Employee Voice: Why You Need to Listen (Especially to Remote Workers!)

Stuart Sinclair - June 8, 2021

Everyone wants to be heard. This is true for all kinds of relationships, whether personal or professional. When a person feels their voice has been heard and their views have been taken into account, they feel satisfied and connected.

This is why the employee voice is so important. The employee voice exists where everyone in the organisation feels they have a say in the decision-making process, where they feel heard and listened to, and their views are taken into account and acted upon. Ensuring that your employees feel that they have a voice within your company and that that voice is listened to is key to your employee engagement efforts. Without a robust employee voice strategy, you risk increasing the disconnect between employer and employee.

But, with the rise in remote working, the employee voice is at risk of being ignored and forgotten. With teams scattered over physical distances, the lack of daily connection and the reliance on video calls rather than actual meetings, many workers are starting to feel as though they are no longer heard. Research suggests we need to step up our efforts. According to Willis Tower Watson, while 60% of employers have increased employee listening efforts during the pandemic, few use formal listening approaches. In fact, just 31% conduct employee surveys.

Addressing issues surrounding employee voice will enable you to better engage with your team and encourage innovation in the workplace. In short, it creates a culture that will serve to underpin the success of your company.

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What is employee voice?

Before we delve into tackling the problem, first, we need to die down the employee voice definition. Essentially, employee voice is how individuals communicate their opinions and ideas to their employer and how these views are then utilised to influence the company moving forward.

This means that employee voice is a lot more than simply providing your employees with a way in which to communicate. It provides your team with a range of platforms and opportunities to connect and actively engage with what your team has to say by utilising their views to guide strategic plans and company direction.

Clearly, with a large proportion of staff currently working from home, these platforms and opportunities need to be tailored to fit their circumstances. It could be that the employee engagement model that once worked so smoothly is no longer as successful at reaching remote workers. This is when you need to explore new channels of communication. It’s worth exploring the many benefits of employee engagement software, which will help you reach out to every staff member, even those hard to reach workers.

The benefits of employee voice

When an employee feels able to share their views and concerns with an employer, the benefits can be far-reaching. By encouraging your team to share their opinions and ideas, you create the potential for your employee voice mechanisms to have a real impact. A strong employee voice and engagement programme can have the following benefits:

  • It will drive innovation
  • It will provide an early warning for emerging issues
  • It will identify training needs
  • It will increase work engagement 
  • It will increase organisational engagement

According to research by Forbes, employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to produce their best work. The link between employee voice and organisational performance is well-documented. This direct correlation between employee voice and productivity is a clear sign of the impact that an employee voice strategy can have on your business and why it is one of the essential drivers of employee engagement.

As the Gallup research demonstrates, a highly engaged workforce will not only be more productive, they will also be less likely to take time off. High attendance levels are always at the top of the priority list in every employee engagement strategy. This is especially relevant for your remote workers, who are under greater strain and more likely to experience burnout.

30 ideas to engage your employees and transform your business.

The five types of employee voice

Implementing employee voice systems into your company culture is essential to improving employee engagement levels. However, identifying the best ways to promote employee voice within your organisation may be a challenging prospect. The employee engagement ideas outlined below will ensure that your employee’s voices are heard, loud and clear, whether they’re office-based or working from home.

1. Surveys

Utilising surveys to check on specific company areas is a simple and effective way to encourage your employees to have a voice within your company. Scheduling surveys that use a mix of multiple-choice and written responses will enable your team to fully express their views and ideas, provide you with a clear understanding of any issues, and insights into how to move forward. This form of listening is ideal for remote workers, who can no longer raise issues with their manager over the water cooler.

Implementing an employee engagement app is an effective way to circulate and manage an employee engagement survey. A robust system will provide you with detailed tracking and analytics on your surveys, giving you the insights that you need to drive change within your organisation. By using an app, you’ll find that it’s easy to reach every single employee, wherever they are based.

2. Innovation meetings

Introduce meetings that are purely designed to encourage innovation. Encouraging employees to come up with their own ideas and solutions to problems is one of the key employee engagement best practices. These meetings are often best led by an employee who is not part of the leadership team and can be done on a rota basis. Getting the right management choice and employee voice is a crucial element.

This is a great way to improve employee engagement amongst your remote workers. Set up an online meeting and ask your team to come armed with an idea, no matter how big or small. For these meetings to work, you must be inclusive of the entire team. Otherwise, your team may feel that only certain voices matter, negatively impacting employee voice and employee engagement levels.

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3. Feedback

Inviting your team to give regular feedback is a tried and tested way to encourage employee voice and keep your finger on the pulse of your company. This information can then be used to guide company policies and direction. Consider using a designated platform such as an employee app to reach out to employees and gather your answers.

Keep in mind that some employees may find it difficult to use their voice and share opinions if their name is linked to their views. It may be worth considering giving your employees the ability to share feedback anonymously to get an accurate picture of your organisation.

4. One-to-ones

Regular one-to-ones are essential to increase employee engagement levels and promote employee voice. Providing your employees with the opportunity to guide their own development and share any challenges or ideas with you in a confidential setting will ensure that they feel listened to and valued.

Just because you can no longer call employees in for a personal meeting doesn’t mean that these essential catch-ups should be cancelled. Schedule your online meetings as usual, and you’ll find out any issues before they become significant problems. According to Forbes, 20% of remote employees say they lack a sense of belonging since the pandemic. It’s important to keep listening.

Allow your one-to-ones to be guided by your employees so that they can realise their full potential. Giving your team the autonomy to identify training needs and career progressions paths will show them how much you value their opinion.

5. Company-wide discussions

Scheduling in organisation-wide meetings to encourage innovation and idea-sharing is key to increasing employee voice and engagement levels. Use these meetings to ask your team what they think the company’s direction should be and what steps are needed to be taken to get there.

While the traditional conference is no longer possible, large-scale online discussions that include every employee have proved enormously successful. In fact, the virtual company-wide meeting is one of the key employee engagement trends of 2021. Now is the time to bring everyone together as a whole company, making sure everyone feels included and listened to.

Too often, companies fall into the habit of making plans and creating strategies without the input of the people who will be working to achieve these objectives. Encouraging your team to have a voice and guide high-level strategies will show your employees just how much you value their opinions and help you identify new and innovative ways to progress your company.

Using the employee voice to implement change

Utilising the strategies above will provide you with a solid foundation to encourage employee voice across a remote and dispersed workforce and identify innovation and issues. However, an employee voice strategy is only as effective as your follow-through. If you don’t make a conscious effort to compile the insights you receive and use them to guide company policies, plans or culture, your strategy will come across as an empty effort to tick a box rather than a genuine desire to improve employee engagement.

Introducing software such as an employee engagement platform will provide you with the solution you need to keep track of engagement levels and promote employee voice. A successful platform will give the employees numerous communication channels to offer feedback, allow employers to create and circulate simple yet effective surveys, and provide detailed insights and analytics into the pulse of a company. Implementing a solution such as this will underpin your employee voice and employee engagement efforts, enabling you to realise a culture of innovation, knowledge and interaction.

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