At the beginning of the 2000s, companies primarily focused on customer satisfaction while not paying enough attention to their employees’ needs. But those days are gone, and now it’s time for leaders to strive for higher employee satisfaction and give their staff a fair share of power to influence the direction of the company’s development. This is where the employee voice comes into play to change the game of organizational decision-making. To hear this voice is to meet your ’ needs by learning exactly what they need to be happy.
Anonymous surveys are an easy and safe way to do it, and this is where various online tools come into play to help you implement these surveys into the existing workflow. Beams engagement platform is one of these tools — use its solid toolkit to gather anonymous feedback, level up your management, and make your business prosper.
Do you think your subordinates feel appreciated and engaged at work? Does your team’s feedback affect your decisions? Answer these questions to understand if you recognize the employee voice — a term every modern manager should be familiar with to be on top.
In this article, we’ll cover the basic concepts explaining why you should recognize employee voice and how to master this tool to help your company prosper.
Definition of Employee Voice and its Importance
So, what is employee voice? According to Wiki, it refers to the participation of employees in influencing organizational decision-making.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) provides a more detailed definition, describing employee voice as “the ability of employees to express their views, opinions, concerns, and suggestions, and for these to influence decisions at work.”
To clearly hear employee voice, a manager should create a safe space for everybody to share their thoughts, ideas, and honest feedback without the risk of being judged or dismissed. When used correctly, this tool unlocks employees’ proactivity, improves management, and increases an organization’s profit.
Why is Employee Voice Important?
Benefits for People and the Organization as a Whole
As previously stated, giving employees a voice benefits the whole company.
For employees, it’s an opportunity to contribute to the company’s success by being involved in the decision-making.
For managers, it’s a tool for looking at things from a fresh perspective and making employees feel valued and satisfied. Employee satisfaction is directly linked to employee engagement — a core factor leading to higher productivity and profit markup. Here are some figures to better understand the influence of high employee engagement:
- 10% higher customer ratings
- 17% higher productivity
- 20% higher sales
- 21% higher profitability
But the benefits don’t stop there — let’s list some more:
- Lower employee turnover. It compliments the company’s management, showing the managers know how to organize the work and troubleshoot, to keep employees devoted to staying with the company. In such organizations, people are welcome to participate in decision-making processes that influence not only their well-being at work but also their department or even the whole company.
- Better team cohesion. Regularly sharing ideas and concerns within a team is the ice-breaker that allows people to find like-minded colleagues, feel supported, and build a better rapport at their workplace. It also helps managers to be on the same page with their team and better understand their needs.
- Knowledge exchange. Discussing ideas during one-on-one conversations or group meetings allows everybody, including managers, to share their experiences and gain insights into what already works and what needs to improve.
- Better troubleshooting. Ongoing feedback analysis helps solve problems at early stages and saves time and moral resources.
- Increased motivation. Employees that receive recognition at work are more driven to solve problems and be better performers.
- Fresh ideas. Employees may share thoughts that provoke innovations and have a powerful impact on a company’s growth.
- Identifying areas for improvement. As honesty, transparency, and support become essential values in your team, employees will find it easier to be open about their strong and weak points. It will help you understand what training programs to provide to deepen their knowledge and raise organizational performance.
What Makes Employee Voice Heard
The voice of the employee becomes loud when management regards its staff as the heart and soul of the company, not just robots mindlessly performing their tasks. Putting trust in existing team members allows you to achieve stable progress with a low turnover rate, so you don’t have to seek and train new employees.
Here’s a quick checklist to determine if employee voice exists in your organization. Ensure you provide the following:
- Continuous use of communication channels. Every teammate should have an ongoing opportunity to communicate their needs and concerns. It’s not a privilege, it’s a must-have. In this article, we’ll go into more detail about these channels and their uses.
- Active listening practiced by managers. A strong leader should have solid listening skills to allow for open and constructive dialogue so employees are more eager to speak up.
- Transparency. Fostering a culture of support and respect in your team keeps everybody aware of ongoing processes and helps employees feel involved in leading the company to success. It creates the right environment for sharing ups and downs, so you can understand what to improve and collaborate to find the best solutions.
- Meaningful follow-up. Don’t ask for employees’ opinions just to tick the box. Carefully analyze their feedback to make better decisions. Otherwise, you may raise false expectations and frustrate your colleagues, leading to a discontinued desire to be honest and engaged.
Examples of How Employee Voice Has Helped Companies Improve
It’s easier to believe in the power of theory when it’s backed by practical examples. Here are some inspiring cases of how the voice of employees contributed to the thriving of world-famous companies.
