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What is employee voice?
Employee voice an incredibly important and powerful thing to invest in. But what is it, why is it so important, and how can giving your employees a strong voice play its part in your employee engagement strategies?
Employee voice, in its simplest form, is the ease with which employees can communicate their views to their employer, how much influence they have on affecting change, and how much they feel they are listened to by the organisation they work for.
It refers to people feeling that they are part of the solution, rather than the problem and that they can speak without fear about issues that affect them. It is the way that your workforce feel they are listened to, and that their voice is part of the decision making process.
Employee voice is central to a successful business – when you trust your employees to be part of the solution, listen to their opinions and give them a voice on things that affect their work, you’ll build trust, engagement and strong relationships.
Why is employee voice important in the workplace?
So why is it so important? Having a strong employee voice gives you a chance to include people all over your business in important decisions, from frontline staff up to managers.
It helps identify problems within the workplace
When employees feel comfortable speaking up, they’re much more likely to be open about any problems they experience in their work. Whether it’s a grievance or simply a process they think could be done better. When you encourage an employee voice mechanism you’ll find people are much more likely to come to you about concerns or suggestions.
It increases your organisations’ agility
Creating an atmosphere where employees feel they are listened to has wide-reaching benefits. Importantly, when they feel they can talk about problems it allows leadership or HR to create incentives and processes quickly, making changes in as agile a way as possible.
It helps with your brand
When there’s a culture of transparency and communication, your employees or customers are much less likely to take their grievances to social media or review sites. When they don’t feel comfortable speaking to you they’re much more likely to share these either online or via word of mouth and this could do serious damage to your brand.
It’s not just brand defence either when you’re open and to listen to your employees that will be noticed.
It can increase employee engagement
As part of an overarching strategy, putting mechanisms in place for a better employee voice can greatly increase employee engagement. We’ll touch on this in more detail later, but the short of it is that employees who feel actively listened to and part of a team are more likely to be engaged with the organisation.
It improves decision making
When communication channels are open and dialogue flows between employees, including leadership, decisions can be much easier to make. When your management team already knows how something could affect employees, or what their stance is on a particular issue, it can lead to faster problem solving and quick decision making.
The benefits of employee voice
Now you can see how important a culture of transparency can be for your workplace. But what about the direct benefits for your employees within the workplace?
Transparency & communication improves culture
Sure, you may have an idea about what you want your culture to be, but what about your employees? Opening up the conversation lets you find out what sort of company they want to work for, what they want to stand for, and what they don’t. Listening and involving them in the discussion gives you a chance to change your culture to something that makes them feel more comfortable. Creating an environment where people feel valued and safe helps with job satisfaction too.
Develops individuals and the whole
When people feel they can speak up, it not only helps them develop their own confidence but gives you a chance to find out the best ways to develop their skills. When they feel they can ask for training or help with a particular task, it will only help them improve their work.
When you have a culture that encourages participation, it can help groups too. When people are communicating effectively you can leverage different skill sets and use the diversity in your organisation to your advantage. Group learning can improve work processes and build teamwork.
Increases focus on work when they feel listened to
If your employees have a positive experience when they speak up or voice an opinion, it’s going to go a long way in helping them to concentrate on their work. When they know that their problems will be solved and their issues are taken to heart they will spend less time fretting or complaining and can commit more of that concentrated time to their work.
Employee voice and employee retention go hand in hand
When people feel that their voices are heard and that an organisation is willing to act on feedback, not just listen, they are much less likely to look elsewhere.
If you are willing to develop people based on their feedback, change work processes, improve company culture, listen to views and improve your employee’s experience then they will be more willing to stay with your company long term.
Promotes a supportive environment
Giving your employees a voice isn’t just about your leadership or HR teams listening. When your employees feel they can speak up, anywhere in the business, and be met with support and solutions it can greatly improve your overall environment.
Reduces negativity internally and externally
When people feel like they can’t speak up and that the voice of the employee is ignored, resentment can fester unchecked. This can lead to a negative atmosphere within your organisation, whether it’s just between a few individuals or entire teams.
This resentment can also manifest outside of your business too, with people passing on negative thoughts to other people in your industry or customers. When they feel they can speak openly, to HR, in team meetings, trade unions, or with other employees, they’re much less likely to feel negative.
Why employee voice matters in employee engagement strategies
Employee voice and engagement go hand in hand. When individual staff members feel they’re listened to they’ll be significantly more engaged. So what’s the purpose of employee voice in terms of an overarching engagement strategy?
When you’re implementing an engagement strategy, you’ll likely have identified a few key areas you want to focus on. These include communication, employee development, open feedback, and retention. You’ll find that mechanisms for improving employee voice fit into each of these seamlessly. When you build an environment that allows employees to talk freely and with confidence, it will:
- Encourage communication
- Open up development opportunities
- Give people a chance to provide feedback without fear
- Make people feel they are being listened to and that they are valued
- Improve your staff retention
How to encourage employee voice in the workplace
So how do you go about encouraging employee voice in your organisation? Helping people to understand the importance of employee voice is a start, but there are a number of initiatives you can consider introducing that can help. These generally won’t work on their own but can be combined as part of an engagement strategy.
Introduce engagement surveys
Running employee engagement surveys can give employees a regular outlet to give feedback to HR or managers. When you ask the right employee engagement questions, you’ll be able to drill down to specifics of what the problems are, effectively measure employee engagement and then create strategies and introduce initiatives based on the results.
Running these regularly gives you extra touchpoints and a chance to benchmark your results and see how they improve over time. Make sure you act on the results and communicate them properly with your employees.
Run pulse surveys alongside
While you should still run your engagement surveys annually or bi-annually, having a regular opportunity for feedback, like a pulse survey, is important. This gives you a chance to get feedback regularly and gives you a chance to open up conversations on a variety of topics.
Introduce communication initiatives
Alongside surveys there are a number of other engagement initiatives you could introduce. These include development ideas or wellbeing initiatives. For employee voice, it’s the communication that’s key. Consider things like:
- Nominate employee representatives – make it known who people can go to if they have a problem and that these employees have a direct line to other parts of the business.
- Host open meetings – allow employees access to your leadership in unstructured meetings, and host ideas sessions with an open invite.
- Suggestion boxes & ideas walls – there are various ways you can create this, but offer your employees the chance to give feedback anonymously. If you do it creatively you may get suggestions you never expected.
- Run forums – You can run these with your leadership team, or with frontline staff. It could work differently depending on the situation, but getting a group of people together and hosting a forum with a key topic where people can come and offer solutions can work wonders.
- Run groups focused on solving problems – create teams and set agendas for meetings where they are tasked with solving a problem within your organisation. Giving people the chance to help solve key problems keeps them engaged.
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