When people hear the word “complaints” they often think of nagging or whining, but HR complaints can actually be your organization’s key to improvement. No matter how you feel about a complaint being filed, all employees deserve to be heard and acknowledged.
HR has the important role of quickly and effectively addressing complaints from the workforce. Instead of looking at complaints to HR as another headache on your to-do list, you can view them as an opportunity to help your coworkers, improve your organizational culture, and serve your fellow employees to the fullest. Let’s break down the most common HR complaints, how you can resolve them, and how to foster an even better work environment for your organization.
Addressing HR Complaints
Employees who don’t feel safe or appreciated enough may issue a complaint with HR, which can seriously hurt your employee retention rate. And listening to your employees, complaints and all, can help boost employee satisfaction.
Listening to your employees is a core step to creating a culture of trust and open communication, where your employees know they can take issues to human resources and have them taken seriously. Be sure to clearly communicate to your employees how they can go about filing a complaint and encourage them to use this resource when they need to.
Some employees might be reluctant to disclose information due to fear of reprisal or potential negative consequences. Providing an avenue for individuals to report concerns or wrongdoings without revealing their identities can better encourage employees to report misconduct, unethical behavior, or other issues that require attention.
8 Common HR Complaints and How to Handle Them
Now that we understand the importance of creating an avenue for employees to anonymously report HR complaints, let’s take a look at some of the most common HR complaints you may receive and steps you can take to resolve them.
Complaint 1: Communication Silos
Communication silos refer to situations where there are barriers or limited communication channels between different levels of an organization, particularly between managers and employees. Communication silos often arise when information is not effectively shared or when there is a lack of transparency and open dialogue within the organization.
Poor communication on a team or between a manager and an employee is a breeding ground for low morale, distrust, ineffective collaboration, and confusion. To prevent future communication silos and address existing ones, you can:
- Establish open lines of communication. Organizations should prioritize creating a culture of open and transparent communication by promoting accessible communication channels such as regular email updates, intranet portals for important announcements and documentation, or dedicated communication platforms.
- Encourage feedback and suggestions. Employees should feel empowered to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement without fear of retribution. Implementing mechanisms such as suggestion boxes, anonymous feedback channels, or regular employee engagement surveys can help HR teams gather insights from employees and address their concerns.
- Conduct regular team meetings and updates. Regular team meetings provide a platform for managers and employees to share information, discuss progress, and address any concerns or questions.
Complaint 2: Discrimination and Harassment
Discrimination and harassment in the workplace are serious issues that can have significant legal implications and consequences for both individuals and organizations. A complaint like this may arise when employees feel they’ve been subjected to unfair treatment, bias, or harassment based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, religion, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
Various employment laws protect employees from this kind of behavior, including equal employment opportunity legislation, anti-discrimination laws, and harassment prevention laws. Ignoring such behaviors in the workplace can not only result in legal ramifications but also create a hostile work environment where no one is comfortable or safe. To help address and prevent these complaints, HR teams can try:
- Implementing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. These policies should define prohibited behaviors, outline reporting procedures, and emphasize the organization's commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive work environment. You may also want to conduct regular training and awareness programs to prioritize and reinforce these policies.
- Conducting thorough investigations. When a complaint of discrimination or harassment is received, organizations should initiate a prompt and impartial HR investigation. You may also consider working with a trained individual or external non-biased party to conduct the investigation.
- Taking appropriate disciplinary action. If the investigation substantiates the complaint, organizations should take appropriate disciplinary action against the perpetrators. Disciplinary measures may range from warnings and mandatory training to suspension or termination, depending on the severity of the offense.
Complaint 3: Unfair Treatment
When employees feel they are being treated inequitably or subjected to biased practices, they may launch an unfair treatment complaint. Employees may experience unfair treatment in various forms, such as favoritism, inconsistent enforcement of policies, unequal distribution of opportunities, or discriminatory practices, especially derived from a lack of diversity.
Unfair treatment can seriously lower employee motivation, loyalty, retention, teamwork, and more. To approach and address these complaints, HR can focus on:
- Promoting fairness and transparency in decision-making. Organizations should strive to ensure that decision-making processes are fair, transparent, and based on objective criteria. This includes implementing clear policies and guidelines for decision-making, providing training to managers on unbiased practices, and communicating the rationale behind decisions to affected employees.
- Implementing performance evaluation systems. Fair and transparent performance evaluation systems play a crucial role in addressing unfair treatment. Organizations should establish clear performance criteria, regularly communicate expectations, and provide feedback and recognition based on objective assessments.
- Providing avenues for employees to voice concerns. Organizations can also work to establish channels for employees to voice their concerns and provide feedback on unfair treatment. Consider implementing regular employee pulse surveys to help leaders understand how employees feel about the workplace.
Complaint 4: Inadequate Training and Development Opportunities
Everyone needs the opportunity to grow in the workplace. Some employees may feel that their organization does not provide sufficient resources, programs, or support for their professional growth and skill enhancement. Employees may perceive a lack of investment in their development and view it as a barrier to their career progression. This leads to a lack of skills, reduced engagement, and employees leaving the organization for better opportunities. Here’s what HR can do about it.
- Assess training needs and provide relevant programs. Your HR department can conduct regular assessments to identify the specific training needs of their employees. Consider collecting the appropriate data through surveys, performance evaluations, or individual development plans.
- Offer mentoring and coaching opportunities. Mentoring and coaching programs can provide employees with valuable guidance and support for their professional development—and it’s often a positive experience for both the mentor and mentee!
