Dear LGRC Members and Local Government Community:
Please find attached the final research report on Red Tape, Green Tape and Grievance Policies in Local Government Organizations. This inaugural LGRC-funded project sought to understand the design and effects of local government employee grievance policies through qualitative and quantitative data collected from North Carolina cities and counties.
A few comments on the report are in order. The comments are based on my personal insights, speaking beyond the data about how I would respond to this research if I were a local government manager.
Based on the research, my first order of business would be to update my organization’s grievance policy. Grievance processes appear to get rusty if they lay dormant for a period of time. The average grievance policy among survey respondents is eight years of age, with older grievance policies perceived as less effective than newer grievance policies. It makes sense to update grievance policies every two to five years depending on changes in organization leadership, employment law, and workforce composition.
My second order of business would be to minimize employee grievances. While the report suggests that grievance rates are low, grievance processes are time-consuming, produce outcomes that tend to favor management, and exact an emotional toll on employees and supervisors alike. To minimize grievances, I would make sure that my organization had a functional performance appraisal system, a meaningful employee survey process, and effective supervisory training.
My third order of business would be to create a human capital management dashboard that reported real-time data on turnover, terminations, suspensions, disciplinary actions, and grievances by department. This would allow me to identify human capital hotspots in need of managerial support. It would also enable me to understand the organization, inside and out. Ideally, HR would be so well versed in our organization’s data that there would be no need for laborious data retrieval. Data analysis and interpretation would be embedded in the management culture.
My fourth action item would be to conduct a green tape evaluation of my organization’s grievance process. This evaluation would solicit input from key stakeholder groups on the current grievance process (e.g. senior managers, employees, supervisors, human resource professionals). The grievance process would be evaluated against the five green tape criteria for effective rules – the purpose and logic of the grievance process, the quality and clarity of written requirements, the level of control, the consistency of grievance process application and the extent to which grievance processes were understood. Any weaknesses in these criteria would be flagged for action, whether through policy re-design, communication or training.
Finally, I would re-name my organization’s grievance process to be an appeals process. “Appeal” is a less divisive and more neutral term than “grievance.” This is linguistic preference on my part.
It has been a privilege serving as principle investigator on the LGRC’s first funded research project.
Leisha DeHart-Davis, PhD
Albert and Gladys Coates Distinguished Term Associate Professor