HR Mavericks

Eddy’s HR Mavericks Encyclopedia

Open Door Policy

Do you ever wonder how to improve communication within your team or company? An open-door policy might be a good first step. Wondering what this is and how it can help your company? Keep reading!

What is an Open Door Policy?

An open door policy means that the management team’s “door” is open to everyone at all times. The policy encourages open communication and accessibility and reduces the traditional hierarchical system.

Why Should Employers Implement an Open Door Policy?

There are several benefits of implementing an open-door policy in the workplace. To drive a transparent culture in your company, an open-door policy should be highly encouraged. Having an open-door policy is a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.
  • Encourages effective communication. Good communication is one of the foundations of a great workplace. Often employees have concerns and suggestions at work and want to be able to communicate with their managers. If the manager’s door is “open,” effective communication between the employees and management can take place and lead to actionable feedback and better results.
  • Improves accessibility. Employees feeling they can access management about an issue is instrumental for a company’s success. Employees are more likely to feel comfortable raising concerns and recommending suggestions and ideas to managers who are accessible. This accessibility helps improve the relationship between managers and employees as they have a better understanding of how employees feel and what is happening in their team and company.
  • Improves working relationships. An open door policy encourages a culture of openness and shows employees that the management team is genuinely interested in them. This encourages employees to seek their manager’s help and freely discuss things with them for better clarity. This fosters better working relationships.
  • Improves retention. Companies that encourage effective communication have a higher retention rate than companies that have poor communication. An open-door policy improves communication and significantly improves retention.
  • Gives fast access to information. When employees know managers’ doors are open, it increases their likelihood of approaching the manager when there is a problem. If employees don’t feel they can talk to their managers, the problem lingers for a long time and can be passed on to new and existing employees in the company. It then begins to affect performance.

How to Implement an Open Door Policy

Implementing an open door policy correctly is very important for its success. Here are a few steps to follow as a general guide.

Step 1: Get Manager Buy-In

HR will need to get managers' input and enable them to practice the open-door policy. This includes training them about the benefits of an open-door policy and how to respond to issues when their employees approach them.

Step 2: Encourage Upward Communication

HR can actively encourage upward communication which can include 360 appraisals, stay interviews, weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one conversations and team debriefs. These things stimulate communication across the company and encourage feedback.

Step 3: Set Clear Rules

It is best to set standard procedures around this policy. These procedures could include specific times employees can reach managers, channels of communication, topics that can be discussed and paying attention to chat statuses (e.g. “busy” status on Slack). This is so that employees know how to reach their managers and if it’s a good time, and who they should take their concerns to.

Step 4: Communicate Clearly

Beyond writing a comprehensive policy and procedure, it is also important to keep reminding employees about the ways they can approach management, and inform new employees during onboarding and re-onboarding of existing employees.

Step 5: Listen to Employees

Managers should consciously listen to employees’ concerns or feedback and understand their concerns. They should practice active listening as this will encourage employees to come back because they are more approachable.

Step 6: Get Constant Feedback

Finally, it is helpful to gather feedback on every process implemented such as through surveys, stay interviews, etc. The feedback will help constantly improve the process and address specific concerns.

Common Challenges of an Open Door Policy

While having an open-door policy can be beneficial for your organization, it may also have challenges.

Disrupting the Chain of Command

Because employees feel they have access to everyone in the organization, they can go over their line manager to speak to executives because the policy allows this. This may lessen the authority or influence of the line manager. It also puts the higher manager in an awkward situation of how to handle such situations.

Causing a Decline in Productivity

If not controlled, some employees might take a lot of their managers time when they approach them with several issues. Some employees might even meet their managers with trivial issues, causing both the employees and managers to fail to complete their tasks, in turn affecting the overall productivity.

Making Employees Too Reliant on Managers

Too much of this can make employees too reliant on their managers. Instead of solving problems independently, they might just run to their managers and not take initiative.

Best Practices for an Effective Open Door Policy

After weighing the possible benefits and challenges of an open-door policy and implementing it in your company, it is also important to know how to maintain it and make it effective across the company.

Include the Policy in your Employee Handbook

This policy should be added to your employee handbook and made accessible to all employees. It’s important for all managers and employees to follow it.

Communicate Clear Expectations

Every employee should know what the open-door policy means in your company. There should be clear guidelines, procedures and responsibilities for all stakeholders and employees so that everyone gets the best out of the policy.

Set Boundaries

There should be clear boundaries that everyone in the company is aware of. Such boundaries could include the type of topics that can be discussed, as well as who to speak to on specific topics, the channels of communication, etc.

Pay Attention to Employees

Encourage your managers to always give employees a listening ear and their full attention when they approach them with concerns or suggestions. This encourages employees to approach them next time.

Respond Promptly

Having an open-door policy also means that issues should be addressed on time.
Adeteju Adeleye

Adeteju Adeleye

Adeteju is a People & Culture Manager with about 5 years experience across the financial services and technology sector. Her experience cuts across the entire employee lifecycle. However, her strengths lie in Employee Engagement & Experience, HR Strategy and Talent Management. She is very passionate about her job and the people she works with. When she’s not working, you can find her watching movies, listening to good music or having a good time!
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