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Employee Voice: one of the most underestimated tools in a PMs toolbox?

We talk about employee voice quite a lot in HR. It’s a really powerful tool for managers to use to help engage their teams, but you don’t see it mentioned as much in manager and leadership literature.

Plenty of managers know how important it is to give a voice to their employees, but it is often done “mechanically”, with understanding that you should, but little understanding as to why. What are the benefits? How do you do it well?

Research from the CIPD in 2021 shows that using employee voice effectively has positive outcomes for both individuals and businesses. For employees, it can help support their wellbeing, improve motivation and make the work experience more positive. For employers, you can benefit from higher productivity, increased innovation, reduced workplace conflict and even reduced absenteeism.

What is Employee Voice?

Put simply, it is giving your employees a way to be heard. It is not just listening to what employees say, but acting on their thoughts to help shape the business. Employees seeing you do this will feel valued and trusted, and that their thoughts really matter.

Employee voice is based on effective two-way communication. This means not only listening to employees, but ensuring that you act on their views to ensure they feel they have been heard. A popular way of doing this is by using “You said, we did” as a way of showing any actions taken after receiving employee feedback.

Almost anything can be discussed as part of employee voice, but these are some popular topics:

  • Staff events
  • Car parking
  • Patient feedback
  • Operational Issues

Forms of Voice

There are two forms of ‘voice’ that you should be aware of:

Direct voice

This is voice straight from the horse’s mouth! Direct voice is gathered directly from the employee. Examples of this could be asking employees for feedback or ideas during 1-2-1’s, or gathering ideas in employee surveys.  

Indirect voice

Indirect voice is gathered using collective voice, which is usually done through representatives. So for example, one representative from each department brought together in a forum. The representatives would usually talk on behalf of their colleagues, having gathered information prior to the forum.

Benefits of Employee Voice

Employee voice isn’t just a nice to have / cuddly agenda for businesses. It’s a strategic and smart way of ensuring an organisation is innovative and productive. Many managers will have heard of the Taylor Review (2017), where a substantial chunk was focused on employee voice. Taylor (2017) concluded that employees’ voices being listened to creates happier workers and a more collegiate environment between managers and staff.

In the modern day of social media, employees expect to put their thoughts and opinions in the open more than ever before; providing a channel to do this can help employees do this in a productive way. Another report—the Macleod Report from 2009—states that “Employee voice is the cheapest smoke alarm you can buy” as it will alert you to problems in your business at the earliest possible opportunity.

Our Challenge to You

If you haven’t already, implement one form of employee voice in the next few weeks! It will not take much of your time and the benefits could be huge! You could put together an employee survey quickly, or spend an hour in an employee forum.

If you already have effective voice in your practice, could you try a new, different form? Or even consider how you feedback to your employees what action you have recently taken.

Employee voice is an easy win. It may sometimes deliver news you don’t want to hear, but it will allow you to use the information you get back more productively.

If you’re an FPM member and would like help introducing Employee Voice in your practice, contact our HR helpline at hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk

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