In The Workplace

Low compensation and toxic boss-subordinate relations are major employee issues that came out from the recent employee opinion survey conducted by our human resource (HR) department. However, the department does not seem to want to recognize the validity of those issues. If you’re the HR head, how would you handle this situation? — Banana Boat.

The first question you should answer is, how do these two issues affect the company’s attrition rate? If the turnover rate is in the single digits, in the vicinity of 7%, then it’s a healthy number and is no cause for alarm. Employee resignations are not exactly bad.

What is worrisome is any direct correlation between the two issues you mentioned alongside a two-digit turnover rate. Definitely, you could conclude that employees are not happy with their salary and work relations with their boss.

But why does HR refuse to acknowledge the result of its work? This is worrisome. If HR doesn’t want to believe its own work, then who will? One option for you would be to hire a third-party service provider to lend an independent view and an objective opinion that will be accepted by both labor and management.

HR should not be the sole arbiter of the survey findings. If the result is contrary to management expectations, then it has more reason to publish it to improve employee trust and as a manifestation of proactive, two-way communication.

The most important part of people management is generating employee trust. If you collect feedback and don’t act on it, then what’s the use? Next time, you may not be able to get the information you want. Of course, everything has its limits and much depends on the organization’s capacity to meet employee expectations.

However, it requires honest management commitment, along with a considerable amount time and effort. To do this, management may have to take the following steps:

One, summarize the survey result for sharing with employees. Focus on the adverse findings and how management intends to resolve those issues. At the same time, highlight all positive feedback and acknowledge the cooperation of employees in making the organization a vibrant workplace.

Going back to the two issues, if employee perception shows that salary is low, then cite an independent industry survey showing the contrary. In most cases, wrong perceptions are debunked by calculating the annual total equivalent for the right context.

Likewise, identify the most common issues between line executives and their workers without naming names.

Two, release the survey result within a reasonable time. Avoid giving the impression that management is indecisive or hiding something. Any delay gives the impression that management is not serious in seeking feedback. It may be better to admit sometimes that management has no ready answer rather than provide a haphazard reply that destroys its credibility. If more time is needed, explain the reason for the delay.

Always be professional and polite. Make everything clear. Avoid using any buzzwords or jargon unless everyone is familiar with those terms. If necessary, translate your message into Taglish (Tagalog-English) to be easily understood by factory workers.

Last, conduct the employee survey every year. This way, you can detect improvements from year-to-year. Ensure the anonymity of respondents and aim for as much as 70% of the work force.

Having a greater number of workers in the survey is imperative as it would help diminish minor issues that are often magnified by few disgruntled workers. Regardless of the issue, whether it’s low pay or internal conflicts between bosses and subordinates, a quick resolution will prevent escalation and keep bystanders from improperly intervening.

Sharing information and allowing the workers to participate in management up to a certain extent is the key to a proactive, two-way communication process. Giving people a voice will help them build confidence in working with management. However, this is easier said than done.

Part of the problem is when top management extols the virtues of communication without actually implementing practical approaches to convert their “inspirational” talks into reality. In fact, many of their actions often translate into a command-and-control approach to management, rather working in a way that shows trust and confidence in the workers.

There are many things to be done to promote two-way communication, not only within departments but throughout the company. Having an annual survey taking in the opinions of a majority of employees must be supported by individual engagement dialogue and team kaizen problem-solving.

Whatever you do, distinguish between data and facts. Data are important, but facts are more important. Consider this: High attrition rates are data while low salary and toxic bosses are facts.


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