“Without voice, value cannot be created. Value is not only created through people, it is co-created through people inspired by a common purpose, working to shared values, inspired and engaged, giving more of themselves to a common and shared endeavour”.[1]


Our world is growing. Cities, populations, businesses and institutions are expanding, and alongside this expansion comes the need for adaptation and reflection on how we may nurture and provide framework for this growth. Success is not a given or a fixed outcome. In our wide-reaching corporate environments, in which many of us are or will be employed at some point in life, it is easy to feel disconnected with the upper layers; to feel lost in the rat race, an ant in an anthill, a needle in a haystack… The list of metaphors goes on. It is no new concept that communication is vital to maintaining a sense of connection and identity at work – after all, trade unions designed for this very purpose date back to 1818 in the UK and have been around ever since. Companies nowadays are recognising the importance of feedback and reciprocity for a progressive and dynamic business, vital for smooth sailing in an uncertain financial climate.

The term “employee voice” is the active participation of workers in organisational decision making, or “the ways and means through which employees attempt to have a say and potentially influence organisational affairs about issues that affect their work and the interests of managers and owners”[2]. In less technical terms, we are talking about free speech, honesty, opinion; all the things that make us feel valued and involved within and outside of the workplace, and which give us an instrument for feedback and accountability. Employee voice can incorporate mechanisms such as employee engagement surveys, face to face meetings, ‘suggestion box’ constructs, discussions of company-wide issues in focus groups, forums and solutions groups. The list is non-exhaustive; the definition should include anything that nurtures an environment of exchange and openness. Of course, there is no ‘real’ voice if it is not listened to[3], and the onus is on the company to create channels and structures that support employees’ contributions.

Benefits of this kind of working environment are exponential. The redesign and adaptation of business is returned to the control of the employees, who can make use of their hands-on knowledge and experience to advise owners and managers for a change. This “challenge to the traditional notion of design”[4] is without doubt the path to a strengthened employee network and a successful and sustainable business[5]. Costs can be reduced and problems can be detected and isolated early in their formation. Business is, after all, about interpersonal connection. It is easy to overlook or forget that to make things work well we need to communicate – proper reciprocal communication, something that has become something of an antiquity in our 21st century technological spiders’ webs. Traditional business blueprints must be challenged and critiqued.[6] Research has revealed that in many cases the main barrier to effective employee voice comes from staff themselves[7]. In this respect, once companies have created the necessary framework, it is up to us as employees to share the burden of effective communication and really engage with the matters that affect us in order to effect change. This in turn will foster stronger links and professional loyalty; authentic working environments which we are proud and happy to be a part of.

 


Article By: Kyna Bowers 


[1] Tony Manwaring, Chief Executive of Tomorrow’s Company, http://www.onrec.com/news/news-archive/we-need-to-talk-with-and-listen-to-our-employees-why-employee-voice-is-the-route-t

[2] Wilkinson A.Dundon ,Donaghey J and R.Freeman (2014) The Handbook of employee voice, Elgar

[3] Changing Patterns of Employee Voice: Case Studies from the UK and Republic of Ireland Journal of Industrial Relations September 2004 46: 298-322,

[4] http://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/strategy-news/we-need-to-talk-with-and-listen-to-our-employees-why-employee-voice-is-the-route-to-sustainable-business-success/40429

[5] As shown in Rethinking Employee Voice, an Employee Voice Survey conducted by IPA and Tomorrow’s Company, 2012 http://www.ipa-involve.com/resources/publications/rethinking-employee-voice-employee-voice-survey/

 [6] http://www.onrec.com/news/news-archive/we-need-to-talk-with-and-listen-to-our-employees-why-employee-voice-is-the-route-t

[7] Changing Patterns of Employee Voice: Case Studies from the UK and Republic of Ireland Journal of Industrial Relations September 2004 46: p