What is employee voice?

Employee voice describes the effort an employee is willing to put into sharing suggestions, opinions, concerns, and ideas for improving a business.

Listening to customers has long been an essential aspect of business, giving organizations the benefit of feedback directly from the audiences they target. But customers aren’t the only people that make your business function. Your employees are just as integral to your continued success. But are you listening to them with the same attentiveness that you give your customers?

Employee voice is an approach to not only allowing employee feedback, but also encouraging and acting on it. Employees who know that their opinions matter become more involved and engaged. They take a more-active role. Instead of simply clocking in, doing their jobs, and going home, they become invested in the overall growth of the company. And when this happens, trust, alignment, and transparency improve across all levels.

Building an authentic dialogue in which employees can speak freely and know that their voices are heard allows your business to gain the benefit of their experience and insight. When coupled with customer feedback, employee voice gives you the full picture of where your organization is, where it should be, and what it can do to get there.

Within most organizations, the power within the employee-manager relationship is tilted in favor of management. As such, many employees feel intimidated; rather than being open and honest with feedback, they remain silent. Some employees simply do not have any faith in leadership acting upon their input, so why should they bother taking the time to provide it?

Effective employee voice builds trust and demonstrates that employee opinions are valued. To that end, it is built on four key aspects:

Active listening

Don’t just listen to your employees; listen actively. Active listening means that you fully absorb the meaning of what is being said, while seeking to clarify areas that may be ambiguous. It means engaging in discussion without judgement and being able to summarize and share essential points from the conversation. And while it doesn't necessarily mean agreeing with everything being said, it does require that the listener show empathy and respect.

Valuable feedback

Communication is a two-way street, and employees who receive honest, constructive feedback are more likely to recognize your candor and respond in kind. And while recognizing short-term accomplishments is always welcome, truly valuable feedback should be supportive, forward looking, and designed to help employees improve and grow in their careers. As such, it should focus how to improve and what changes should be made, rather than on specific mistakes or failings. When possible, issues are identified or corrective measures must be taken, both parties should be committed to working together to find the best solution.

Full transparency

When employees are left out of the loop, unaware of relevant decisions, discussions, or the overall direction of the company, they start to feel isolated and unmotivated. Improving transparency gives employees a clear, unambiguous sense of where they stand. It shows them how their contribution impacts the company as a whole and inspires them to provide their own insights. At the same time, full transparency doesn’t necessarily apply to the employees themselves; some employees may prefer to provide their feedback anonymously.

Participation incentives

Handled correctly, employee voice inspires confidence and trust, and encourages employees to participate by demonstrating the value of their input. However, this trust may take some time to develop. Rewards and incentives can help get the ball rolling. By showing appreciation, management demonstrates that employee feedback truly is valuable, and encourages hesitant employees to get involved.

When employees are heard and their insights are applied, organizations see significant benefits. Here are some of the advantages of promoting employee voice:

Improved problem resolution

Your employees are the boots on the ground of your organization; no one is likely to have a clearer idea of what is working, what isn’t, and what could be improved. Employee voice provides the tools and processes needed to ensure that these insights reach the right ears.

Along with identifying potential problems, employee voice incorporates improved communication and transparency, effectively connecting the workforce directly with decision makers. This eliminates the ‘middleman,’ and ensures that those who have the ability and authority to resolve issues are the ones the issues are brought to. This means faster, more efficient problem resolution.

Employee Voice Benefits | ServiceNow

Enhanced perspective

Too often, organizations get caught up in issues of structure and authority. Yes, businesses need a clear leadership structure, but if an employee has experience or insight into a specific problem, then it only makes sense that they should be involved in the discussion. In essence, effective employee voice allows businesses to develop a wider, more-inclusive perspective.

An improved perspective makes it possible for you to respond more quickly and effectively to emergent events. It allows you to streamline essential, employee-level processes, and to consider the impacts of your decisions on all levels and departments.

