Wellbeing, commitment and innovation are negatively impacted when employees feel they are without ‘voice’ in their organisation. We believe all employers should have policies and practices in place which enable employees to express themselves on matters that are important to them in their work.

The situation

Employee voice means individuals being able to safely put forward their viewpoints on their work, at work, irrespective of where, when and how they do their work. When employee voice channels work effectively, employees can feel valued, trusted and influential. In turn, this can increase their job satisfaction and performance.

For employers, effective employee voice can mean better relationships with their employees and, ultimately, improved organisational performance. Line managers, people professionals and voice champions have a responsibility to actively bring out, listen to and respond to employees’ voices. They can encourage employees to express themselves in individual and collective channels, both directly, for example to their team leader, and indirectly, for example through an employee representative.

Employee voice channels include individual self-representation, for example one-to-one meetings with a line manager and employee surveys, as well as collective representation such as trade unions and an employee representative on the company board. Employee voice platforms increasingly include digital technologies, for instance for group meetings, and protected social networking apps for more informal communication.

CIPD viewpoint

The CIPD believes all organisations should have meaningful policies and practices that enable employees to voice their opinions and raise concerns.

We recognise two distinct forms of employee voice:

  • individual voice in expressing opinions and suggestions on decisions affecting the employee’s own work
  • organisational voice in challenging constructively to contribute to wider improvements.
There are three main purposes for employee voice:
  1. To address the fundamental right of every employee to have good work, including a voice to shape their working life
  2. To improve the ways organisations function and perform
  3. To highlight issues with damaging consequences, potentially and actually.
However, our research on employees’ experiences of voice indicates that more needs to be done to expand and enhance employee voice so that more individuals feel confident in using their voice at work. This includes coaxing people in lower organisational roles because they are more likely to have reservations about having their say due to possible negative reactions, according to our case studies.

Recommendations for employers

  • Formulate and circulate a policy on employee voice.

  • Implement voice policy by enacting a range of two-way communication and consultation methods to encourage employee voice.

  • Ensure voice methods are used regularly, such as weekly meetings, annual surveys.

  • Develop and implement a speak-up, whistleblowing policy.

  • Underpin the speak-up policy with supportive practices, such as clarity on reporting line, assurance of confidentiality.

  • Involve employees in reviews of voice policies, procedures and methods.

  • Demonstrate senior manager support for inclusive employee voice.

  • Generate an organisational climate and culture in which employees feel psychologically safe in expressing their voice and speaking up.

  • Utilise the expertise and skills of people managers, and engagement and communications specialists, in harnessing employees’ voices.

  • Train and develop line managers to facilitate employee voice in their leadership behaviours and work relationships.

CIPD resources and references

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