You can define an open door policy as a workplace standard that allows employees to communicate job-related issues with senior executives and/or immediate supervisors, depending on the circumstances. If an employee struggles with their manager, an open door policy may allow them to speak with a more senior employee about the issue.
Advantages of an open door policy
One purpose of an open door policy is that it can serve as an "early warning system" for issues lurking beneath the surface in a business. In the frenetic environment of a new startup, for example, entrepreneurs may focus on forward-looking activities and overlook underlying problems. Doing this means the startup owner may fail to acknowledge the concerns various employees are carrying around with them, which may be distracting them from doing their jobs. With an open door policy, employees know you want to be informed about conflict when it happens and help them find a resolution as soon as possible.
There can be many advantages to having an open door policy, some of which may include:
Improved communication across all levels of the business.
Help solving problems between supervisors and their team members.
Addressing issues or challenges proactively before they become larger problem areas.
Encouraging healthy and constructive discussions.
Gauging various perspectives around job satisfaction and workplace perception.
Establishing trust with and among employees.
Promoting an open and welcoming work culture
What can happen without an open door policy?
When you don't foster an open door policy or environment in the workplace, the effects can be equally significant. Without this policy:
A manager, supervisor, or owner can isolate themselves from their teams.
Managers may not have the visibility to appropriately address employee performance issues, which can worsen over time.
Overall team morale can plummet in an environment where no open discussion takes place or there's a perception of a secretive company culture.
The quality of the culture can decline, which can lead to a drop in productivity and/or increased employee turnover.
How easily employees can communicate with a business owner or leader can also impact the bottom line. An individual who's blocked by an operational issue or obstacle may not be as productive as they could be. What they may need is access to someone who can advise them or help resolve the issue. That's why it's essential to take steps to implement an open door policy that makes sense for your business.
Setting up an open door policy
Setting up an open door policy doesn't have to be difficult. It also doesn't mean your office door is literally open to employee questions and feedback every hour of the day. Keep the following in mind:
Set and follow through on open door boundaries. Remind employees that your time, like theirs, is extremely valuable. Being responsible for the company's overall well-being means you can't be personally available as much as you might like. Encourage employees to carefully think through a problem and possible solution on their own before approaching you.
Let your staff know that an open door policy doesn't exist to spread gossip or rumors. The focus is always on exploring obstacles or opportunities, and coming up with practical solutions and next steps.
An open door communication policy is a great chance to hone your listening skills. This can be difficult, as many owners and managers are often eager to talk and may feel a need to fill the voids in a conversation. You may better serve your team members when you use active listening and a closer observation of the employee's nonverbal cues. The ability to listen well is beneficial in virtually all business situations, so this is a great way to sharpen those skills to use later with customers and vendors.
Communication is an essential resource for engaging and retaining your valued employees, particularly during challenging times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping those lines open with an active open door policy in the workplace, you can help keep morale up and reinforce your dedication to your staff