Here, HR expert Sue Hook tells us why everyone should use Employee Voice in their HR arsenal, why it matters, and how to listen effectively to what it’s telling you.
All employers – from the smallest start-up to the biggest multinational corporations – have something called Employee Voice, it just manifests itself in different ways. From chats over a coffee within small teams, to sweeping employee satisfaction surveys across a whole organisation, garnering the views of employees can make or break a business.
What is Employee Voice?
Exactly what it says on the tin!
Employee Voice is the views of your workforce on everything from tea breaks and toilets to environmental policy and brand identity.
Gathering the views of employees takes many different forms depending on the size and nature of the organisation. It may happen in a randomised, natural way or as part of a structured and regimented process; either way this goldmine of information should be consciously collected, stored and acted upon where appropriate.
Why is it important to listen?
Having an open and honest relationship with your team is vital for business success. Businesses which don’t listen to the concerns or opinions of their workforce may coast along for a while with their fingers in their ears, but sooner or later a spanner will be thrown into the works – a situation which could have been avoided had they paid more attention to the voices around them. An example of this is Deliveroo’s less than successful launch onto the stock market while riders protested about working conditions.
For the employee, that sense of being heard and respected is vital for work satisfaction, motivation and general wellbeing. Employees who feel ignored and undervalued are less productive, which is why the most successful businesses and organisations put time and effort into internal communications, particularly listening.
Essentially, tuning into your Employee Voice should be part of your company values.
There are regulations in place which help employees to be heard – for example when raising safety concerns or filing a grievance – but equally as important is the ethos and culture of your organisation which should incorporate dialogue and engagement.
Tips for tapping in to the conversation
If you’re reading this and thinking of heading to the watercooler for a quick chat then great, but employee engagement should be an ongoing process – not a one-off social experiment.
Employee Voice can be individual or collective, and in larger organisations that can be a challenge. However, a range of mechanisms can be used to garner the thoughts of employees – we’ve listed some below.
As part of this process, it’s vital that your leadership team have good listening skills. Make sure they understand that valuing feedback and taking action where appropriate is part of your company ethos.
Here are some ways to tune into your Employee Voice:
- Surveys. These could be about a specific issue like a change in organisational structure, or an annual employee satisfaction survey which will enable you to track changes over time.
- Suggestion boxes. These may seem antiquated but they can be reinvented into online areas where staff can raise good ideas, concerns or issues anonymously.
- Graffiti walls for brainstorming ideas. These should be used for progressive suggestions and making new connections.
- Small team meetings. Try to allow the time and space in your smaller team meetings for people to give feedback, raise concerns, and contribute ideas. Provide a framework in which to do this, and a behavioural policy of respect amongst all staff.
- Big topic meetings. Occasionally try to encourage your team to step outside the daily demands of their jobs and think about the bigger picture. Ask them for their insights into topics such as how the brand is perceived, or what you could do to reduce your environmental footprint.
- Working parties/employee forums. Establishing a group of staff is always a good idea, even if it only meets rarely. Having representatives for people to approach with issues and who can act as a ‘temperature check’ of the whole organisation and can act as an early warning system. Some businesses go as far as having an employee representative on the board to give insight into staff issues.
- Team away days. Aside from your schedule of Christmas parties or curry nights, try to set aside one or two days a year when your team can get together in a casual setting but with more of a real business purpose. Think of activities or discussion points, or ask a professional facilitator to help you get the most out of the day.
And finally, remember that silence is a form of communication in itself. If you’re hearing radio silence from your employees then don’t assume everything is fine – in fact this is a big red warning flag!
If you’d like some help implementing systems for gathering the views of your employees, please get in touch.