Early in my HR career I worked for a company President who would expect an explanation if you had your door closed….and it better be a good one. The expectation was that unless it was something highly confidential we were expected to have our door open so that people knew we were in and that “the door is always open.” Why? Because we bragged about our open door policy to our people. Heaven help you if you didn’t have a good reason for having your door closed.
This President felt it was vitally important that people felt that they could come to us at any time with an issue. When an issue comes up, people are like kids he used to say. “When they need you they need you now…not when it’s convenient for you.” He also used to say that if they came by and the door wasn’t open it was highly likely they would not come back later. When I am working as an employee retention speaker, I tell my audiences you just blew a golden opportunity to interact with one of your people when they were open and willing to share. Those moments don’t come along often and when they do, you have to capitalize on them.
At those moments, people are willing to talk, tell you what’s bothering them so you could help address it like a good HR person or leader should. By addressing the issue you reinforced that you cared enough about them as a leader to be there for them. You couldn’t be there for them if the door wasn’t open. This openness and desire to solve problems was what kept our turnover low and our employees fired up about work. In those days we didn’t talk about engagement unless someone was getting married!
You will be surprised how, if you keep an open door, how many people say “hi,” ask you how you are doing, stop in and chat, etc. This creates natural discussion which builds relationships because you get to know your people better. That is key if a leader wants to have positive employee retention.
As an employee retention expert, the guideline I like to give is that your door should be open 80% of the time. Even if people don’t need to see you…they see that if they want to…they can. An open door sends a powerful message that you are available, accessible and open. All three of which are important when you want your workforce to trust you because if they trust you, they will be willing to tell you the things you need to know to avoid employee turnover. For that reason…it is better to have an open door than have a revolving door of employees leaving.