A stellar example of constant striving for improvement, Toyota is famous for using employee voice as an essential part of the driving force behind the company’s success. Employees of all positions are welcome to share their thoughts with managers to level up the manufacturing process. As a result, the company benefits from improving the process with their initiatives — for example, “just-in-time” inventory system and the “kaizen” philosophy both promote non-stop improvements.
iPod is a brilliant example of what you can miss if you don’t analyze your staff’s ideas thoroughly. Tony Fadell, a former executive at Phillips and passionate music enthusiast, had the ideas to create a legal music sales store integrated with a portable MP3 player. When he tried to advocate for this idea at Phillips, the leaders didn’t consider this idea potentially successful.
At the same time, through personal connections, he managed to introduce this idea to Apple and was hired to work on creating the iPod — one of Apple’s biggest hits. As a result, the iPod beat legendary Sony Walkman and started a new chapter by revolutionizing the music players’ market.
The Filet-O-Fish was created in 1962 by Lou Groen, a Catholic businessman and McDonald’s franchise owner in Cincinnati, Ohio. That area was 87% Catholic, and due to religious reasons, people abstained from meat on Fridays during Lent — a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and sacrifice observed by some Catholics in preparation for Easter. This negatively affected the sales of burgers on Fridays, which was the most profitable day of the week for McDonald’s competitors.
That’s why Groen invented the Filet-O-Fish, took the sandwich to the headquarters, and made it the first dish to be added to the original McDonald’s menu. 40+ years later, Filet-O-Fish is still on the menu, allowing McDonald’s to avoid losing money, even in March and April, by offering a non-meat alternative for those who don’t eat meat due to religious or other reasons.
How to Hear Employee Voice
Formal and Informal Ways of Expressing Employee Voice
Since you have decided to pay heed to what your employees think, combine the usage of informal and formal employee voice mechanisms for the best results.
- Online communication. It can be a special channel in your corporate messenger for sharing ideas and problems. For example: a forum for employees, regular calls to chat about things unrelated to work, etc.
- Offline communication. Watercooler talks, conversations during coffee and smoke breaks, or having lunch together increase team cohesion and provoke honesty while creating a more relaxed and trusting atmosphere.
Polls and surveys
The point here is to choose the right frequency: one survey a year has little clout, while conducting weekly surveys will irritate people. One to two surveys a month are perfect to let you keep track of what’s going on in your team. A great thing about employee surveys is that they allow people to remain anonymous. They create a safe space for honesty, including expressing gratitude to their colleagues.
If it’s a new format for your organization, it may feel a bit awkward at first. But it’s still worth implementing as a part of your routine. Such meetings allow you to approach each employee individually and get a bigger picture of how they feel about working in your organization. Another huge benefit of these conversations is that you can assess a person’s problem-solving skills and offer specialized help you can provide as a manager.
Probably the most old-school technique, yet still effective, it allows employees to be heard without talking to their boss directly. It encourages people to suggest ideas and share concerns, so managers can analyze the feedback and decide how to improve things.
A modern version of a suggestion box for sharing views online allows teammates to like and comment on suggestions or vote on them.
Invite top performers to join high-level meetings
A salary raise is a great motivation booster, but you should never underestimate the importance of non-monetary recognition. Let your proactive and highly productive employees participate in meetings of a higher level where they can present their ideas. This can be a boost for every teammate’s inspiration!
The whole company discusses a certain issue in small groups, and all employees are welcome to take part. The topics of such conversations are based on earlier received feedback.
Physical or digital, graffiti walls invite people to share views on issues, and each teammate can see what their colleagues wrote and comment on it. Also, graffiti walls are perfect for celebrating successes, giving recognition, and expressing gratitude.
This technique requires several tables, each for communicating a particular issue. People are invited to discuss various topics, and there is a facilitator at every table to help conduct a dialogue. Every table should be covered with paper, so each thought can be written and considered later. The time is split into equal intervals to let participants move from one table to another and discuss all the issues.
This method suggests that a senior leader organizes a meeting with other managers to discuss concerns from different departments and what should be done to fix issues.
This method is expressed in employees teaming up for brainstorming sessions to find the best solutions to particular issues. They put their creativity and experience into generating efficient problem-solving strategies so a manager could implement them.
How to Encourage and Support Employee Voice
Importance of Creating a Culture of Trust and Openness
A lack of trust leads to miscommunication, resulting in low team engagement, high absenteeism and turnover, and difficulty improving productivity.
Here are some tips for making your workplace a safe space for every employee to be honest:
- Learn about mental health. According to Global Mental Health Statistics Overview, about 970 million people in the world struggle with mental health issues. If you don’t face such a problem yourself, some of your employees may be facing it. Learn the basics of communicating with people suffering from mental health issues and how you can help them as a leader. Work on boosting your emotional intelligence to succeed — you can measure your current level here.
- Normalize being open about mental health. Your employees need to be supported, not stigmatized or rejected when speaking up about their mental condition. Let employees know they can find help at work and can approach someone to talk if they need it.
- Be vulnerable. Lead by example — you’re not a robot programmed for perfection. If you let your employees know about your failures and weak points, they’ll feel more comfortable doing so and open up about their ups and downs.
