Employees are arguably the most important asset for any organization. A good leader can effectively measure employee voice and build a basic understanding of employee voice, concern and opinion. Taking those into account, a leader can then develop and test hypotheses to better align and integrate organizational actions according to employee voice. This is crucial for a couple of reason:
- Competitive advantage for talent retention and attraction.
- Two way dialogue between employees and organization, balances employee requests against priorities and requirements.
- Anticipate employee discontent and potential employee activism.
How to measure Employee Voice
Employee voices are mostly reactions to real-world events, often stems from political, economical, environmental and legal reasons, and often compared against organization’s response toward the aforementioned events. Therefore, leaders should create a 6-step approach to organization listening skill to measure employee voice:
Step 1: Identifying Key Employees
Leaders should first take time to build a mutual understanding with key employees. Key employees can range from workers representative, employee group or even line leaders. These employees are the most usual passionate and drive the grapevines around the organization. Listening first to employees with strongest views on topics, as opposed to trying to capture broad employee voice, will allow leaders to:
- proactively plan for a key organizational risk by identifying areas that will be the subject of employee scrutiny if and when an organization does not act on them.
- Building credibility and trust with key employees and creating a buy-in from these employees as both organizational action plan or agenda, and as well as a source of innovative ideas.
- Generating a business case that can be used as investment for a broader feedback loop.
Step 2 : Focus Group & Listening Sessions
Admittedly identifying the employees with passion to share their views may prove to be difficult. Therefore, leaders should inquire with employees if any of them have started to informally self-organize a group on these issues, or if any line leaders have heard anything during normal routine. Once these groups have been identified, leaders can then host a focus group or informal listening sessions with these employees.
Alternatively, leaders can also opt to start listening to employees who are the direct subject to the events.Take for an example, the hottest topic in Malaysia: Minimum Wage Order. Leaders can directly reach out to employees that are likely to be affected by this (for example, personnel getting increased wage, line leaders of affected personnel) and organize a listening session.
Step 3: Identify if it’s a Directional Voice or Immediate Action
Leaders should identify the voices shared should belong in the bin of Directional Voice or Immediate Action.
Directional Voice: This provides insight on the impact of any issues to employees. This type of voice is usually used to assess employee’s preference on planned activities or action plan, while presenting the voice to other decision-making bodies tasked to manage the associated organizational activities.
Immediate Action: Immediate action would represent something that the Leader can implement on the spot, that will serve as quick wins for the organization. Immediate Action should also be taken immediately if and when the issue is critical, and immediate action is needed to avoid critical consequences such as safety.
Step 4: Incorporate Findings and Develop Hypothesis
After listening to all key voices, leaders should incorporate all the findings and develop an appropriate hypothesis about their employees opinion. Scientifically speaking, a good hypothesis would include:
- be stated in correct terminology (to cover all variations of similar voice)
- be as brief and clear as possible
- state an expected relationship or difference between two or more variables
- be testable
Step 5: Test Hypothesis
Once the hypothesis is developed, leaders should test their hypothesis with a broader set of employees. Assessing the feedback based on the general employee audience accurately is crucial to measure the employee voice. There are various methods to test hypothesis relating to employee voice:
- Survey: Cheap, fast, and the good old reliable. A survey can be used broadly across the whole organization and gather feedback on a large scale.
- Sentiment Analysis: Gathering and analyzing sentiment via social media, intranet or any other collaboration tool that allows such data collection is highly useful, especially since most of the voices would be unfiltered.
- Focus Group: When an organization prefers an in-depth opinion, a focus group would allow employees to provide more data for analysis based on a given topic.
Step 6: Integration
After measuring and testing, leaders should leverage on the findings and present the findings to other leadership teams and find ways to integrate the employee voice into organizational action plans. This is crucial as:
- It can help mitigate shock arising from real-life events, and create a safe space for employees within organizations.
- Helping organizations to balance employee requests against priorities and requirements of the business through internal communication.
- Boost morale within the employee group and henceforth increasing perceived organizational support and employer value proposition.
Hopefully, with this information, leaders can convincingly create a strong business case to any leadership team out there to measure employee voice, and ultimately implement employee voice for an all-win scenario within the organization.