Employee Communication: How Does Your Business Stack Up?

Employee Communication: How Does Your Business Stack Up?

by Jane Haskins, Esq., March 2018


If sexual harassment happens at your workplace, will anyone report it? Do your employees trust you to handle these and other employee problems?

A 2018 workplace insight report by LegalZoom shows a startling lack of communication in many American workplaces. The report, Reality of the Modern Workplace: Understanding Employee Empowerment, found that many employees don't report workplace problems because they don't trust their employer to handle grievances properly and/or they aren't clear on what the company's policies are or who to go to.

And, when problems aren't reported, they don't get resolved. This can lead to poor morale, reduced productivity, increased turnover, employee lawsuits, and difficulty attracting the best new hires.

Lack of Information, Lack of Confidence

Employee handbooks and training sessions help employees understand what is expected of them, and what to do if they experience a problem like sexual harassment or a workplace safety issue. But only about half of American workers (52 percent) say they have received an employee handbook, and even fewer (47 percent) report that training courses or sessions are available.

Employees also have an alarming lack of confidence in their employers' ability to handle workplace issues. Less than half (44 percent) think their company can adequately handle all workplace issues, and only about a quarter (26 percent) trust their company to take quick action.

Employees Hesitate to Report Workplace Issues

To create a workplace that is safe and free from harassment and other employee issues, it is important to act promptly on employee grievances. But employees don't report problems if they fear retaliation or think nothing will be done. This allows harassment, inequality, and other issues to continue and become ingrained in the company culture.

The report shows that while a third (33 percent) of employees have discussed a problem with a coworker, only 21 percent have raised issues with management, and only 17 percent have gone so far as to file a formal complaint. In fact, one in six workers (16 percent) avoids reporting issues and concerns to anyone, possibly out of a fear of repercussions from co-workers or management. Less than a quarter (24 percent) said they have a way to submit a complaint anonymously.

The statistics for harassment in particular are not any better. One in nine employees (12 percent) has witnessed harassment in the workplace, but believes they would be penalized if they reported it. The numbers for females are twice as high as males, showing that gender discrepancies are still alive and well in many workplaces.

Fuzzy rules and procedures, lack of a clear chain of command, lack of trust, and fear of retaliation all take their toll on employees. Nearly one in six (15 percent) reported quitting a job because of workplace issues. Twenty-two percent said they keep a personal workplace file documenting the issues they have experienced, and nine percent have shared their experiences on social media.

Job Hunters Are Paying Attention

None of this is good for business. Turnover is expensive, because it takes time and money to hire and train new employees. When a company has an atmosphere of distrust or appears not to care about employees, it's hard to foster a spirit of teamwork and shared vision that helps the company succeed. And when workplace woes make their way onto social media, the company's image can suffer.

The report highlights that job seekers are paying close attention to these issues as they evaluate potential employers:

  • Nearly half (46 percent) said they considered materials on employee guidelines and procedures.
  • Forty-one percent ranked training materials or sessions as important.
  • Almost a third (31 percent) said they would look at whether there were available channels to discuss concerns with upper management.
  • Twenty-eight percent consulted online reviews about company culture.
  • A quarter (25 percent) saw efforts to promote diversity and inclusion as important.

To create a better workplace culture and improve hiring potential, leadership must make internal communications a priority, establish and communicate an effective grievance process, and help ensure that all employees feel valued and have their voices heard.

The LegalZoom report was based on an online survey of 1,128 adults conducted in December 2017 by the firm YouGov PLC. Check out the full report here.