Evolution Of Employee Voice: Then And Now

Evolution Of Employee Voice: Then And Now

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It’s your duty as a business leader to make positive improvements in the evolution of employee voice for the greater success of your organization, employees, and customers served.  

Taking excellent care of your customers yet failing to adequately engage your employees is like spending all your time caring for your child while failing to prioritize your spouse.  

Your employees are your team. More than that, your employees are your success and your vitality. They’re the magic ingredient in everything. The future of your company rides on them. 

Your customer satisfaction rates ride on them. And the more engaged they are, the more involved they’ll be.  

No matter what product you’re building or no matter what service you’re offering, your number one priority should be your employees. It makes all the difference in the world. 

But you already knew that, right?  

Why is employee voice so important?

Capturing and acting on the voice of employees is crucial to achieving higher employee engagement and establishing a fulfilling employee experience for all.  

When employees have a voice and when their voice leads to concrete action, there’s a lot of evidence that shows the impact this has on higher engagement.   

A Forbes report looking at the statistical relationship between employee voice, engagement, and performance, for example, found: 

  • Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work
  • 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing feedback ad check-ins are key for successful outcomes
  • Highly engaged teams show 21% more profitability
  • Teams who score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover 
  • Engaged employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy 

Over the last couple of decades, advantages and disadvantages of employee voice have presented. With each new learning comes a better way to ramp up the volume. Evolving HR systems and supportive technologies help make employee voice strategies all the more meaningful. 

For the most effective and amplified employee voice strategy, leverage WorkTango’s world-class technology. Schedule a personalized demo today.

Listening to the Voice of Employees in the 2000s

Back in the early 2000s we were all constantly striving for greater customer satisfaction and product improvement. But we weren’t giving the same attention to our strongest asset—our employees. On reflection that was scary for the future of our organizations. 

Consider the state of achievement and award programs for instance. Employers used to reward employees every five years based on little more than showing up for work. Think of all those 25-year logo-branded watches and five or ten-or fifteen-year pins that got shoved to the back of a dresser drawer. Inspiring? Engaging? Hmm, maybe not so much. 

Back at the turn of the millennium annual employee engagement surveys were all the rage. They provided a snapshot overview, albeit over the preceding 12 months.  

But imagine facing a challenge in the workplace and then having to wait 365 days until your concern was addressed. Imagine trying to do your job, day in day out, without feeling like you were being heard or appreciated. Imagine if there were no opportunity for you to give your feedback until the yearly annual survey came around, and then having to wait additional months for any change to begin to take place. If at all. 

Long and generic, the annual survey of the past was a bland and convoluted process that employees had to wrestle through.  

What’s more, it wasn’t really representative of the whole year. Think of how difficult it is to remember what you ate for dinner last Tuesday. How much more difficult would it be to recall specific work experiences from six months ago? 

“Because the survey was constructed and executed without local context” LearnGeek founder and author JD Dillon points out, “managers were left to interpret the results and figure out how to turn the data into tangible actions. This often resulted in responses that were too little, too late or off-target due to the local interpretation of the results and related employee needs.”  

Nonetheless, the annual survey method was the first progression in the evolution of employee voice. This initial, well-intentioned employee voice strategy has advanced leaps and bounds since. 

Employee voice - megaphone

Higher Frequency Employee Feedback Practices of the 2010s 

The workforce was becoming more modern in all areas. In support of ever-changing needs, organizations began to prioritize listening to employees. The goal: to tune in more frequently to better understand and engage staff. 

Achievement ethics progressed with recognition and reward systems working on monthly, weekly, or even daily time frames. The focus shifted to more specific value-sets and behaviors and inspired employees to grow. This positive progression in recognition and reward systems helped chart a path towards greater employee fulfillment and engagement at work.  

The way we listened to employees and offered a safe place for feedback was changing as well.   

Pulse surveys became a popular method of gaining employee feedback. This shorter, more focused group of survey questions could be sent out on a frequent basis. The associated flexibility made pulse surveys an incredibly effective tool in the employee voice toolbox. 

By being able to consistently connect with employees, organizations were better able to understand the work vibe and take more effective measures. The trick was to determine and embrace the most effective measure, the most evolved, efficient means for success. 

As an employee, receiving an employee pulse was more comprehensive than a vague annual survey. However, there was still room to improve.  

One problem was the employee pulse could be repetitive and impersonal. Answering the same questions over and over could lead employees to feel like the process was on autopilot and leave them wondering if leadership was listening. In point of fact, midway through the 2010s a Gallup poll revealed 50.8% of US employees were “not engaged”, while 17.2% were “actively disengaged”.  

How Tough Lessons Triggered New Employee Voice Strategies 

Organizations wanted employees to feel fully engaged and understood. Applying consumer behavior principles to human resource people strategies started gaining traction.  

Then the pandemic unleashed a torrent of uncertainty and foisted remote work on an unprepared crowd. 

