Decoding the DNA of progressive employers: Employees' voice

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Leaders who use a ground-up approach that is both consultative and supportive will play a part in promoting psychological safety at work and a positive team climate, experts from TAFEP note.

This article on employee voice is the second installment of the five-part series on the building blocks to develop the DNA of a progressive employer.

Everyone wants to be heard, whether in a personal or professional setting. At work, when employees feel that their views count, they will feel more engaged and connected to the organisation.

This is why cultivating a strong employee voice at the workplace is critical, and identified as one of the building blocks to develop the DNA of a progressive employer in a study commissioned by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).

Organisations that value employee voice create a safe environment for employees to speak up and also demonstrate a willingness to listen and take appropriate actions. This builds open and trusting relationships with employees, and higher employee engagement will lead to lower turnover as well as more innovative ideas.

Everyone in the organisation plays a role in promoting employee voice, but how should leaders, and HR create a culture of listening that will encourage employees to speak up?

Set the right tone from the top

Senior leaders play a critical role in setting the right tone, climate, and mindset. For instance, overly authoritative or insecure leaders create a culture where employees only say things that the leaders want to hear.

Leaders who use a ground-up approach that is both consultative and supportive will promote psychological safety at work and positive team climate by recognising employees as important stakeholders, and co-creating solutions with them.

Aside from being accessible and approachable, these leaders promote a listening culture by incorporating relevant feedback from employees in the decision-making process.

HR can also assist by implementing effective lines of communication between leaders and employees. Here’s how:

#1 Set up multiple feedback channels

For a start, HR could conduct company-wide surveys followed by team dialogues to assure employees that all opinions are given equal consideration.

Think about incorporating multiple workplace feedback mechanisms by considering the avenues that work best for the organisation. These channels could also be embedded across the employee life cycle, e.g. recruitment, and onboarding.

Remember to be inclusive, and take into account employees who are unable to attend daytime engagement sessions due to reasons such as night-shift schedules or those who prefer their feedback to be anonymous. Informal channels such as one-on-one meetings with direct supervisors in these instances can prove more useful.

#2 Equip leaders with effective listening strategies

After implementing channels of employee voice, leaders must genuinely listen.

This means going beyond superficial dialogues by actively engaging their employees – not only to fully understand what is being said, but also to offer support, and respond with care and empathy.

This can be done with relevant training for leaders and managers to be in tune with verbal and non-verbal cues, and by paraphrasing or summarising what is being said to show that one is making conscious efforts to listen, and understand the speaker.

#3 Close the loop with employees

However, listening is not enough. Organisations should also commit to making improvements to organisational practices, based on the feedback, where appropriate.

Providing relevant platforms to share what actions were taken, and why certain feedback could not be implemented is effective in establishing trust, and accountability.

To further encourage employees to speak up, organisations can design recognition programmes to reward those who tabled suggestions that helped improve work processes or introduced favourable, and implementable new ideas.

While leaders can make or break an organisation, success also depends on the collective effort and voice of employees in shaping a better future. By granting them a voice within the organisation, it gives them greater clarity and alignment with their organisation’s core mission and values. It also allows employees to feel a sense of ownership in the organisation’s decision-making process, thereby improving engagement levels at work.

[View part one of the series: Decoding the DNA of progressive employers: How to cultivate collaborative networks]


To get more insights on what leaders, HR professionals, and employees can do to foster employee voice, download TAFEP’s Beyond 20/20: DNA of Progressive Employers.

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