Employee concerns always affect productivity, positively or negatively. Occasions when their concerns have no effect are rare and possibly non-existent. This is not a psychologically complex reality. Most managers have seen tangible effects of personal, if not professional issues affecting employee performance.

Employees find new boyfriends/girlfriends, get married, receive their college or graduate degrees, or have other wonderful events occur, and their productivity tends to improve. Conversely, people face divorce, foreclosure, the loss of a parent, issues with children, or a variety of other personal issues, and their productivity declines, for at least the short term.

Work-related concerns have an equal – sometimes greater – effect on employee productivity. Even the issues of just one staff member often affect the performance of a team or department, once again for better or worse. Concerns that are satisfied by management for just one team member can often uplift the performance of the whole group. On the down side, should management not address concerns of even one team member, performance of that employee – and possibly the entire team – typically suffers.

The obvious conclusion: Management should address any concerns that employees have to maintain continuity of performance. Certainly, at times, the answers that management must provide are not what the employee wanted. Yet, their concerns were addressed and efforts made to resolve these issues.

How to Determine Employee Concerns

Management sometimes maintains that they didn’t address employee concerns because they were unaware that one or more issues existed. While this statement may be true, it is imperative that management stay aware of employee concerns so they can address them before small issues become major performance detractors. How can they do this? Just ask. As long as your staff has the security of knowing that they will not be punished or criticized for being truthful about their concerns, they normally will be honest – sometimes brutally honest. But, that is good news. Simple surveys or requests for suggestions or concerns have proven to be sufficient.

The Top 10 Issues that Concern your Employees

Surveys indicate that the following issues are the most common employee concerns in a cross section of all industries. These are not listed in any particular order of importance as people have different concerns when in different situations.

  1. Higher salaries and compensation. Surprise! Few managers should be surprised by this concern.
  2. Benefits programs. This is another very common – and understandable – concern of employees. To limit turnover and increase retention, management typically tries to offer the best benefit program they can afford. Should programs fall short of ideal, management should communicate their dedication to make benefits the best they can be.
  3. Pay increase guidelines. This concern might initially surprise you. Compensation guidelines are normally in place for most larger companies, those with unionized workforces, and government agencies. However, most businesses are classified as smaller companies and it appears that this group often lacks this employee feature, generating confusion and concern from staff.
  4. Favoritism. This important concern may be related to item number three. Most senior management would dispute this concern, but they may be forgetting one important item: perception. Your company may be diligent in prohibiting favoritism, yet the perception of this failing or the possibility of its existence remains a concern of employees.
  5. Pay equity. While this concern may appear to relate to the above two issues, employee feedback indicates that it stems from a different source. Employees want to feel secure they are earning compensation equal to those who are in similar positions and have comparable experience.
  6. The Human Resource Department. Most H.R. professionals are aware of this employee concern. Contemporary workers want and expect their H.R. departments to be fountains of knowledge about a myriad of issues (benefits, compensation, corporate plans and goals, legal and insurance issues, positions to be open in the future, etc.).
  7. Excessive management. Sometimes called “over management” or “micro management,” this concern relates to employees feeling that their every activity is separately managed and little judgment or freedom is permitted.
  8. Inadequate communication. Has anyone heard this concern before? Employees have a need to believe they are “in the loop” by having as much information as possible on employer plans, goals, dreams, news, etc.
  9. Over-work. Employees are often afraid that their efforts and high performance may only result in management asking them to do more for the same compensation. Extra efforts should be rewarded by additional compensation (if possible) and/or a sincere “Thank you” at a minimum. Concern addressed.
  10. Workplace conditions and cleanliness. Management is sometimes caught off guard when advised that this concern consistently appears. But, upon reflection, it is perfectly logical. With more and more people committed to improved health and quality of life in general, it is not surprising that there is deep interest in their workplace physical conditions.

It is important to remember that these items are concerns, not necessarily complaints. Senior management in most companies regularly satisfies these and other employee concerns. This compilation of many statistics, however, does display the most common items of interest to the general workforce.

Asking your staff to advise you of their concerns gives management the opportunity to address issues of importance to their employees. Studies indicate that addressing employee concerns – regardless of the answers – is the most important activity.

Management displays their sincerity, their own concern, and their respect for their workforce. Making an honest attempt to address employee concerns typically results in improved staff performance.