How do companies give employees a voice?

Does your organisation give employees a voice? How are companies creating opportunities for employees to have effective two-way conversations?

Since the humble beginnings of the employee opinion survey, organisations have long recognised the merits of giving employees a voice, but how has this evolved and what types of rewards are we reaping?

The Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) held Better Connected 2017 #betterconnected in Leeds, UK last week. Professional communicators explored what’s meant by employee voice, the impact on engagement and how organisations are delivering on employee voice in reality.

IoIC North wanted to ask: is there more we can do to give our employees a voice?

My view? Yes, always! This is a typical finding when I audit organisations, I regularly spot opportunities for companies to amplify employee voice and in many cases, to start listening to all the conversations that are already happening.

Sam Jones (pictured) @sammijo is Senior comms business partner at BT Consumer. She’s written for the All Things IC blog to share what we missed at the IoIC event and what she heard.

I need to give a bad language warning for the final image in this article. I think you’ll like it though.

But first, let’s start by defining employee voice.

Have you noticed most images related to employee voice show a megaphone – surely the opposite of two-way communication as that implies broadcast (one-way)? For me it’s as much about listening as blasting information. That’s the whole point.

Or I wonder if it’s employees loudly sharing their voices and views to their organisation. The mind boggles.

Anyway, here’s the definition. MacLeod and Clarke (2009) explain employee voice as when:

Employees’ views are sought out; they are listened to and see that their opinions count and make a difference. They speak out and challenge when appropriate. A strong sense of listening and of responsiveness permeates the organisation.

Further readingSee this CIPD research on employee voice and bust more internal communication jargon with my glossary.

Thank you Sam, I’ll hand you over to her…

How do companies give employees a voice?

This event was always going to make my calendar. Packed with a cracking line up of presenters from M&S to Greggs to the British Army – the content for me was all about the ‘C’ word(s) – change, creativity and conversation.

Change is the new black

Ok, so it’s not new but it is constant. Whether it’s IC pros learning new skills to stay relevant to meet CEO expectations (VMA) or the need to develop a new, and really rather stylish, online channel to engage your teams (Mercedes-Benz) – we IC lot all need to jump on the change train.

The Macleod report was my first real insight into the positive power of employee voice and how we can harness it enable change.

You’re asking your teams to change how they do things, view things, feel about stuff – so you include them in conversation don’t you?

That’s a rhetorical question!

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: All you need to know about employee engagement.

But how?

We thought of some pretty funky stuff – Big Brother style diary rooms (I will make this happen in some shape or form), bugging the water cooler (not quite legal), even augmented reality ‘mood’ hats, but regardless of how you do it – just do it and act on the feedback or you risk losing all credibility.

Creativity will get us to Mars 

How would you communicate a move to Mars for 500 of your employees?  No, not rocket science – a chance to get creative with change.

As you might guess, some ideas were quite literally, out of this world, but what’s clear is we’re all battling with the same natural reactions to change – the fear of the unknown, the different cycles of the change curve.

Further reading on the All Things IC blogWhy change comms should be drawn.

However, a tweak on the ask e.g. Mars not Hatfield, and allowing some creative thought and collaboration into your planning will help you reach Mars.

Make the time to be creative.

And our working space on the day – from moss walls, to creative signage to top-notch collateral – it was FAB-U-LOUS and helped with the creative vibe on the day …

Conversation is no dinosaur

In this every increasing digital age it seems we’re not ready for a complete digital switchover in IC just yet. Conversation is alive and well.

Particularly effective when communicating change and improving engagement, M&S have seen a massive 10% improvement in engagement in the last year and face to face conversation and employee voice helped make that happen.

Whether it’s your CEO on the campaign trial for change, team huddles, creative brainstorms or focus groups – face to face is still hugely effective.

Whilst I’m a lover of all things digital it warms my heart that we’d still rather look each other in the eye and have a chinwag than send an email or a text – that said, I’m still hankering after my own chat bot…

Final thoughts?

What got you there won’t keep you there, collaborate to innovate and raise your Employee Voice. Oh and in the words of Mercedes-Benz..

Post author: Sam Jones.

Thank you Sam. What’s the reality in your organisation? How are you creating opportunities to hear employees voices in your organisation and amplify their views?

I’d love to hear from you, do comment below and let me know if you have a story to share.


Want to know more about internal communication? 

Search my internal communication glossary to bust through the comms jargon and understand everything from town halls to ESNs.

First published on the All Things IC blog 19 June 2017.


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