Thursday, March 09, 2006

Grievances:An Opportunity to Enhance Employees Loyalty

Employees grievances is an indicator of any organizations effeciency in managing its people. The more strained the work relations are, the more costly performance quality and loyality become. Therefore, I believe that efficient handling of grievances is a critical competency all management levels should develop. In addition to saving a lot of lost time, bad feelings, and strained relationships, this competence can contribute greatly to the enhancement of employees loyalty to the organization when they feel that thier fair demands do not fall on deaf organizational ears.
Proactive organizations do not wait for problems to happen in order to react and develop the essential policies to address their employees concerns and greivances. through involving employees in the development of rules and procedures, good employers can predict thier employees' needs and use these needs both to motivate the employess and to develop their policies. The following approach, though untraditional is suggested through a successful personal experience:
To effectively deal with work-related concerns or grievances, an organizational needs to develop and implement a policy based on the following principles:
• staff are consulted in the development of the organizational policy and procedure;
• fair, impartial, just and confidential handling of concerns and grievances;
• action is taken promptly within agreed timeframes and procedures;
• parties are protected from victimisation; and
• the system provides employees with a choice of procedures. For example resolution at the workplace level through an informal procedure or a formal procedure.

Impact of grievances
Employee work-related concerns and grievances which are not promptly and effectively resolved can lead to:
• lost productivity;
• lower quality work, products and customer services;
• distraction from corporate goals;
• loss of confidence and communication between employees, managers and supervisors;
• low morale and job satisfaction which can lead to industrial problems, increased absenteeism and increased staff turnover;
• loss of reputation as an employer and service provider;
• loss of reputation to the employee;
• lost working time of everyone involved in dealing with a complaint; and
• the potential for legal action and damages.

Disciplinary procedures
In some cases the use of grievance procedures can result in a recommendation that the employer take action through the disciplinary process.
Disciplinary processes are not part of the system to deal with employees concerns and grievances. Grievance procedures are to deal with matters raised by an individual employee. Disciplinary processes deal with performance or conduct matters identified by the employer.
If criminal charges have been laid or a complaint made to a body such as the Independent Commission Against Corruption or the Anti-Discrimination Board, management also has a responsibility to consider whether the matter should be pursued through the disciplinary process within the agency. If a grievance is raised during a discipline process, the grievance needs to be finalised but the disciplinary process should continue independently.
Dispute resolution
A dispute is a clear statement by an individual or a group of employees on a question, difficulty or conflict with the interpretation, application or operation of an award or agreement. If such a matter is not resolved at the local level, procedures in the relevant act, award or agreement should be used.

External support in dealing with grievances
The right of employees to seek appropriate external support and assistance to deal with their work-related concerns and grievances should be respected and incorporated into organizational procedures.

The role of unions
Employees should be informed of their entitlement to seek the advice and support of their union and be represented by the union.

Accountabilities and Responsibilities
Accountability for people management, including the effective management of employee work-related concerns and grievances should be an explicit part of the responsibilities in the job descriptions and performance agreements of chief executives, senior executives, managers and supervisors.

Chief Executive
The Chief Executive has:
• a leadership role in demonstrating a commitment to the resolution of employees workplace concerns and grievances; and
• accountability for ensuring there is an effective, timely, impartial and just system for dealing with employees work-related concerns and grievances.

Grievance Manager
A senior manager, preferably a member of the executive team or the chief executive, should have responsibility for the management of the system. This person should also be responsible for decisions concerning the course of action to be taken in dealing with serious grievances, which may include issues covered by the Protected Disclosures Act and disciplinary matters.

Senior Executives
Senior executives are accountable for:
• ensuring access to grievance procedures is open and fair for all employees;
• ensuring people who deal with employee work-related concerns and grievances are adequately trained and supported;
• monitoring to ensure that:
- employees understand and have confidence in the system to deal with their concerns and grievances;
- concerns and grievances are dealt with promptly impartially, justly and confidentially;
- follow-up occurs to ensure the outcomes of the resolution are achieved;
- people who raise concerns and grievances are not victimised; and
- statistical records are kept to enable the effectiveness of the system to be assessed.