Increases agility

By expanding the organizational perspective, you give your company the agility it needs to adapt more-quickly to changing market conditions. With a real-life, real-time understanding of how front-line operations are managed, you can more easily pivot to address new concerns and take advantage of emerging trends.

Without proper employee voice solutions, it may take weeks or longer for insights and reports to filter upward to the right decision makers. This can cost your business valuable time and slow its ability to respond with agility.

Heightened employee performance

When employees know that their voices are heard, they become more dedicated and productive. They take personal ownership over the company’s success. They feel empowered to perform their best work, and actively look for opportunities to improve themselves, their processes, and those around them.

Employee voice creates engaged, loyal employees. By demonstrating that you value their input, you also demonstrate that you value them. And when employees feel valued and respected, their performance naturally improves.

Improved public relations

No business is perfect; there will always be issues and inefficiencies that need to be resolved. Unfortunately, it is often the front-line employees who must deal with these issues, which can lead to frustration. Without effective employee voice channels, employees may choose to vent their frustrations or seek out resolutions in online forums, company listing pages, or other public venues. This can damage your company’s reputation as well as contribute to toxic culture, as employees share frustrations and concerns among themselves and with the external world.

Employee voice gives those frustrated employees a reliable set of processes to identify and solve issues as they arise. With open communications and full transparency, employees, departments, and management can easily come together to find acceptable resolutions.

Reduced employee attrition

Voiceless employees seldom feel any sense of loyalty to their employers. They provide a service, the employer pays them for their work, and that’s about as far as the relationship goes. And, when something better comes along (or if the employee simply wants a change of scenery), there’s little preventing them from packing up and moving on.

Finding and training replacements for employees is time consuming and expensive. However, if employees feel valued and engaged, they’ll be much more likely to stick around. Employee voice creates loyalty, so that even when other opportunities present themselves, your staff will be more likely to remain with your company.

Increased competitive edge

Improved agility, productivity, responsiveness, and engagement are all important indicators of company success. This makes employee voice a very attractive concept to businesses across all industries. In other words, even if you choose not to invest in improved employee voice, your competitors likely still will.

Employee voice provides a competitive advantage in even the most-competitive markets. Those organizations that make it an integral part of their internal processes will see a clear edge over those that do not.

There are many ways to solicit employee voice, and some will naturally be more effective than others in specific industries or with specific employees. To encourage and facilitate open employee communication, consider the following:

  • Use regular, on-going pulse surveys; allow employees to respond anonymously if they prefer.
  • Crowdsource decision-making and include in the discussion everyone that the decision could impact.
  • Have management hold review sessions for employee surveys and other forms of feedback. Discuss top areas of improvement and collaborate to build pans of action to address relevant issues.
  • Implement an open-door policy and encourage employees to come to you and other management personnel with any concerns or ideas they might have.
  • Follow up on employee suggestions or concerns. Speak to employees to let them know that you’ve received their feedback, why the feedback has been accepted or rejected, and what action you will be taking next.
  • Create an open forum with top executives where employees are encouraged to speak their minds and share ideas.
  • Reward employees with incentives to encourage them to share their feedback.
  • Invest in an employee journey management tool to help collect feedback and measure employee sentiment.

It’s becoming ever-more apparent that employee voice matters. But without the right tools, resources, and support, that voice can easily get lost in the background noise. ServiceNow, the industry leader in IT management, helps your workforce be heard, with Employee Service Delivery.

Built on the award-winning Now Platform, Employee Service Delivery is designed to bring together employees from across facilities, finance, HR, IT, and legal departments, providing them with an intuitive, consumer-style employee-service experience. Employees can easily share feedback, apply self-service options, and work with virtual agents to address common issues. And then they can take things further, with productivity-boosting process automation and intelligent workflows.

From your employees mouths to your ear, ServiceNow amplifies employee voice and helps you take your business further.

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