A storm of unprecedented challenges pelted people working from their homes, juggling household responsibilities, working in isolation.  

In the shadows of COVID-19 organizations came to realize employees deserve to feel valued, cared for, and heard. They deserve to be part of the bigger picture conversation: 

  • a conversation that should ideally take place more than once a year
  • an exchange that’s a two-way dialogue and not limited to a finite number of questions
  • a strategic method that finds out what’s going on in the hearts and minds of employees in a moment of time, and conveys sentiments in real-time to HR, executive leaders, and direct managers. 

In the evolution of employee voice, modern methods and cutting-edge efficiency formed the most exciting progression yet: a concept referred to as active listening.  

Check out WorkTango’s active listening platform, approach, and technology by downloading the info sheet here.

Active Listening in the 2020s

Imagine if you could build accountability and trust with your employees so they felt safe to open up and share their feelings and experiences. Imagine if you were able to build a strong foundation with your team, a team that felt appreciated and valued. Picture the outcome if you were able to hear your team’s concerns and reply effectively and immediately.

Give employees a voice and leaders actionable insights

With the active listening approach, employers are able to get a baseline for employees, trend survey results over a period of time, and then ask more specific questions based on ACTIVELY listening to the results of previous surveys. 

This isn’t just the same questions over and over. These are insightful, developing questions that pay attention to employee answers. That demonstrates you’re listening. Probe for more information. Follow up with more questions about the effectiveness of resulting decisions and actions. And affirm an ongoing two-way exchange built on transparency and trust. 

Think about your customers. The most loyal ones are the ones who feel supported, the ones who trust you and enjoy working with you, correct? Why not foster the same level of relationship with your employees? They are, after all, your key to successful customer relations and product management, as well as your key to high profitability and organizational success. 

What does active listening look like?

Active listening is a blend of tools including the annual or biennial survey and frequent pulse surveys. In terms of structure, it supports: 

  • Asking a consistent question on a frequent cadence to measure and support  sentiment in the organization
  • Rotating questions that dive into more specific issues or gaps over time; a baseline of  key questions linked to engagement drivers
  • Asking questions relevant to your organization to get real-time insight and feedback about what’s happening (or going to happen) such as reactions to major announcements or large organizational changes

Active listening also encompasses regularly scheduled one on one Sync-Up meetings—a far better feedback forum than the dreaded annual performance review. 

Manager access to team feedback and AI generated resource recommendations to help upgrade people-leader skills are some of the other active listening components that amplify the voice of employees.  

And when employees have that voice, the positive impact on employee engagement is irrefutable.  

employee voice - working at computer

How do you know if your employee voice strategy is working?

There’s a popular method often used to measure customer loyalty called the Net Promoter Score. It’s a simple, easy test anyone can do and works equally effectively and accurately when applied to employees.   

The eNPS or Employee Net Promoter Score is a standard measure that helps you get a sense of your employees’ overall sense of loyalty and satisfaction.  

It’s based on the question: 

“How likely are you to recommend our company to your friends and family?” 

Employees answer this question using a 10-point rating scale: 1 implies being very unlikely to recommend the organization and 10 indicates being highly likely.     

Feedback falls into three categories, which makes it surprisingly straightforward to interpret employee answers. 

  • Promoters are employees who love the organization and will recommend it to others (ranking the question at a 9 or 10) 
  • Passives are employees who are ambivalent (giving a score of 7 or 8) 
  • Detractors are employees who are unhappy and may advise against working with  you (rating the questions anywhere from 1 to 6) 

Once results are in, sort answers into the appropriate Promoter, Passive, or Detractor category. Subtract the total number of “Detractors” from the total number of “Promoters”.  

And voila: the number you’re left with is your eNPS.  

Tracking these scores over time will tell you if your employee voice initiatives are headed in the right direction. So pay attention. Listen to what’s being said. And take action. 

Forecasting the Future: 2030+

The technologies and approaches that reflect the modern workforce will continue to change the way we do things.  

The swift shift to remote learning taught us the whole person matters.  

This includes the intersectionality of our roles as parents, elder caregivers, rising corporate stars, team contributors, homeowners, single income renters, and so on.  

It encompasses the blending of traits that make us uniquely who we are, be that our gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, and belief system — to mention but a few.  

It’s welcoming that mash-up and focusing on the individual that will carry us well and deep into the work world of the future. 

“Human connection is an energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another. It has the power to deepen the moment, inspire change and build trust.” –  Donna Pisacano Brown, The Power of Human ConnectionLIHerald.com    

The key will be to continue creating meaningful employee experiences. To prove we’re listening and we care. That we’re trustworthy and genuine, ready to lend support professionally and personally. 

When it comes to connecting with and keeping talent around, technology and the flexibility it offers will completely dismantle geographic boundaries. AI’s role is still on the drafting board. 

But we can all be sure the changes we’ve come through in the first two decades of the 21st century will morph faster, in unimaginably transformative ways. And the evolution of employee voice will surely grow louder and stronger.