- Encourage continuous learning and professional development. Organizations should create a culture that values and supports continuous learning. You can achieve this by encouraging employees to pursue certifications, leadership development opportunities, attend conferences or workshops, participate in webinars, or engage in job rotations.
Complaint 5: Poor Management and Leadership
Poor management and leadership complaints generally refer to situations where employees experience ineffective or inadequate management practices within their organization. This complaint may encompass issues such as a lack of clear direction, limited support and guidance, poor communication, favoritism, or a lack of trust and respect from managers.
An ineffective leadership style usually results in your employee engagement and productivity taking a hit, as well as contributing to a negative work culture. HR can use these tactics to manage such complaints:
- Providing leadership training for managers. Organizations should invest in leadership development programs to enhance the managerial skills of their leaders. Training programs can cover various aspects of effective management, such as communication, conflict resolution, team building, and coaching.
- Promoting effective communication. Feedback between managers and employees doesn’t always come naturally, but organizations can encourage regular and meaningful dialogue, where managers actively listen to their team members' concerns, provide constructive feedback, and offer support.
- Conducting 360-degree feedback assessments. This feedback or survey mechanism allows employees, peers, and superiors to provide anonymous feedback on managers' leadership qualities, communication skills, and overall effectiveness.
Complaint 6: Compensation and Benefits Issues
Compensation and benefits issues arise when employees feel dissatisfied or perceive unfairness in the rewards they receive for their work. These complaints can include concerns about low wages, lack of salary increases, inequitable pay structures, insufficient benefits, or inadequate recognition for their contributions.
Left ignored, these complaints may impact employee satisfaction and retention and ultimately lead employees to seek jobs that do offer adequate compensation and benefits. Your organization can work on these issues and complaints by:
- Conducting regular compensation and benefits reviews. Take a proactive approach and regularly review and audit your compensation and benefits structures to ensure you remain competitive, fair, and aligned with market standards. Conducting salary surveys, benchmarking studies, and finding industry research can provide insights into appropriate pay scales and offer better benefits management strategies.
- Ensuring competitive and fair pay structures. Organizations may also consider establishing transparent pay structures that are based on objective criteria, such as skills, experience, performance, and market rates.
- Offering a comprehensive benefits package. A strong benefits strategy can completely change the game for employees if it meets their needs. Consider offering healthcare benefits, retirement plans, paid time off, flexible work arrangements, employee assistance programs, and professional development opportunities.
Complaint 7: Work-Life Imbalance
Work-life imbalance refers to situations where employees feel overwhelmed and struggle to maintain a healthy equilibrium between their work responsibilities and personal life. This complaint often arises when employees face excessive work demands, long working hours, limited time for personal activities or vacation time, or a lack of flexibility in their schedules.
Employees may face burnout, be less productive, and suffer from a lack of wellbeing, which can hinder your business and your work culture. Instead of this imbalance, you can strive for work-life wellness by implementing the following practices:
- Encourage work-life wellness initiatives. HR can promote initiatives such as designated rest breaks, time management training, and advocating for employees to use their PTO and personal leave entitlements.
- Provide flexible work arrangements. Offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, flexible scheduling, or compressed workweeks, can significantly contribute to work-life wellness. Allowing employees to have more control over their work schedules and locations enables them to better manage personal commitments and responsibilities
- Promote stress management and wellness programs. Try teaching your employees to prioritize stress management techniques and provide wellness programs to help them prioritize their wellbeing. You may consider offering mindfulness training, workshops on stress reduction, access to counseling or mental health support, and tools for healthy lifestyles.
Complaint 8: Lack of Recognition and Rewards
Some employers, managers, and organizations struggle to reward their employees for the efforts they make, which really takes a toll on morale, productivity, and loyalty. There’s a direct correlation between employee turnover and appreciation. According to Survey Monkey, 63% of workers that are recognized often consider themselves very unlikely to seek a new job in the near future. Not appreciating your employees and ignoring their concerns is a big red flag for potential and existing employees.
The good news is, there are a ton of things HR can do to recognize and reward employees. Your department can focus on:
- Implementing an employee recognition program. A great recognition program can include various elements, such as peer-to-peer recognition, manager recognition, and company-wide recognition, which all help attract and retain top talent.
- Celebrating achievements and milestones. Show your appreciation by celebrating the wins or anniversaries through public announcements, team meetings, or company-wide events.
- Providing regular feedback and constructive praise. Managers should provide timely and specific feedback, highlighting individual or team accomplishments and providing guidance for improvement. By acknowledging and praising employees for their hard work, managers reinforce positive behaviors, boost motivation, and demonstrate that their contributions are valued.
Turn Complaints into Victories
Properly addressing HR complaints is essential to creating a productive workplace, protecting employees from dangerous environments, and avoiding damaging legal ramifications due to neglect or harassment.
Your complaint strategy is only one piece of the puzzle impacting company culture, though. Your employees also need resources and benefits that truly support their health, both physically and mentally. This is where a wellness program can be incredibly beneficial to your workplace. Wellbeing programs are another key piece to cultivating a healthy company culture, and it can be really simple with Gympass. Talk with a wellbeing specialist today to learn more.
- Des Georges, C. Can employee recognition help you keep them longer? (n.d.). SurveyMonkey. Retrieved July 7, 2023, from https://www.surveymonkey.com/curiosity/employee-recognition-and-retention/?zd_source=hrt&zd_campaign=5503&zd_term=chiradeepbasumallick
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.