What is employee voice? It is the employees’ means of communicating their opinions and views to their employers. It is the means by which employees can make an impact on matters that concern them at the workplace. Employee voice is not beneficial to the employees alone. Employers stand to gain too by way of the innovative mentality of the workforce and better productivity.
If there is employee voice throughout the organisation, views are not just reinforced but also challenged. The culture of the organisation becomes one where its employees are not considered the problem, but the sources of ideas and suggestions for solving the problems.
Such employees are the ones who feel a sense of belongingness and are satisfied in the knowledge that the organisation values their opinions. They feel heard and are proud to be part of an organisation that invites their suggestions and feedback.
However, employee voice only exists in organisations that have introduced systems and mechanisms to facilitate regular conversations with the staff. They offer channels for each employee to raise issues and express themselves.
Why is employee voice significant?
Through employee voice it is possible for organisations to find out if all is well and whether there is some issue that needs immediate attention. Only if issues or oversights are caught on time can remedial action be taken before there is irreparable harm.
How can employee voice be ensured?
• Members of the workforce should be empowered to redesign their own work and tasks to increase efficiency. They should be able to adopt ways to simplify the processes so that there is overall improvement in productivity and customer service. They should be able to obtain satisfaction and a memorable work experience and also manage to pass on a similar experience to their customers.
• Employees should be able to contribute to the re-engineering of business processes with their own innovations and ideas, and play a significant role in driving business growth and cut costs.
• Engagement surveys can be conducted online to find out employees’ experiences with the organisation and things they wish to change about the organisation.
• Regular meetings can be arranged with the senior leadership of the organisation, where employees can openly interact and get their questions answered or doubts clarified. This can serve as a platform for exchange of views, ideas and opinions. This can also be an opportunity to apprise employees of all the latest developments in the organisation.
• Employees can be asked to post their suggestions or ideas on a common online platform, where everyone can see and comment on them. If some of these ideas are able to garner significant support, they can be implemented. This can also happen through a message board.
• Leaders should take time out to meet and listen to the issues of all levels of employees and work out a solution together.
• Support groups of employees can be formed in which managers and their team members can together discuss activities to improve engagement and team work. Such support can exist outside the organisation too.
• A day can be devoted to sharing of experiences by employees with fellow employees. At times, by recounting their own experiences employees discover hidden aspects about themselves. This also contributes to inclusiveness and diversity, with employees of all ages, castes, faiths and sexual orientation coming together to exchange their experiences, knowledge and stories. Some of these stories can be very inspirational.
A working environment where employees’ voices are heard ensures a happier and more contented workforce. With the evolution of internal mechanisms meant to ensure that employees are heard, formal voice architecture is being implemented by most modern offices —employee forums, suggestion schemes, or new feedback technologies. However, there are not many HR professionals who take employee voice seriously. It is yet to make it to the top of their list of priorities.
The success of businesses rests on innovations, exploration of new markets, efficiency, and enhanced customer service. For all these, employee voice is an active contributor. As mentioned earlier, if employees are heard, it will be possible for the business to take the right action at the right time before things go out of control. Employees are the ones who interact directly with the customers and experience things first hand on the shop floor. Therefore, feedback from them should be valued, not just about the business per se, but about their own experiences working with the organisation. Employee voice should be heard. It keeps the employees engaged and happy, and brings success to the business.