Many employers employ quantitative and qualitative tools to measure employee engagement and satisfaction in the workplace. As 2015 draws to a close, and we reflect on the events of the previous year and plan for 2016, workplace engagement and satisfaction surveys can be a useful litmus test for employers seeking to promote a harmonious, productive and satisfied workplace.
Keeping employees happy and engaged can have an important preventative effect with respect to an organization's legal costs. For example, studies have shown that proactively engaging employees and ensuring a positive work environment can reduce the number of workers' compensation claims. With the relatively recent advent of 'bullying and harassment ' provisions in workers compensation legislation nationally, testing the level of satisfaction and engagement can militate against powder keg environments, and can give employers the basis for implementing targeted and useful preventative measures.
In British Columbia, the Workers Compensation Act Occupational Health and Safety Regulations provide that employers have an over-arching duty to "ensure the health and safety of all workers working for that employer", which, relatively recently, includes a duty to ensure that the working environment is free of bullying and harassment. Employee engagement and satisfaction surveys, then, can be a useful tool for organizations looking to test the level of, or improve, their compliance. Furthermore, employees who negatively perceive their working environments may be more inclined towards alleging constructive dismissal, or to allege intentional infliction of mental distress, which can lead to liability for an employer. Again, measuring employee satisfaction early-on can help to avoid potentially costly situations down the road.
This being said, satisfaction surveys do far more than merely assist an employer in meeting its legal obligations or to help an employer to avoid costly wrongful dismissal actions. There are a multitude of studies which suggest that happy and engaged employees are more productive, more creative and more profitable for an organization.
Holiday parties are a great way to bring employees together in a way that removes them from the typical rigors of the workplace. Employees who enjoy each-others' company in a social setting may forge bonds which create more cohesive and productive teams in the office.
However, each holiday season, many employers face increased legal risk as a result of employer-organized holiday parties where alcohol is consumed. This being said, discrimination claims, harassment claims, and many other HR (and PR!) nightmares may be preventable with a few simple steps. Of course, every situation is different, but common sense and responsible party-going should rule the day. Things employers can do to help prevent against holiday-party fall-out include:
- As employees enjoy a few eggnogs at the firm party, ensure no one is over-served, and that transportation is available, and has been clearly pointed out to partygoers before and during the event;
- Redistribution of the organization's harassment policies well ahead of any soirees, to serve as a gentle reminder that professional and respectful behaviour is always required regardless of the setting; and
- Redistribution of any social media policies, or the creation of such a policy, to ensure that employees are not snapping, and publically disseminating, photos of their co-workers without consent;
These measures, among others, may reduce the likelihood of toxic problems emerging in the workplace that could directly or indirectly result in legal risk exposure for the employer.
Wishing you a safe and joyful holiday season, and a happy and productive 2016!
For more information, visit our Employment and Labour blog at www.employmentandlabour.com
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