Is there anybody there? How to ensure your people have a voice

employee voice is vital for engagement

I was talking to one of my third sector coaching clients the other day about someone in her team who’s giving her a hard time. They’re withdrawn and passively disruptive but won’t open up to her as a senior leader. She knows it’s her responsibility to help close that ‘them and us’ gap and is at a loss.


This kind of situation is frustrating and I hear about similar scenarios a fair bit in my one-to-one coaching. Her team member had become so disengaged that he was no longer fully involved and enthusiastic about his work in a way that furthers her organisation’s work. (This is the Wiki definition of the rather slippery beast of engagement).

Clearly, measures which engage and enthuse staff need to be in place before things get to crisis point. In my view, based on many hours of coaching third sector employees, one of the best places to start once things have gone wrong is to check in with whether people feel heard or not – everyone wants to feel that they matter, and that they count.

Employee voice

One of the four enablers to engagement, ‘employee voice’ is the two-way communication between leaders and staff in the workplace. There’s a direct link between employee voice and people feeling more valued, but it’s my experience that third sector organisations aren’t giving it quite the attention it deserves. They see it as a bit of a luxury, perhaps? Or even rather childish? Shouldn’t we all just be getting on with our jobs since we’re so lucky to have them in the first place?

Let me speak!

How can you ensure employee voice?

But you know, if your people could talk to you about how they feel right now, I reckon they’d be saying something like this:

  1. We want a voice (even though it doesn’t always look as if we do)
  2. We want more than just the annual staff survey, thank you very much
  3. We want to know that you’ll put our ideas into practice
  4. Or let us know honestly why that’s not possible
  5. You need to genuinely want to hear what we’ve got to say (even if you don’t much like it)
  6. We need to trust you, otherwise we won’t bother
  7. You need to be transparent and open with us, too
  8. We need to feel that you aren’t just ticking boxes.

So, if you were to respond to one of these challenges in the next week, what would you do?

A few employee voice ideas

  • take another look at your team’s response to the annual staff survey and see what else could be done in your team. It’s often the tiny things that make a difference
  • explore setting up an open forum on social media such as Jive. If your organisation has one already, commit to reading what’s being said, engaging with others and sharing yourself. You do have time, I promise you
  • Ask your team to problem-solve a challenge which is on your plate and reward their involvement. Sharing in decision-making is a great way to get employees’ voices heard.

What else could you do?

Over to you

Does your organisation have an employee voice strategy? If so, how’s it going? If not, what’s holding you back, do you think? I’d love you to join in the conversation by commenting in the reply box below.

What next?

If you want to make sure your people have a voice and you’re hearing it, call 0208 772 7808 or email me for a no-obligation chat to see how coaching can help. I’m now taking bookings for January 2016.




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