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Social media must be embraced to reverse weakening employee voice

If the moral and business need for employee voice was ever in question, the Mid Staffs hospital scandal, in which the concerns over standards raised by frontline staff went unheard or unanswered, would surely underline its importance. Recent research, however, has revealed that employee voice has been steadily weakening in UK workplaces.

Employee satisfaction with the ability to feed views up has declined across all sectors over the last three quarters, according to research undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). The problem was particularly marked in the public sector, where more than half of employees (53 per cent) said they didn't trust their senior leaders, and more than three in five (62 per cent) said they weren't consulted about important decisions. The same survey also reported record lows in employee engagement levels across all sectors.

So, what's going wrong? Separate research from the CIPD has identified missed opportunities in the use of social media to engage staff and give them voice. The report said that social media provided an 'open channel' for staff expression, enabling 'greater collaboration and knowledge sharing between employees at all levels'. But it found that a resistance to change and a lack of social media savvy among senior leaders was preventing organisations from fostering a culture of trust, openness and collaboration.

The CIPD said that too much emphasis was being given to the risks associated with social media, while the benefits of traditional means were being overstated. It found that some senior leaders lacked understanding in how social media operated and didn't recognise that it was 'driving us headlong into an age of mass collaboration and mass transparency'. It warned that leaders who didn't embrace this would find themselves 'on the back foot'.

Acas can help your organisation get the most out of Social media, and offers Skills for supervisors training, providing a comprehensive overview of effective communication and essential 'people skills'. Acas also runs practical training courses aimed at improving employee engagement, listed under Staff retention.

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

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