3 Compelling Reasons Why Leaders Should Give Employees A Voice
By Saskia Jones
Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best at work, according to a recent Salesforce report.
Employees have found a public voice. This is happening whether their leaders like it or not.
Leaders today need to empower employees to have a voice at work. They’ll achieve far more engagement and even bolster their organisational brand and reputation in doing so.
What does ‘employee voice’ mean?
It's about trusting and empowering your employees to share their views, to help drive your organisation forward. Engage for Success, a growing movement in the UK, share four enablers of employee engagement, based on comprehensive research. Employee voice is one of these, and they define it as “Where an organisation sees its people not as the problem, rather as central to the solution, to be involved, listened to, and invited to contribute their experience, expertise and ideas.”
Why does it matter?
Here are three powerful reasons to give employees a voice:
1. It has become an expectation
Countless research studies have shown the business benefit of enabling employee voice – but the stakes have been raised. Now, it is not only a route to employee engagement - it has become an expectation of employees.
The 2019 Edelman PR Trust Barometer has shown a significant shift in employee expectations. The Barometer is based on an online survey in 27 markets with over 33,000 respondents. It shows that employees expect their employers to be their ‘partners in change’. One of the key actions Edelman recommends, based on their extensive research, is to ‘Empower Employees - to keep them directly informed on the issues of the day and give them a voice on your channels’.
The report shows that 77% of employee respondents expect to have a voice in key decisions. For 46%, this was a ‘Strong Expectation’ - ‘You would have to pay me a lot more to work for an organization that does not offer this’, and for 31% it was ‘a deal breaker - ‘I would never work for an organization that does not offer this.’
2. Employees are eager to talk externally
Not only do employees expect to be heard, but they are actively seeking ways to be heard. Consumers are sharing their experience about brands and employees are sharing their ideas on sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed. As recent research by Mike Klein sponsored by Happeo shows, “If we don’t give employees a forum for their voice they will create one, or find one on their own.”
Embracing employee voice not only leads to higher levels of engagement, it encourages your employees to be better advocates. If a leader regularly encourages suggestions to improve, employees are 12 times more likely to recommend their organisation as great employer, according to research.
Our job as internal communicators is to embrace and leverage this opportunity to encourage employee voice and employee advocacy, as I share in my contribution to IC Kollectif’s e-book, ‘Disrupting the Function of IC’.
3. Ideas from employees will improve business
It’s a fallacy to think that senior leaders alone can solve all the complex business problems of the day. Employees have front-line experience of customers, processes and products. The potential for their ideas to improve the business is immense; providing a wider range of perspectives to inform decisions. If harnessed well, their ideas can positively impact the bottom line.
The need for speed
Dr Kevin Ruck has undertaken considerable research on employee voice, and has shown that ‘Not surprisingly, employees expect their comments and suggestions to be treated seriously. And they very quickly detect sham employee voice processes.’ Acting fast on employee input is vital, otherwise efforts with the best intentions can lead to frustration and discontent.
All of this research. A basic need to be heard. Compelling evidence of benefits. Yet despite this, many employers are still not listening to staff. Don’t be one of them. Embracing this opportunity needs to start with leaders. They need to show willing, interest and importantly, be sure to act on employee views as a result of what they hear. This isn’t a nice to have – it is a part of workplace culture that employees are now coming to expect – one where they expect to be heard and have the power to make change. So, get your leaders listening; it’ll benefit business, benefit employees and ensure your workplace is fit for the future.
Would you like ideas for enabling employee voice? I’ll be sharing examples of this in my next blog for IC Kollectif – coming soon.
Disrupting the Function of IC
A Global Perspective
With the participation of 30 experts from 6 continents, Disrupting the Function of IC – A Global Perspective takes a realistic yet critical look at the practice of internal communication.
Saskia is a Communications Coach and Consultant, specialising in internal communications and advising leaders and managers. Her latest role was Head of Communications Engagement at Oxfam, responsible for brand, strategy and global internal communications. Saskia won ‘Internal Communicator of the Year’ at the Institute of Internal Communication Icon Awards 2014. Connect with her on Twitter @saskiahjones1, LinkedIn or via her website: www.saskiajones.com