Managers and Supervisors
Managers and supervisors are accountable for:
• encouraging employees to understand the agency’s procedures for resolving work-related concerns and grievances;
• providing timely and confidential assistance to employees, including:
- advice on available options,
- where practicable and appropriate, attempting to resolve the issue at the local level through an informal procedure,
- advice on further action if a local resolution is not achieved,
- follow-up and monitoring when issues have been resolved,
- ensuring the parties are not victimised, and
- keeping records in accordance with agency procedures.

Employees are encouraged to take prompt action on work-related concerns or grievances in accordance with the agency’s procedures.

Suggested Procedures
An agency policy signed by the Chief Executive is an explicit statement of the organization’s commitment to dealing with employee work-related concerns and grievances.
It is suggested the policy include:
• a commitment by the Chief Executive to a workplace environment that values people and that employee work-related concerns and grievances will be dealt with promptly, impartially, justly and confidentially;
• what is meant by a grievance;
• the responsibilities of executives, managers and supervisors; and
• the responsibility of all employees in preventing victimisation.

Developing a system
Consultation is important in developing a system to manage employee work-related concerns and grievances. It can help to gain employee commitment, and assists in tailoring the system and procedures to the agency’s and employees' needs.
Agencies are advised to consult with members of EEO groups so that any special needs can be identified and included.

Features of a system
The features of an effective system to manage employee concerns and grievances include:
• clear objectives for the system and procedures;
• clear identification of the member of the executive team with accountability for the system;
• options to provide a choice for employees that include:
- an informal procedure where assistance will be given to resolve an issue at the local level through such processes as negotiation or mediation; and
- a formal procedure;
• an employee’s manager or supervisor as the first point of contact to:
- provide access to confidential advice and support,
- receive grievances,
- monitor grievances to ensure serious issues such as assault, or allegations of corrupt practices are referred to the grievance manager for consideration through a formal procedure,
- attempting to resolve issues at the local level by an informal procedure, advice and referral when appropriate;
• when it would be inappropriate for the immediate supervisor or manager to deal with the issue identified, alternative points of contact such as a more senior manager, personnel, EEO practitioner or other suitable officers should be provided. Such circumstances include:
- when the issue involves the supervisor or manager, and
- when the person concerned does not feel comfortable about approaching their own supervisor or manager. An example could be a complaint of sexual harassment;
• identified time-frames for attempted resolution;
• protection for the parties from victimisation;
• clear guidance on record keeping;
• a process that ensures confidentiality;
• rights of access to information;
• a mechanism for the review or appeal of the outcome of the formal process. In some cases these may be external to the agency for example the Industrial Relations Commission;
• training and guidance for all people who have responsibilities in the system;
• a strategy to market the system to ensure it is well known and accessible to all employees;
• periodic review of the system to ensure it continues to meet agency and employee needs.

Reporting requirements
Within the organization the executive should receive regular reports on:
• the issues being raised and the location within the agency of any emerging issue; and
• the effectiveness and timeliness of the resolution of grievances.

Review and appeal of the decisions of formal procedures
A procedure for the review of the outcomes of a formal grievance demonstrate that the
organization is serious about ensuring its procedures are fair, impartial and just.
A review procedure when adopted should have:
• a time-frame;
• the Chief Executive to retain responsibility for making the final decision; and
• where appropriate the parties should be informed that at any time they have the right to take the matter to an external agency such as the Industrial Relations Commission, the Anti-Discrimination Board or the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Communicating the Policy and Procedures
Agencies must ensure open and fair access to the procedures. Employees should be encouraged to understand and use the procedures. The following suggestions for communicating the policy within agencies have proven to be useful:
• publicity materials - brochures, posters, stickers, and agency-specific video or audio tapes to provide information to people in remote locations;
• the integration of the topic of dealing with complaints and grievances into existing training;
• training or information sessions specifically about the policy and procedures;
• discussion of the policy and procedures at staff meetings;
• articles published in agency newsletters;
• reminders attached to pay advice slips;
• in response to the diversity of the workforce:
- the publication of material in community languages;
- the development of audio tapes for people with visual impairment, and
- the use of language interpreters and sign language interpreters for people with hearing impairments.

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