A couple of recent professional experiences from very different corners of our organisation have jolted me into thinking afresh about how we handle ’employee voice’.
#1 – An expensive, live-interpreted, EU-mandated employee forum, in which engaged employee volunteers are exposed to the old mistrust between management and unions, silencing any potentially open (vulnerable) and constructive dialogue.
#2 – A global CSR programme, finding no place for its specific outputs to be measured in the existing employee survey, concludes it will need to launch its own internal survey, if it is to deliver performance metrics on employee awareness and approval to exec sponsors.
Though miles apart, what’s been nagging at me is how much we risk when we take employee voice for granted, or fritter away the intelligence it potentially has to offer us. Why do we ask employees to contribute, without preparing fertile conditions for their input to bear fruit? Why do we treat them as captives we can tax for information, with little thought to what they will read between the lines of each half-baked expression of interest from above?
IC hacks like me are responsible for a lot of rhetoric about the critical importance of dialogue to communication – but I’m only just beginning to see the gap as an immediate, practical challenge. It feels like it’s time to get serious, and a couple of means to that end are coming into focus for me:
- Employee voice channel audit: itemise the ways employees are currently asked to contribute, and sense-check their value, both to emps and to the organisation. If we don’t know this, how can we manage it properly?
- Voice channel policy: are there general principles or protocols that should hold from online forums to surveys to face-to-face voice channels? How and where will the organisation own and enforce these policies?
- Outside-in: in what other mass audience relationships (customer?) is there an existing investment in cultivating voice and extracting value from it? What can we lift and shift?
If we truly think dialogue is essential to engagement, let’s start managing our IC functions like we mean it. I hope you’ll have some suggestions …