As a business owner, manager or supervisor, it’s important to be approachable and accessible to your employees. Not only that, it’s important for managers to know what’s happening with their teams and projects. The same is true in reverse, employees want to know what’s happening at a managerial level to some extent. An open door policy indicates to your employees that you are open to questions, complaints, suggestions and challenges. When managers remove themselves from the workforce and create separation, it can lead to a wide range of problems. So, what is an open door policy, and why do you need one?
What is an Open Door Policy?
Essentially, an open door policy allows employees to communicate openly with senior executives, immediate supervisors, and managers about work-related topics. This is important for circumstances when employees struggle with their direct manager, and they can feel comfortable going to a more senior executive about their issues. The core purpose of an open door policy is allowing employees to feel comfortable and able to go to someone above them for help.
What Happens Without an Open Door Policy?
Before we get into the benefits of an open door policy, let’s set the scene of what can happen without one. The effects on a workplace without an open door policy can be just as significant as the effects of having one.
Without an open door policy:
- Managers, supervisors and executives may become isolated form their team. This leads to disjointed communication and a huge disconnect in the workforce.
- Managers lose sight of employee performance issues, meaning they cannot appropriately address them. More often than not, this will continue to worsen over time.
- Team morale can take a hit when there is no open discussion. Without that open discussion, a secretive company culture can form, which will deeply affect employee morale and engagement.
- Aside from a secretive company culture, all elements of the company culture can decline and become diluted without an open door policy can lead to a drop in productivity and increased employee turnover.
Ultimately, without an open door policy, your company bottom line will be impacted. Imagine an employee or individual who is facing a blocker, issue or obstacle. Of course, ideally, when an employee faces a blocker, they go to someone more senior for guidance or help. However, in an environment where they do not feel comfortable or able to speak to their seniors, this doesn’t happen. Projects get delayed, issues arise, and ultimately, clients/customers get let down.
Benefits of an Open Door Policy
So, it’s clear that an open door policy is pretty essential for most modern companies. Transparency and communication are encouraged at every opportunity these days, and rightly so. Here’s how your company might benefit from such a policy.
Improved Understanding of Employees
As we’ve stressed above, an open door policy is a great way to create a conducive environment for open communication. When managerial doors remain open and welcoming, employees can be more forthcoming about the work-related challenges and concerns they face. As your employees come to you with problems, challenges and concerns, you ultimately get an improved sense of how they are as employees. It can show you those that are more resilient, those that are problem solvers, and those that require a little bit more help.
As a manager, that is invaluable insight to have on your employees. It also gives you, as a manager the opportunity to capture potentially problematic issues early. If these issues are caught early, you can prevent them from impacting day-to-day operations.
High levels of Employee Engagement
Similar to the point above, it is crucial for employees to feel comfortable speaking to managers about issues and challenges they face. With an open door policy, employees speak freely and openly to managers. If managerial doors are closed, and employees can’t do that, they start to disengage pretty rapidly. As a result, opinions, concerns and suggestions go unvoiced and unheard.
An effective open door policy actively encourages employee engagement. In turn, information flows efficiently both upwards and downwards, to benefit everyone in the business. Managers can maintain control and provide support to their employees. Employees feel heard, valued and as though they can contribute. As a matter of fact, 74% of employees say they’re more effective at work when they feel heard.Now, you’re dealing with a healthy and productive work environment, and your bottom line reaps the rewards.
Improved Access to Information and Ideas
Traditionally, information has to follow a certain chain of command within more organizations. Ideas are handed up the chain of command before they reach the key decision maker. This can slow down the flow of information, and actually dilute ideas and information. As a matter of fact, key ideas and information may never even reach the decision maker at all! A manager or supervisor somewhere along the chain of command might decide to brush it off and park it. When this happens, employees feel as though their ideas, information and efforts are not being appreciated.
An open door policy resolves this issue. Employees feel as though they can go straight to decision makers with ideas and information. Also, decision makers are equipped with all of the information and ideas they need to make the best decisions possible for the business. It’s important to remember that your employees are the ones involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. When they have ideas for improving workflows or introducing new processes, their insight is worth its weight in gold.
Improved Workplace Relations
We’ve talked before about the idea of agile organizations and flattening out the hierarchy. An open door policy in the workplace can break down the walls of superiority to improve workplace relations. With a very strict chain of command and hierarchy, the divide between employees and managers is huge, and no relationships can form. However, with an open door policy managers and employees of any level can create relationships that are for the better of the workplace.
Informal conversations are often more fruitful than contrived, formal conversations where employees feel intimidated. 1:1s are great as they allow you touch base with employees, but it’s not always conducive to a natural flow of conversation and ideas. Allow your employees to come to you whenever they need to (within reason), or join them at lunch and just talk to them.
Overall, an open door policy can help your business become more open and transparent. It encourages communication and ultimately productivity, which can help your business grow and prosper. If an open door policy is something you’d consider, it’s important to develop a policy, discuss it with employees, and truly enforce it. An open door policy doesn’t work as a virtue signal to your employees. Do it, embrace it, and welcome it and you will reap the rewards.