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Employee voice is benefiting from the changing nature of communication in the workplace

A good relationship between management and employees can only come about with effective communication between the two. That's why the issue of 'employee voice' - something that has been recognised as a vital component of employee engagement - is becoming increasingly prominent on the managerial agenda.

Even though trade unions have around 6.4 million members, including a recent rise in membership in the private sector, more than three quarters of UK workers are not union members and most of these have no access to union representation.

But the changing nature of the workplace means that there are many alternative ways for employees to have their say and be heard. In fact, research shows that the broader the mixture of channels - whether they are formal and indirect through representation on unions, consultative committees and working parties, or informal and direct such as workforce meetings, team briefings, attitude surveys and social media - the better.

There are now many ways to nurture dialogue, and therefore trust and confidence, between employers and employees. Employee voice can flourish on intranets, blogs, and social media platforms such as Yammer and Facebook, and still co-exist with traditional representation and collective bargaining that can be on a national scale.

Critics have wondered how much employee voice which is reliant on new technologies or team meetings can really contribute to the decision-making process. Indeed, it may well be that employees' influence on strategic planning and financial performance will never come from the employees' Twitter feed.

In the quest for employee engagement, however, research shows that perceptions are as important as power. People consider a consultation procedure to be fair if they have had their say, even knowing they have had little influence on decisions. A culture in the workplace that fosters trust and cooperation by cultivating employee voice is much more likely to have a motivated and engaged workforce that enjoys increased levels of productivity and retention.

Acas aims to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations, and has published the Employee communications and consultation. Acas also runs training courses on skills for supervisors and improving employee engagement (check the staff retention page for details).

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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