The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development defines employee voice as the means by which employees communicate their views on employment and organizational matters to their leadership. It is the most direct and effective way to ensure the grassroots part of the organization has just as must say in the organization as the grasstops. Employees who have a voice in their organization also have a say in what goes on in their workplaces. Here are some ways your agency can ensure this happens:
Listen With Purpose
Listening with purpose goes beyond the annual “wam bam thank you mam” once a year survey that rarely provides an up to minute account of what employees are really concerned about.
Replace annual engagement assessments with pulse surveys. They are quick hitting, more frequent appraisals that give real time feedback in smaller more manageable quantities geared toward targeted results.
Dr. Jay Dorio, Director of Employee Voice and Assessments with IBM Kenexa states: “If you are going to listen you have to do so with a purpose and always ask yourself, ‘why are we listening?’ as this will drive how you listen and the types of tools you use.”
Respect What Matters to People
What matters to people in the Senior Executive Service often differs from what folks care about at the GS 5-12 level. The only way to get to the heart of these matters is to listen to what your people say.
Dr. Jonathan Levine, Lead Organizational Psychologist for Stop and Shop puts this issue in perspective. “One of the common challenges with the top down approach is that employees are rarely involved in the creation of the content, which means the questions being asked aren’t always the ones most relevant to them,” he said.
Empower Employees to Find Their Voice
Most often, annual employee surveys follow the lead of the organization’s highest ranking officials in the form of a top down, human capital initiatives isolated around their interpretation of employee concerns through the lens of transactional engagement. Reliance on this type of listening creates the perception that employees are the problem and not the solution to our engagement challenges.
Dr. Jay Dorio, Director of Employee Voice and Assessments at IBM Kenexa drives home this point. “One of the most important elements of any listening program is fostering employee driven voice. The act of listening can often be one-sided because far too many engagement surveys are comprised of a list of old questions that may or may not be relevant to the current audience,” he said. “We should look for unique ways to draw themes out of our employees by using a mix of open-ended questioning, pulse surveys, and discussion forums.”
Act Quickly and Decisively
Annual engagement surveys have lengthy analysis periods that frustrate survey participants since present day concerns become yesterday’s forgotten results. By the time employees get their survey results back, the inaction on their previous engagement worries have made matters worse over time and more intractable.
Dr. Angela Pratt, Human Resources Director of Kellogg’s Foods and North American Marketing highlights the apprehension employees feel when their feedback is not acted upon. “Closing the loop on any listening activity is critical,” she said. “When genuine concerns are raised be ready to respond and act. Even it if does not seem meaningful to folks at the top of the organizations, the worries of folks on the front line are real.”
If our people are our greatest assets then their voices are the guiding light to our long term engagement. Help your employees find their voice. It may be the most important conversation we have to prove that engagement is not the sole property of the best workplaces but the ultimate destiny of every workplace.