How to Address Employee Concerns (and Why You Should)

As a business owner, you should know how valuable your employees are.

These are the front line workers who interact with your customers every day, the executors of your business vision, and ultimately, the team members responsible for the business’s eventual success – or failure.

That’s why it’s important to take employee concerns seriously. When an employee has a concern about something within the business, whether it’s a safety hazard, an inefficiency, or merely an inconvenience, it’s a sign that something could be wrong. Taking the time to address the concern could stand to improve the business directly – and even if it doesn’t, it will make the employee feel heard and respected, improving employee morale and employee retention in the process.

So what’s the best way to find and address employee concerns?

Provide Opportunities for Employee Feedback

First, you need to provide employees with more opportunities to offer feedback and make their concerns heard. Otherwise, they may never go out of their way to speak up.

These are just a few ways you can do it:

  • Surveys. Regularly conducting employee surveys can help you determine your employee net promoter score (eNPS) and gauge employee morale, so you can improve your business in a multitude of ways. This also presents an opportunity for employees to give their thoughts on whatever topics they feel are most important.
  • Reviews. Most businesses give employees annual reviews, offering feedback and advice for how employees can improve or continue doing their best. But these reviews should also be two-way. Take the time to ask employees critical questions about how the organization could be improved (in their eyes).
  • Exit interviews. In an exit interview, it’s too late to recover a lost employee, but it’s not too late to learn from them. Figure out why this person is leaving and what can be done to improve the environment for others in the future.

Ideally, you’ll collect employee feedback anonymously, but this isn’t always possible. Anonymity tends to make employees more comfortable opening up.

Establish the Right Company Culture

Employees will be more likely to come to you with their concerns proactively – no survey required – if you’ve established the right company culture.

These are some of the hallmarks of successful business cultures that invite feedback:

  • Transparency. Try to be as open and straightforward as you can. Don’t hide things or manage the company “behind the scenes.” Transparent environments encourage mutual conversations and open sharing.
  • Openness. You also need to be open to criticism and feedback. If you’re overly dismissive or contemptuous when people raise concerns, it’s going to stifle discussion. Take all contributions seriously and treat all people with respect.
  • Honesty. Be honest about the concerns and about how you’re going to handle them. It’s a great way to build trust.
  • Accountability. Create an environment of mutual accountability. Hold people to their word, and make sure people hold you to your word as well.
  • Cooperation and unity. Everyone on the team should have a team-centric mindset. You’re all in this together, trying to create the best company possible.

Respond Appropriately

When employees do come to you with feedback, whether you’ve asked for it directly or have received it unprompted, it’s important to respond to your employees appropriately. This means making sure they feel heard and respected, as well as taking action when necessary.

  • Actively listen. Actively listen to your employees’ concerns. Don’t interrupt them or dismiss them, even if you’re skeptical about the concern. Make eye contact, nod, and repeat back to them what they said in different words so they know they’re understood. This can go a long way in making employees feel more comfortable.
  • Acknowledge the concern. Address the concern directly. Explain what you’re going to do to make things right – or at least find out more information.
  • Investigate. Some claims will require further investigation. That could mean measuring certain statistics, observing certain workflow patterns, or even interviewing other employees to see if they feel the same. Keep the concerned employee posted about your progress, if you can.
  • Take corrective action (if warranted). Once you’ve gathered more information, you’ll be in a position to take corrective action, such as instituting new procedures.
  • Offer thanks. When you’ve managed to improve the business in some important way because of an employee voicing their concerns, give them thanks – and publicly, if the employee is comfortable with it. This will make the employee feel good about their contributions and incentivize others to come forward with concerns in the future.

Not every employee concern is going to require a massive intervention. But taking employee concerns seriously and taking action where necessary can be incredibly beneficial for your business. Improve efficiency, productivity, and employee morale all in one fell swoop by paying more attention to this critical aspect of business management.