Many businesses talk about having an "open door policy," but, in reality, how open is the door?
Do you have an open door policy at your workplace? What does this really mean? How do you know if you really have an open door policy? What does a truly open door policy look like?
An open door policy is one that allows communication to take place from the bottom of your organization to its top. It ensures that people know what is expected of them and in what time frame they are expected to deliver. An open door policy provides regular updates to supervisors and workers on the status of various projects and encourages regular staff meetings to review progress toward goals. An open door policy is one that recognizes and rewards good work with promotions, bonuses, raises and public praise. It builds a sense of trust within the organization that allows it to deal with office politics in an open, honest and respectful way.
This sounds like a place where most of us would like to work, doesn't it? But how do we get there? Here are some suggestions that may help you achieve an open door policy and allow you to improve your workplace.
First, it is critical that management knows and understands the concerns of its employees. Management must listen to employees and put itself in the employees' position if it wants to create a culture of trust and understanding within the organization.
If you are serious about getting valuable input from your people, you must make it easy for them to provide it to you. This might involve a method for them to offer anonymous feedback through a process that allows them to be honest and open without fear of reprisal. This is important because management can't deal with the issues if it doesn't know the issues about which staff are concerned. There are some other methods one could use to get this information. You could ask people to complete an anonymous written survey or use a suggestion box. You could find a trusted person to act as a clearinghouse for information. People could send email messages to this intermediary who could then provide the information to management.
Whatever methods you choose to use should be communicated to everyone. To encourage ownership of the process, ask for employee input in the development of a communications process. Put the policy in writing. Management and employees should discuss the policy to gain as much understanding from one another as possible.
Once you have the policy developed, don't stick it in the employees' handbook and forget about it; instead, publish it over and over. Use as many methods as possible to get the word out and keep it before employees. If you have a newsletter, print the policy there. If you have a bulletin board, post the policy there. If you have "town hall" meetings, talk about the policy in the meetings. If you have "breakfast with the boss" meetings, talk about it there!
Doors will open and stay open when you have good channels of communication. Good communication occurs when we work at it and use various methods to ensure it is maintained. This is a never-ending job that takes just as much effort as any other aspect of running your business, but the payoff is just as great!
Assistance is available from your local Small Business & Technology Development Center to help you with a large variety of business management issues.
- Rick Sparks, Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Centers. For Creating Quality Newsletter, Oct. 2003.