Employee Voice; The Importance Of Listening To Employees

Unless employees are confident enough to speak out, issues like sexual harassment, discrimination, health and safety failings and unethical behaviour can be hidden in a business.

Employee voice is about the people being able to communicate their views to their employer and influence matters that affect them at work. Developing a culture that embraces the employee voice helps to build open and trusting relationships between employers and their people, which in turn can contribute to the overall success of the business.

There are three main purposes for employee voice:

  1. to contribute to the way in which the organisation functions (through idea-sharing, problem solving and employee commitment);
  2. to highlight issues with potentially damaging consequences; and
  3. as a fundamental right of individuals in the workplace which contributes to a sense of meaningful work.

Giving employees a voice is a critical element of establishing a workforce that’s happy, productive, and engaged. It’s not until an employee is convinced that their suggestions play an integral role in decision making that they become willing to communicate ideas, concerns, and opinions.

For employers, effective voice contributes to innovation, productivity and organisational improvement. For employees, it often results in increased job satisfaction, greater influence and better opportunities for development.

What happens when employees don’t have an active voice?

If employees are consistently not heard, they will remain silent. This can cause problems for business, as employees are the eyes and ears on the ground, and employees are able to alert businesses to issues that may otherwise be overlooked.

When employees consistently don’t get heard, it will create a workplace culture of employees just doing what they are told without questioning or bothering to change things because they don’t think anything will result from speaking up.

What can employers do to promote the employee voice?

  • Have open communication channels to encourage employee voice and genuine two-way dialogue. These can be a mixture of both individual and collective, e.g. employee forums, 1-2-1’s.
  • Develop organisational culture to create an environment where employees feel safe to speak out, and empowered to suggest new ways of working.
  • Align business policies and procedures to provide better opportunities for people to have a meaningful voice at work by assessing how job design, organisational policies and processes, values and behaviours can be developed.
  • Train line managers on the behaviours needed to manage positive relationships at work, such as conflict management and having difficult conversations.
  • Conduct employee surveys to collate opinions and evaluate their experiences of workplace issues.
  • Design mechanisms and systems that enable employee involvement at all levels.
  • Develop a standalone ‘speak-up’ policy to include: what an employee should do if they come across malpractice in the business; encourage individuals to inform someone who is in an appropriate position to act on the disclosure; and include reassurance that disclosures will be dealt with in confidence.

How can a business know employee voice is being effective?

One sign of effective employee voice within a business, is the frequency at which employees are participating in discussions around key decisions and changes. Measuring employee engagement can also reveal how well an employee voice programme is working.

If you would like further guidance or support on this matter or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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