Streamlining a Backlog of Grievances
When I took over as a new Employee Relations Manager there was a back log of unanswered grievances of over a thousand. The position had been vacant for over six months and the grievances were not answered. No one had taken the initiative of answering the grievances. The atmosphere in the plant was hostile to say the least.
The As Is process for answering grievances and the stages was very well documented and clear. Contractually you could not change the process unless the union agreed to the change. So a To Be exercise was out of the question.
We formed a very small Kaizen team to attempt to deal with the back log. We decided to try to gather voice of the customer data but soon realized that the union just wanted the grievances answered. We then decided to use an affinity type tools often used in understanding the voice of the customer. We started to classify the grievances by type and soon discovered that generally there were only seven categories of types of grievances. With the help of a database we entered all the grievances and sorted them by the agreed to seven affinity types. We then crafted similar but consistent answers to the grievances by type and moved the grievances out of the first step. The database gave us an advantage of answering the grievances consistently and quickly. We also now had a history of our answers for future grievances.
The union was astounded that we had answered all the grievances although many were not the answers that they wanted; they now had answers that they could show their union members. We also introduced a professional way to track and answer future grievances.