Whether businesses want to improve employee motivation, align resources with business goals, or respond quickly to changing circumstances, the need to engage with employee voice is more compelling than ever. In an organization where employees don’t feel safe to speak, the threat for the business is high. Voice is increasingly relevant to several key themes and opportunities including:
- securing trust and confidence between employees, leaders, and organizations
- creating an inclusive environment
- determining what matters most to stakeholders – employees, customers, shareholders and beyond
- harnessing the views of employees
- safeguarding employee wellbeing and business prosperity
- informing organizations’ response to current issues.
The definition of employee voice can be split into two distinct categories:
- Organizational voice: this represents employees’ efforts to help the organization to perform better (for example, through sharing ideas).
- Individual/employee voice: this refers to the scope for self-expression at work, reflecting whether people feel recognized and valued as human beings, and for views to influence decisions at work, making them feel safe.
Organizational voice: The benefits for employers
A great place to start improving organizational voice is by establishing the connection between voice, employee engagement and business performance. This is more than purely economic. It’s also a moral imperative, particularly for organizations that believe they have a responsibility to enable their employees to lead full lives.
Improving organizational voice can benefit employers in many ways, including:
- Voice offers the opportunity to build and sustain trust – organizations increasingly recognize the importance of trust – between company, leaders, and employees.
- Businesses can gain a quicker understanding of risks, issues, and opportunities. Their ability to mitigate issues for their customers can build a reputation for responsiveness, as well as create the potential for greater growth.
- Positive use of organizational voice can drive advocacy, where, for example, employees may recommend a business as a great place to work and enable recruitment cost savings.
- Great practices in organizational voice enable more diverse perspectives to surface, leading to more inclusive decision making, always making them feel safe.
- Organizational voice also enables employees to share ideas about how to improve their work.
Individual voice: The benefits for employees
The inclusion of employee voice in an organization is not just beneficial to the company and its leaders, but also to employees themselves.
As younger generations enter work whilst the overall workforce is ageing, needs and views are increasingly diverse. Employees seek development for ‘multi-stage’ careers, support for reskilling and appreciation of the needs of different life stages. In short, places where they can feel heard and safe and able to take an active role in shaping their future.
Employees who feel safe and that their individual voices are fully recognized are more likely to experience increased job satisfaction and loyalty as a result.
Research shows that employees who feel genuinely heard are more likely to feel empowered, encouraged and recognized within their role.
This sense of authenticity can also help foster an inclusive environment. When employees can freely express themselves at work, they can voice not only organizational concerns but individual concerns. This in turn allows them to focus their energies on their work, rather than having to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing.
The benefits for employee and employer are demonstrable, in both academic research and business practice. However, these benefits seldom arise spontaneously. They require an encouraging culture, positive leadership, and practical mechanisms. HR plays a significant role in building a high trust culture where there is freedom of expression and an environment that encourages diversity.