Harnessing Employee Voice – A Case Study
February 6, 2023

I took my first step in to HR management, full of ideas and passion, determined to help make the organisation a better place to work and prove myself in this new role. 

I set to work hitting the ground running, met with managers and got a good idea of what the problems they saw. I reviewed the HR policies, processes and procedures and soon identified what the priorities should be and where to start.

I worked tirelessly to get things done and get some quick wins, harmonising terms and conditions and reviewing key policies.

When I got to the point of presenting all my hard work to employees I felt great, I had worked my ass off to make these reviews happen and put best practice in place from what I’d researched.

I presented my shiny new policies and harmonised terms and conditions expecting employees to be really pleased that someone had finally taken the bull by the horns and got to this point!

What I was met with was challenge on many points, resistance and my hard work being picked apart and questioned in detail, it was incredibly frustrating and disheartening.

I very quickly realised what the problem was, I hadn’t involved employees and stakeholders from the beginning and throughout these reviews, I had taken everything on myself and made all the decisions. I felt that it was on my shoulders alone to make these changes. By doing that I hadn’t listened to people’s views and what they actually wanted, and had put myself under a lot of pressure to present a finalised review in isolation.

Following this learning experience, I very quickly realised that having employees involved in the development of ideas and during any reviews or decisions not only meant that the outcome was not met with any resistance, it also meant the decisions were better. Employees came up with great ideas that I’d not have thought of. I felt far less pressure to come up with all the answers by myself and became more open to other ways of doing things.

I started the Employee Voice Team initially as a way to consult with employees once I’d made the decisions, but it very quickly became more than this. A working group to help design and deliver initiatives, a way to share information with all employees and a mechanism for positive development in the organisation.

We worked together on Terms of Reference which clearly stated that everyone on the group should be there because they were passionate about making the organisation a great place to work. The ToR set expectations and boundariesvery clearly. I didn’t try to answer significant issues myself in the meetings, so it didn’t become a group of employees putting me on the spot, but I took any issues to management team. This way everyone felt their problems were being listened to. Specific managers were then invited in to the group to feedback and discuss problems.

I realised that people care far more about being heard than getting their own way, even when people couldn’t get the resolution they wanted, they were happy that their issues had been properly considered by managers.

The group was not a forum which focused on issues and where people moaned about problems, it was a group of people who took the opportunity to proactively work together and make the organisation better for everyone.

The more the group developed, the more I stepped back and allowed the team to be led by the employees.

We made sure everyone contributed in meetings and everyone’s views were heard by going around all members, not just hearing the loudest people. This helped with accountability as everyone bought in to decisions. The group included members from all areas of the organisation and a diverse range of people representative of the whole workforce.

Each time an employee survey was completed, the data was reviewed by the group and an action plan for increasing satisfaction developed, then actions monitored and progress shared with all employees at regular intervals. This showed an open and transparent approach to everyone else in the organisation. For the same reason a brief summary and actions were shared with all employees after each meeting.

There was a suggestion from the group that each of the company values had a champion from inside our employee voice team, who would arrange an event or share information about the specific theme.

This led to a ‘supportive’ (fun) champion organising badminton in the gardens for instance, or the wellbeing champion sharing mental health resources and hosting wellbeing drop in sessions.

What was great about the evolution of this team was that initiatives that had previously been seen as a HR tasks, were now employee led. Not only did this give HR extra capacity, but the initiatives had more buy in and were more creative as they were from the workforce. They were naturally more inclusive as a diverse range of people had come up with the ideas.

During this last year, with the unprecedented disruption caused by Covid and many changes and challenges, having the ‘buy in’ of employees in the organisation has made a huge difference. I’m incredibly proud of the workforce for the way they have adapted and innovated during these times. We’ve had no issues with transitioning to a completely new way of working overnight, and learning a whole lot of new technology; and have come up with some great initiatives to support people inside and outside of the organisation during this time.

As an organisation that is constantly remodelling and changing to evolve in line with the external environment, it would be easy to think engagement and trust would be low from constant change. But far from it, employees overwhelmingly feel that they have a say in any changes and trust that they will be communicated with and will be heard.

Harnessing the voice of all employees is something that is fundamental to creating a great culture and successful, adaptive and innovative organisation!