Employee Voice: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?
As employee engagement has grown in importance as an organizational success metric over the past several decades, the concept of the employee voice has become a key focus. In this article, we’ll explore what the employee voice is, and why it matters.
What exactly is the employee voice?
The basic definition for employee voice is giving employees a voice in the direction and decisions made by the organization. While it seems straightforward, that definition has important implications.
First among those is being heard. Having a voice isn’t very meaningful if no one is listening. Giving employees a voice in the workplace can only lead to improvements in the organization (and greater engagement) if someone is listening to what employees have to say—and taking action to address the issues important to them. Otherwise, employees may come to believe (with good reason) that the voice of the employee has no importance in the organization.
The danger here is that when people perceive no one is listening to what they have to say, the tendency is to give up and disengage. Asking employees for feedback and then failing to follow up with communication and action can be worse than not asking at all; it can create a perception that no one cared enough about the feedback to do anything with it.
The takeaway is that giving employees a voice is not the only thing that matters. Employees need to know they are being heard and that the organization is not just checking a box when it asks for their feedback, but is actually listening and attempting to address their concerns.
Employee Voice: Why It Matters
As noted, when people perceive that they aren’t being heard, they tend to disengage. But the opposite is also true: When people know someone is really listening to what they have to say, they become more engaged, if only because there is a back-and-forth discussion that includes them.
Really listening to employees—and making them aware that they’re being heard—gives employees a sense of inclusion that encourages them to invest in the success of the organization. When employees perceive that their opinions are heard and valued, they feel like a valued part of a team. This can not only change their perception of the organization—it also makes them more likely to remain with the company rather than looking elsewhere.
The keys to fostering these feelings of inclusion and being valued are communication and action. Employees won’t know that the organization hears them if what they have to say isn’t acknowledged, and they won’t believe that what they’ve shared matters to the organization if no actions are taken to address the concerns they’ve expressed.
For tips on continuous listening in organizations of all sizes, download the free Perceptyx guide, Continuous Listening: Developing The Right Strategy For Your Organization.
Creating Channels Of Communication
Employee surveys are obviously one method for giving employees a voice. Particularly in large organizations, surveys are an essential tool to give leaders an overview of issues and employee perceptions throughout the organization. But surveys are only one channel of communication; there are many opportunities to create others.
At the team level, open communication between coworkers and between employees and managers can solve many issues; taking this a step further by encouraging teams to share problem-solving approaches that work can foster greater communication between disparate teams. Employee blogs and suggestion pages are another way to get feedback from employees outside of surveys.
In regard to communication around surveys, organizations should communicate at least three times with employees:
- First, to acknowledge survey results and the actions the organization will take to address the feedback
- Again to tell employees what is being done, tying the initiative to the survey feedback (new policies, procedures, or other actions being implemented)
- Once more to report on what was done and how it is working.
Communicating three times on actions is part of the 1-2-3 model for action planning Perceptyx advocates.
Following Up By Taking Action
Action to improve the organization and the employee experience is the ultimate goal of asking for employee feedback. This is where the organization has to step up and “put its money where its mouth is.” Otherwise, asking for feedback is an empty gesture—and employees know it.
When an organization asks employees to share their opinions, there is an implicit contract. If the organization is asking, employees expect that someone will hear what they had to say and do something with it. Employees don’t have the expectation that their individual issues will be addressed, but they do expect to see something done in response to their feedback.
Because action planning is where making changes typically bogs down, Perceptyx has developed an easy to implement 1-2-3 action planning model:
- Choose one issue or problem to focus on.
- Take two actions to address the issue or problem.
- Communicate three times to employees about the actions taken to address the issue, tying the issue and action back to survey responses.
This model allows organizations to focus in on the areas of greatest employee concern and take meaningful action, without getting distracted by other issues and attempting to “boil the ocean” by taking on everything at once. The end result is that taking action doesn’t get mired down in a complicated planning process—and employees see concrete results from sharing their feedback.
Ultimately, organizations can’t be successful unless their employees are aligned with the goals of the organization. If employees aren’t on board, it’s impossible to realize the full measure of success. Giving employees a voice is crucial to making them feel included and valued—both critical elements of engagement.
Beyond that, employees are a rich source of ideas; they are closest to the day-to-day work of the organization and can often see ways to do things better. Really listening to employees and considering their perspectives and opinions can help the organization improve in all aspects—including the bottom line.
See the way forward to giving employees a voice in your organization.
The Perceptyx survey platform gives you the flexibility to develop a listening strategy that fits the needs of your organization. Combined with support from our analytics experts, our platform can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your people’s perceptions, so you can provide the support they need to be engaged and productive.
Request a demo to see how we can help your organization develop the perfect listening strategy for your needs.