Why is it important for employee’s to have a voice?

Asking for an opinion is a funny thing. Some organisations love it. Have suggestion boxes, perform regular employee surveys and love to hear what their employees have to say. Others are petrified. Perhaps if we don’t mention it, it will go away. Perhaps if we don’t ask what people think of the company, we can believe that everything is perfect.

This often misguided notion of course means that very company is missing out on what can often be brilliant ideas. Whilst business may appear to be thriving, there may be things that are being overlooked or details being missed that could be saving you a lot of time and money. Who better to help you with this information than the people that are working around you each and every day?

Not only can employees provide great feedback in terms of what is going on within their working environment, but also every individual is different and carries different strengths, and therefore they can contribute creative ideas and provide different points of view that you may have never considered before. For problem solving purposes, by letting your staff speak up about any workplace grievances and issues, the quicker you can all work together to resolve it.

We know that employees that feel that they have a voice within a team and organisation have greater levels of trust and commitment to that team and organisation. This is especially important during times of organisational change. We tend to be fearful of change. We tend to be even more fearful of asking for opinions during change. But this fear makes the situation much, much worse than asking for opinions and giving people voice. In fact, we know that employees react more positively to change when their voice is not diminished during these periods. When employees perceive they have a voice and impact on decisions that are made, they are more likely to show higher commitment to that organisation. This sense of voice is based on their relationship with their immediate manager, and to an even stronger extent, their relationship with senior management.

Employees need to know that their opinion matters and need to feel valued. When you take the time to ask your employees for their opinion it opens up a two-way dialogue. This in turn increases morale and also productivity.

One point I would like to make, especially in today’s society of technological advancement, is the importance of face-to-face communication. It can be very easy to get caught up in emails, even when a staff member is sitting in the cubicle directly across from you. But if an employee needs to be recognised for something or if you want to thank them for a job well done, unless they are out of the office, as the manager approach them and thank them face to face. This method will be remembered far more than a mention in an email.

And in case you were wondering what was worse than not giving your employees a say, it’s asking for their opinion and doing nothing about it. People may tell you once, they may tell you twice, but don’t be surprised if they stop speaking if you ask them a third time.

You may be reading this and wondering if you have enough hours in the day to communicate with all of your staff or if you can incorporate the ‘door’s always open’ policy when you are trying to achieve your own deadlines.

But the important thing to remember is: if you are not making the time for your employees, what will you get in return? We are human beings after all.

Reference:Farndale, E., Van Ruiten, J., Kelliher, C., & Hope-Hailey, V. (2011). The influence of perceived employee voice on organizational commitment: An exchange perspective. Human Resource Management, 50(1), 113-129. doi:10.1002/hrm.20404.