The importance of developing a Voice of the Employee program
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
Employee engagement is top of mind for many organizations today. Realizing that their biggest assets are their employees, countless companies have scrambled to implement initiatives aimed at boosting workplace engagement in the hopes of improving retention.
But despite these efforts, the average U.S. company is only running at 33% efficiency, according to Gallup research. On a global scale, the outlook is even bleaker. That same study found that just 15% of the world's workers are engaged and reaching their full potential in the workplace.
This points to a major flaw in the system. Companies are pouring time and money into engagement programs, yet employees are still disengaged. So, what’s going wrong—and what can companies do to align their initiatives with what employees truly need to be successful?
The power of feeling heard
With employee engagement closely tied to productivity and other key workforce metrics, it’s no wonder that many companies are willing to throw money at anything that might give engagement a healthy bump. The result tends to be a slew of new perks for employees. But while perks can certainly boost workplace morale, they barely brush the surface of what truly constitutes a meaningful employee experience.
Why? Because they don’t take into account one of the most crucial aspects of employee engagement—feeling like your voice is heard.
Giving employees a voice
When leaders struggle to move the needle on employee engagement, they’re often overlooking the simplest management strategy in the book: listening. By asking employees to share their perspective and taking the time to listen, companies can make changes that matter. This in turn makes employees feel like more than just a faceless cog in the machine, which is especially important as a company grows.
Conducting an annual employee engagement survey is not enough. There’s no one-and-done solution for listening—it’s an art and a science, and it involves a holistic, systematic approach to truly make a difference.
Think of it like customer feedback. The voice of the customer (VOC) is a top concern for companies since it plays a major role in determining their position in the marketplace. And they don’t wait until the end of the year to check-in—they consistently seek out and dig into customer feedback, whether it’s in the form of online reviews, social media sentiment, or focus groups.
You can do something similar at your company by implementing a voice of the employee (VOE) program. This is an effective way to improve employee engagement on a deep and personal level—and show employees you care.
Encouraging thoughtful responses
The first step in creating a VOE program is developing a strategy. This will vary from company to company, depending on what insights you value the most. Focusing on too much too fast will only muddle your strategy, so zero in on top priorities and expand your reach over time.
Next, consider the most efficient way to gather the insights you need. Surveys can help you roll out your program at scale, without demanding too much of your employees’ time.
What differentiates a generic annual survey from a survey that captures the VOE is the inclusion of open-ended questions. Rather than asking multiple-choice questions that force employees into a box with predetermined answers, surveys that successfully capture the VOE will give them room to share their thoughts in as many words as they choose.
Tailor your questions to your unique company culture, different departments, and specific teams. Framing your questions in the right context while allowing employees to answer in their own unique voices is key.
More than just words
This strategy will produce a lot of data. If the HR team is left to read through it on their own, they may struggle to roll out meaningful change in a timely fashion. By utilizing AI tools like natural language processing (NLP), you can gain actionable insights in no time at all. NLP technology has grown so sophisticated that it can now analyze text from survey data and decipher meaning—providing deeper insight into the sentiment behind employees’ words. In turn, this helps teams use open-ended survey data at scale.
As important as listening is, it means nothing if it doesn’t trigger appropriate action. All too often, workplace satisfaction surveys can feel like screaming into the void. While nobody expects their feedback to change everything overnight, it’s important that employees witness their feedback being taken into account. Acting on results in a highly visible way is integral to building employee trust and making VOE initiatives feel like more than just pretty words.
Want to learn more about developing a successful VOE program? Register for our upcoming webinar, The Art and Science of Listening to the Voice of the Employee.