair practices for eg. bribery. There should be a process to escalate this to the higher authorities who are supposed to subsequently act on the issues.

Having said that, how do you make sure that these concerns are brought to light effectively? Is there a guide or a rulebook that can govern the process?

As tempting as it may be to lay out certain rules and regulations dictating the actions you must take in such scenarios; there is a dire need to understand that different complaints will elicit different courses of action on your part. And these could be miles apart in terms of idea and execution, considering the wide spectrum of possible problems.

Despite the roadblock, how do you ensure that a proper grievance management system is in place for your organization?

Keeping in mind the best practices followed by firms worldwide, the following should be the ideal workflow to ensure employee issues are addressed (or escalated to the higher managerial levels) with the utmost sincerity and the required sensitivity:

  • Create an open and engaging environment: To begin with; the flow of ideas should be very organic and well organized within the corporate structure. Transparency is the key. Arrange for workshops and seminars to make sure employees are aware and updated about developments like the POSH act so that they can be aware of their entitlements and rights. Let there be a central system/platform where employees can express (identifying themselves or anonymously) their thoughts and experiences. However, in light of recent developments; like the fiasco at Google a line needs to be drawn at voicing personal thoughts that disrespect/ offend a section of the employees. Company policies must clearly reinstate this.
  • Acknowledge grievances: The employee should not regret his/her decision to escalate his/her grievance to the manager due to the latter’s inaction. Have a proper entry system to keep a record of the problem and the subsequent actions. Only when a problem is acknowledged, can it be solved. It can help in distinguishing between dissatisfaction, complaint, and grievance while ensuring speedy addressal of the issues at hand.
  • Gather the required facts and evidence: Now that you have acknowledged the grievance, try and gather vital information to identify the root cause of it. For this, you need to recognize the subcategory of the grievance. Whether it is policy related, or infrastructure related; whether the employee is dissatisfied with colleagues, or if there is some other matter that needs to be addressed. For eg., if the grievance is explicitly related to the infrastructure, i.e. faulty hardware/ inadequate light etc., try and visit their desk and arrange for the required corrections to resolve it ASAP. Adequate facts can help you figure out solutions quicker, and with better efficiency. And of course, it is always a good idea to document these to present to the employee or the redressal committee later.
  • Decisioning: A grievance can be due to real or imaginary causes. In case after thorough investigation and collection of facts from multiple, and relevant sources; the causes turn out to be imaginary/exaggerated in nature, make sure to have a word with the employee. In order to come to mutual agreement, help him/her see through the analyzed facts that brought you to the conclusion. However, if the issues are real and need an immediate address, make sure that happens at the earliest, and send a relevant update to the employee. It needs to be communicated to them if their issue has been marked resolved or escalated further to a higher authority.
  • Execution and review: If the issue has been escalated further, then it is of prime importance to make sure that it does not become dormant over there. It must remain in progress. After this, there should be a steady follow-up.  The employee should get the much-needed closure related to the issue at hand.

It is the need of the hour for managers to actively address and resolve grievances. This ensures that employees don’t end up misaligning their career goals from organizational growth.

Following are the proven benefits organizations can reap from an effective grievance redressal system:

  1. It acts like a pressure valve on a steam boiler. It serves as an outlet for employee gripes, discontent, and frustrations.
  2. There is always a possibility that due to personality conflicts or simply lack of experience, immediate supervisors are not able to solve the issue. It helps in regulation of authority.
  3. It enhances the brand image. When employees feel heard, cherished, and respected they become the best ambassadors of your brand.

Would you like to share some of the best practices that your organization follows for employee grievance redressal? Comments and discussions are welcome!

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