- Don’t demonize failures. Only those who do nothing avoid mistakes. Don’t criticize employees for their wrongs — instead, encourage them to learn from experience.
Tips for Creating Effective Feedback Mechanisms
- Be clear. Explain the format for sharing feedback to ensure that every employee understands how to share their opinion and what the goal is.
- Keep things confidential. Your team should know their honesty won’t affect them negatively, so the best thing to do is create opportunities for anonymity whenever possible.
- Use several approaches. For the best accuracy, combine both formal and informal channels to gather feedback.
- Schedule wisely. Set the right time and frequency to let your employees have enough time and energy to get their thoughts together and share them.
- Categorize Feedback. You can divide it into groups according to subject matter such as employee satisfaction, performance, inclusion, ideas, etc. This will help your set your priorities right. You can also separate feedback from different departments to see if you need to focus on improving the life of a particular team that needs it most.
- Follow up. After gathering and analyzing your team’s feedback, share your thoughts and plans with them to let them know you value their opinions and take them into account for future actions.
- Act upon feedback. The best way to show employees you value their words is to make positive changes based on their feedback. It will show them they have the power to influence the processes and raise their engagement.
- Measure efficiency. Getting and processing feedback should result in increased employee satisfaction and organizational performance. Mixing the channels for gathering feedback allows you to find the perfect way to better identify and meet your team’s needs.
Ways to Promote Employee Voice
Support your employees’ courage to conduct an honest dialogue by providing recognition programs and employee resource groups.
This step aims to help foster a culture of innovation and creativity. Here are some ideas for such programs:
- Employee of the month. Improve your working environment with some healthy competitiveness, so every employee becomes motivated by their top-performing colleagues.
- Innovation awards. Great ideas should be praised, so recognize those whose suggestions provide a new perspective on leading your company to greater success. By doing so, you encourage others to think creatively and share these thoughts.
- Idea generation programs. Introduce a platform where everybody can share their perspectives on the company’s development. To do so, introduce suggestion boxes or conduct regular brainstorming workshops.
- Peer recognition programs. Let your employees acknowledge their teammates for their input to enhance team cohesion. For instance, add Beams to your recognition-giving toolkit, so people can share their positive feedback about working with their colleagues and praising their collaboration.
- 360-degree feedback. This approach allows each employee to receive profound feedback from their managers and fellow colleagues to get a better understanding of the strong and weak points of their performance. This constructive feedback not only helps employees to grow. It also gives them the opportunity to share honest opinions about working with their colleagues.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) give you a powerful tool to develop a sense of belonging among your employees and share positive vibes with their colleagues. It also helps them build more trusting relationships within a team. A happy team is a productive team, so its performance will improve along with their satisfaction.
The idea of ERGs is to support employees in their interests, including those outside their work. It allows people to create communities based on their backgrounds and shared thoughts and feel more powerful and confident together. As they feel supported, they become better at representing their views and advocating for them. Such a tool is especially beneficial for large companies, as it helps overcome diversity challenges and considers the needs of smaller groups by introducing certain policies and practices to protect them.
Challenges and Solutions
Common Challenges in Implementing Employee Voice Initiatives
Implementing employee voice can be difficult; however, the positive results are worth it. The following are some challenges you may face:
- Employees’ unwillingness. Employees may not share your excitement about implementing new approaches because they might think it can threaten their security and status at work.
- Doubts. When people lack information, they lack trust. Your team may not believe that their opinion can provoke changes and might think that managers are just introducing a fancy formality. This could result in low involvement in integrating new practices.
- Fear of honesty. People may fear that expressing their concerns could lead to negative consequences. As a result, they may choose to ignore problems instead of solving them to avoid being punished.
- Lack of resources. Sometimes, companies cannot cover expenses for implementing employee voice strategies such as paying for feedback platforms, educational and training programs, etc.
- Poor follow-up. If nothing changes after you gather and analyze your team’s feedback, employees may lose faith in the initiative and consider it pointless to support it.
Strategies for Overcoming Challenges
Implementing new ideas is often accompanied by challenges, so it’s important to be prepared with proper strategies to combat them.
1. Address power dynamics. This strategy allows you to boost employees’ motivation to communicate their thoughts and concerns openly. As a manager, you should create a safe space for honesty and be ready to equally accept and act on any feedback, either positive or negative.
2. Build trust. Provide transparency, be reliable, and show respect so employees follow your lead. Walk the walk and talk the talk — keep your promises by acting upon their feedback.
As you can see, you may face some challenges on your way to making employee voice an essential part of your workflow, but the benefits at the end are worth your effort. It’s up to you what channels to choose for your toolkit, and Beams.ai is at your service. With a well-chosen selection of useful features, Beams adapts to your team’s needs to become an ultimate tool for making the process of engaging your employees smooth and fruitful. Book a demo now to take another step towards your company’s success today!