Voice and value: power, influence and institutions

At today's annual Voice and Value Conference, which we are delighted to be hosting again jointly with the London School of Economics, we’ll hear a wide range of perspectives from both employer representatives as well as employee representatives. Amongst other speakers, Kay Carberry from the TUC will offer a union perspective on employee voice and influence, and I’ll speak for employers and put forward a current HR perspective. We’ll hear about some of the research currently taking place and examples of best practice. We’ll talk about what today’s employees want to influence and how employers, trade unions and government should adapt to support this.

> Employees who are listened to and valued, who understand the wider purpose and strategy of the enterprise and their connection to it... will be more engaged

Employee voice needs to be seen as the two-way communication between employer and employee, and is important in the context of everything from innovation and agility, to employee engagement, to collective debate, as well as providing for the timely identification of issues and problems in an organisation. In today’s world there are many new channels to support these kinds of communications and dialogue across organisations, particularly with the use of technology and social media, that can sit alongside or be part of more formal organisational channels.

Although the economic climate has left many workers feeling insecure about their futures, and has seen others lose their jobs through redundancy, I would argue that the trend is towards employee power increasing. The changing nature of work means we have economies that are increasingly reliant on employees using their tacit knowledge and skills, and discretionary effort becomes critical to boosting productivity as well as innovation and new thinking. The trends in work are also to more flexibility, more job movement, and we cannot simply rely on employees just being there. We continue also to have real shortages of skills in significant areas of business and the war for talent continues.

All this says that engaging our employees, listening to them, giving them opportunities to share and participate, investing in their development and learning, are all more important today than they have ever been. These are all synergistic intents – employees who are listened to and valued, who understand the wider purpose and strategy of the enterprise and their connection to it, who are supported in their development and mastery of their roles and see the opportunities for progression, will be more engaged. In turn, they will then contribute more and want to go the extra mile to support their colleagues and help shape the future of their organisations.

So, employee voice is a critical element to achieving all this and it’s imperative that employers find more genuine, responsive and open ways of engaging with employees and listening to them. It’s also about the kind of organisational cultures we create, how we train managers and leaders at all levels to listen to and trust in their employees, and how we unlock command and control structures and thinking, to providing more autonomy, connection and engagement at all levels.

These are all positive and important dimensions of employee voice, but we also need to listen to the concerns and issues more. Our research has shown that around two-fifths of employers (42%) reported an increase in stress-related absence over the past year, a figure which rises to 55% in the public sector. The top three causes of stress are: workload/volume of work, management style (another reason for the need for more management development and training) and the amount of organisation change or restructuring. It’s important that employers recognise this and work to reduce stress factors as well.

I am keen we share the best ideas and thinking in this important area for all shapes and sizes of business, and that’s the intent of today’s Voice and Value Conference. In the past it’s been held under Chatham House rules but in the spirit of dialogue, we’re trying to give the whole event a louder voice and make it a spark for ongoing debate. Follow on Twitter: #employeevoice and come back to the CIPD blog for a post-event report.



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  • "Employee voice needs to be seen... identification of issues and problems in an organisation."

    Indeed this is true

    There is a great tool developed in South Africa and well rested in large corporates which is designed entirely to make this two way communication easy. Go to www.blu-prints.com or http://youtu.be/vKGq1pE1ElU  for a 3 min video explaining how