Having a voice at work can make a fundamental difference to people's working lives and can help build better relationships between employers and their workforce. Wellbeing, commitment and innovation are negatively impacted when employees feel they lack a ‘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 can safely put forward their viewpoints on their 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 a more positive workplace climate. Line managers, people professionals and leaders have a responsibility to listen to and respond to employees’ voices. They can encourage employees to express themselves through individual and collective channels. 
This means using both direct mechanisms, such as employee surveys, and indirect ones, for example through an employee representative.

Collective representation through trade unions and non-union employee representation can complement individual voice channels. Organisations should provide employees with access to multiple channels to share their voice, encouraging a two-way dialogue between the business and its workforce.

 

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 involving direct dialogue between an organisation and its employees, whereby individuals can voice opinions and make suggestions.
  • Collective voice via trade unions and their representatives, as well as non-union employee representatives, for example a staff forum.

There are two main purposes for employee voice:

  • To address the fundamental right of every employee to have good work, including a voice to shape their working life.
  • To improve an organisation’s function and performance by hearing a diverse range of viewpoints.

However, CIPD research and case studies show that not all forms of voice are used equally. Collective channels, which use employee representatives, have become more relevant in recent years due to increased strike action and campaigns for improved employment rights in UK workplaces. Both forms of voice have an important role to play, and employers should seek to have a range of mechanisms to reflect this. 

Earlier CIPD 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 and safe in using their voice at work. Our aforementioned case study research highlights the importance of actively encouraging people in more junior and operational roles to actively contribute their voice.

 

Recommendations for employers

  • Develop an effective, holistic strategy to encourage collective and individual forms of employee voice.
  • Ensure your organisation informs and consults employees in line with their statutory rights, for example on health and safety issues.
  • Establish effective information and consultation structures and practices for employee representation.
  • Implement a range of two-way communication and consultation methods to encourage employee voice. Ensure there are regular opportunities for employees to raise concerns, such as via weekly meetings and employee surveys for individual voice and staff or joint consultative forums for collective voice.
  • Demonstrate senior leader support for inclusive employee voice to encourage participation from a diverse group of employees. Employers should provide clear and transparent follow-up information to demonstrate how employee voice is influencing change.
  • Foster an organisational climate and culture where employees feel psychologically safe and confident to use their voice and speak up.
  • Train and develop line managers to facilitate employee voice in their people management behaviours and work relationships, and make this part of their performance objectives.

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