Employee Voice - Why it's Important

Employee Voice - Why it's Important
“Recognising the importance of employee voice is vital if you want to facilitate prolonged and sustainable company growth. Encouraging an open, honest and transparent environment within your business is a prerequisite to creating a more positive and productive workplace. Champion your team and they will champion you.”

Will Murray
, CEO of Oak Engage and Internal Communications Expert

Employee Voice - What is it?

Successful businesses all have one thing in common. Employee voice is at the very top of their priority list. Why? Simple, when you care about your employees, they’ll care about you. It's a simple case of reciprocation. Employees that are passionate about their company are the very same employees that will go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service to customers on a regular basis. Empower your staff, empower your business.

For employers, employee voice is synonymous with higher levels of innovation and productivity – not to mention the added benefits of improved organisational procedures. For staff, it can lead to an increase in job satisfaction and a greater influence on the way in which they work.

A shift towards improving the employee experience has massive implications for the modern-day digital workplace. Big businesses are starting to listen to their staff, value their opinions and embrace a more rounded, holistic vision of themselves. No more is decision making and company strategy the sole preserve of those in leadership roles.

These days, feedback from employees is welcome, if not sought after. This is, in part, due to the fact businesses are now savvy to the fact that small teams of high-ranking individuals rarely possess all the knowledge spread across the entirety of their organisation.

With organisations growing more and more complex, specialist roles are becoming more common and important. Those that rely on specialist staff to deliver unique, nuanced perspectives benefit from valuable and experience led insights. It allows organisations to utilise vast knowledge bases courtesy of their most skilled people.

This facilitates greater and more accurate insights, enabling leaders to inform their strategies, make better decisions and benefit from more positive outcomes.

employee voice definition Oak Engage - The extent to which employees are given the ability to participate in a wider discussion concerning welfare, wellbeing, strategic objectives and more in relation to their employer

Identifying Problems

For many big brands around the world, employee voice is an effective tool for outlining problems that may be occurring within their business. It has been widely reported that ineffective processes waste 26% of an employee’s working day.

If a staff member feels that something could work better, or that they could do something more efficiently, giving the employee the platform necessary to make their comments more visible to superiors.

By putting their feedback into an open and much more visible forum (often for other team members to see) pressure is put on those at the top to provide the resources necessary to address the problem at hand.

Not only does employee voice prove as an efficient means for staff to highlight potential problem areas to those higher up the chain, but it’s also an effective means of accelerating the communication process to solve the problem. How many times are issues highlighted, only to never be resolved because of poor and inefficient communication between departments?

When employees are given a platform to communicate with their superiors, ‘bureaucratic middleman’ is taken right out of the equation. With leadership having full visibility of the employee and or department that raised the red flag in the first place, they are empowered to resolve the situation much faster and much more efficiently.

employee voice examples Oak Engage Infographic

The Importance of Perspective

Businesses in which employees can speak freely have been historically shown to be more agile and adaptable when it comes to overcoming problems within the business. By utilising employee voice within an organisation, those in leadership positions are better placed to identify problems at their root and rely on the experience of those on the frontlines daily.

If a problem arises that an employee with the relevant experience may able to find a suggestion to, it only makes sense for a business to extend its lines of communication to incorporate all staff – regardless of seniority.

It’s easy for managers to lose sight of what matters and lose touch. Unless staff can be truthful about the effectiveness of how day-to-day operations are run, the implementation of meaningful changes can be few and far between. A lack of real perspective from those at the top can prove one of the biggest barriers to success. The importance of employee voice is such that without it, even the most experienced leadership team run the risk of losing perspective. 

According to Collins (2001) encouraging an atmosphere in which employees are able to speak truthfully is essential for organisations to respond to changing industry conditions and address problems within their business. Unless employees can be honest about how an organisation really operates, it will prove difficult to make meaningful improvements. Sustainable change starts with transparency and honesty. By being open with their employers, employees can provide an indication of what is and what isn’t working.

Freedom of speech is key. Allowing your employees to share their opinions on the shortcomings (and successes) of a company is imperative to encouraging growth. It’s important to reinforce the notion that constructive conversation is encouraged and that negative repercussions aren’t in play.

Perlow and Williams suggest that when employees are incapable of speaking out, negative emotions like resentment and anger become much more common. Negative emotions impact our ability to be productive and place a further strain on professional relationships. 

Maintaining a Competitive Edge 

Revenue, turnover and awards aren’t the only things worth competing for if you’re trying to grow your business. Chances are that if you aren’t, your competitors are already utilising employee voice to gain a competitive edge. You're not the only ones wise to its importance. In doing so, they’re capitalising on what’s known as social capital. The more social capital they accrue, the more effectively their teams work together.

When a company works efficiently, financial success is never far behind. Social capital is an essential resource for those trying to take their business to the next level. Defined by Investopedia as a ‘positive product of human interaction” and as “the contribution to an organisation’s success that can be attributed to personal relationships and networks”, social capital is an important ingredient to achieving success.

Not only can social capital be used to measure how effectively teams are working and the overall functionality of their workplace dynamic but it’s also a useful indicator of your employee’s overall satisfaction. Now more than ever, social capital is a critical indicator of wider company success.

Employee Voice and Your Business

When it comes to determining where employee voice fits in your business, it’s important that you assess your own individual needs and the needs of your employees. A study by Salesforce, “The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business”, found that employees who felt like their voices were being heard were 4.6x more likely to do their best work. However, a Gallup statistic that has been cited a lot in the last few years is that disengagement costs roughly a third of an employee’s salary in lost productivity.  Whilst employee voice offers businesses a variety of different benefits, no two businesses are the same. What works for one may not work for another.

It’s simply a case of trial and error and figuring out the most effective way forward for your particular niche. Whatever method you choose, it’s important that it reflects the transparency and honesty that you first set out to achieve.

It’s worth reminding yourself every now and again that your employees are the secret sauce to your success. Profit is nothing without people. With the unique perspective of your employees, you can focus on building solid foundations and defining a purposeful trajectory. Acknowledging the importance of employee voice is the first step on road to sustainable company success.

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