How can we create new solutions for worker voice?

By Louisa Baczor, Research Advisor at the CIPD

What does it mean to ‘have a voice’?

Voice is an ambiguous concept that has many different purposes - from raising ideas or concerns, to influencing decisions and being heard. There are also different motivations for voice (that are not always well-intentioned) – whether to pursue personal or collective goals, make improvements, take advantage of power, or simply to connect with others. So, what does voice look like in an organisational context, and why is it important?

Having a voice at work is fundamental to ensuring job quality. It’s the primary channel through which people can influence aspects of their working lives. Current definitions of employee voice take different forms, including feeding ideas ‘up’ to management to improve the way things are done in the company; raising a grievance; and negotiating over working conditions.

The way we use voice at work is changing

The ability of individuals to have a voice at work is being challenged by modern working practices, such as new types of employment contract and increase in remote working, which mean that people don’t necessarily meet their employer in person or feel as connected to the organisation. Technology is also changing our expectations of how voice is used, with the ability to publicly broadcast views in our personal lives through social media – but how can it be used effectively in the workplace, and where does the boundary lie between freedom of speech and management control? We need to create alternative solutions for worker voice that are inclusive of individual needs and the workforce as a whole, in order to drive positive outcomes both for the organisation in terms of efficiency and worker commitment, and for individual well-being and fulfilment.

In 2017 the CIPD published a paper that challenged the current perspective on employee voice; arguing that it’s not necessarily fit for the changing world of work. We’re calling for alternative solutions that focus on the principle of voice and the outcomes for workers, to create more sustainable people management practice.

Louisa will be discussing this topic as part of our International Webinar Series on 23 May 2018. Explore the research on Voice and more CIPD resources on The Future of Voice topic page in our Knowledge Hub at CIPD.AE or CIPD.Asia.

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