By empowering the “employee voice,” organizations create a better and more productive workplace. At an individual level, those employees who feel that they can speak up about workplace issues are much more successful at their jobs. While we’re looking at rethinking and reforming – or reengineering – the workplace, we should ensure employees have more have a say in this. To put it simply, we should empower the employee voice.
The key to reforming or building a strong company culture
We’ve talked a lot in this series about company culture and how resilience, trust, and transparent communication are all key to building this. By creating a safe space for the employee voice to be listened to, you create a culture that is open and willing to work on improving things rather than one where leaving seems like the best option.
Sadly, only 25% – or 1 in 4 – employees feel that they can express themselves freely at work.
There are some obvious reasons for this. An individual may be worried they will be singled out as a troublemaker or complainer; they may be worried they’ll be overlooked for advancement and opportunities, or they may have seen a colleague suffer after speaking out and not want the same fate. Perhaps even more worryingly is that some employees won’t want to speak out because they believe they will not be listened to and that even if they do say something, there will be no action taken to change things. If you see this in your organization, you should start listening to the employee voice.
Vital discoveries through the employee voice
If we look at the meaning of the term “employee voice” it can be explained as ensuring that every employee across all levels of the business is able to freely communicate those things that are important to them. This can be spoken or written communication, but the key factor is that employees feel that they can express themselves without fear of retribution.
As well as creating an inclusive company culture, empowering the employee voice has other benefits for your business. When your people feel heard, they are likely to be happier, more engaged and more productive. Furthermore, your employees can be an early warning detector – bringing issues to your attention before they become big problems requiring costly (financial and reputation) fixes.
Empowering the employee voice is particularly important for employees in regular contact with your clients and customers. They are often the first point of contact for hearing about any issues or complaints and are the ones who can escalate these to management for attention. This insight allows you to nip the problem in the bud, and if you do it well, you can improve your brand sentiment, loyalty and likely get some form of customer endorsement on social media.
Strengthening the employee voice
While there is no single way to strengthen your employees’ voice, the fundamentals are consistent across all industries. Your employees need to feel respected and heard, and they need to feel they can express themselves without repercussions. Another thing to remember is that the employee voice is not a singular entity. Each of your employees should feel they have a voice, even if what they are saying is largely the same. Giving your quietest employee voice the same attention as the loudest one will go a long way to encouraging all your employees to speak up, and in turn, strengthen your company culture.
Whether you are considering reforming your workplace or want to improve employee sentiment and engagement, encouraging and leveraging the voice of your employees is critical to ongoing success.