What is employee voice and why is it important to practice?

Author - Ennova

The voice of your employees is important. Because employees want to contribute to a better workplace and work environment by sharing their voice. But how can you listen to your employees’ voice and how does it work in practice?   


What is employee voice?

Employee voice means that you – as an organization – ensure that you listen to your employees and make sure that they feel heard. Employees are your most important asset, and there are no other areas that have such a heavy and broad effect on an organization's top and bottom lines than your employees. Listening to your employees’ voice make them feel valued, because it shows them that you care about their opinion, feedback, and involvement.  

What are the different types of employee voice?

You can listen to your employees’ voice in different ways. The employee voice can be direct or indirect and it can be formal or informal.

Employee voice

Listening directly to your employees’ voice can be done by speaking directly to the top management, team management or anyone else responsible for listening to the employees’ wants and needs. Speaking directly to the top management can be done verbally, through text or a survey.

If you prefer an indirect way to listening to your employee voice, you can set up a feedback group to be responsible for collecting employee feedback. The feedback group will be responsible for delivering the employee insights to the top management afterwards.

The formal and informal aspect of your employee voice concerns the concrete communication form.

A formal employee voice can be an organizational or team survey setup or feedback meetings. Here, you have a structured way of gathering the employee voice.

An informal employee voice is the opposite: a non-structured process. Here the employee voice can be shared wherever and whenever and it can be sudden and unintended, for example, at the coffee machine, during a walk and talk or during lunch.

The informality can sometimes give the most unbiased and most immediate feedback, because it is being shared unplanned without time to overthink the situation.

Either way of listening to your employee voice is good – which one you prefer depends on your wants and needs.

Why is employee voice important?

The short answer is that making your employees’ voice count can lead to better employee experiences. A pretty good reason why you should listen to your employees’ voice and have it as a part of your strategic agenda.

Listening to the employee voice will make you able to understand the organization, the team, the culture, and the work environment to a greater extent. That means you don’t have to guess or base your decisions on gut feelings. The only way to make the right initiatives in your organization that will lead to the most effective improvements is by involving the employees and asking them about their opinion, thoughts, concerns and needs.

Listening to your employees’ voice gives you an indication of where you would benefit most from shifting your focus and attention.

How to listen to employee voice?

Now you know the importance of your employees’ voice. Now the question is “how to practice this in daily life and listening to your employees’ voice?”. You know the different types of employee voice.

We recommend that you create a systematic feedback program in your organization. That will help you to get continuous and frequent feedback from your employees. It is very individual, from organization to organization, what the best feedback setup looks like.

It all depends on resources, competences, and the time you want to/are able to spend on this. But what we see is that most organization as a minimum practice a yearly Employee Engagement Survey supplemented with 13 Employee Pulse Surveys during the year. This is a setup that – if done in the right way – will give you neither too much employee feedback nor too little.  

Examples of employee voice

Now you know how we recommend that you listen to your employee voice.

But if you want to make your employees’ voice count, there are different ways of doing it. Examples of employee voice is:

  1. Employee engagement survey
  2. Verbal 1-2-1 meetings between the employee and immediate leader
  3. Regular pulse surveys, e.g., 1-3 employee pulse surveys during the year
  4. Informal conversations – these cannot be structured and can happen at any time

What is the right frequency of listening to employee voice?

Listening to your employee voice should be done continuously and on a regular basis to give the best outcome – not just once a year.

But this is a balance. Because it is all about 1) getting employee insights to act on, but 2) at the same time not getting too many insights that you don’t have the time or resources to act on the new employee insights you get.

The most important thing when getting feedback from your employees is that you have the time to act on the insights you get afterwards. If you don’t have that, you should consider waiting until you have the time to deal with the data in depth – or decide to take the time you need.

So the right frequency for employee voice depends on your resources. Consider whether the best timing is now or whether you should wait until you enter a less stressful period of time.

The connection between employee voice and organizational performance

As you have probably experienced, either in your work life or in private – when you are given the space and allowance to speak up freely without you being afraid of any unwanted consequences, you feel valued, more comfortable, safe, and trusted. That is exactly the same situation in a work context.

Based on Ennova insights we see that organizations who listen to their employees and perform ongoing surveys on the experiences throughout the entire employee journey and are able to act quickly and with agility to the insights were better able to improve the employee experience over the last three years.

Employees who are given a safe space to share their voice about the workplace will experience that it helps build trust between the employer and employees, raise the productivity and create organizational improvements. Employees who feel safe by sharing their thoughts, opinions, ideas, and concerns to the employer, work more efficiently and are more engaged. Having an employee voice strategy is therefore also a way to encourage your employees to share their wants and needs. And hopefully, that will make your top management prioritize your employee voice as a part of the strategic agenda.  


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