Diversity & Inclusion

Giving Each Employee a Voice and How to Amplify It

Innovative companies are collaborative companies. They find new solutions by sifting through a steady flow of fresh ideas drawn from a wide range of contributors. The best innovators understand that the next big idea could come from anyone in the organization, so they democratize innovation and invite everyone to participate.

Achieving that level of collaboration is tricky, and most companies never get there. It requires giving each employee a voice—something most organizations don’t do well. In fact, a recent survey found that 86% of employees feel there are groups that are underrepresented in their workplaces. That underrepresentation isn’t just pointing at diversity; it’s pointing at how well individuals are able to communicate higher up within the organization.

The bad news is, failure to unmute those voices impacts more than just innovation, though frankly, that alone should push most leaders to take some action. In workplaces where employees feel they don’t have a voice, a drop in engagement numbers isn’t far behind.

A recent report reveals that only 32% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. One of the key factors cited for the lack of employee engagement is workers’ feeling their opinions don’t count. Another recent report shows that highly engaged employees are three times more likely than highly disengaged employees to say they have a voice in their workplace.

Sure, some businesses might feel they can get by without collaboration, but all businesses know employee engagement is a core component of their success. When it drops, it takes productivity, work quality, worker retention, and customer satisfaction with it. Organizations that care about their success can’t ignore employee engagement.

Taking steps to give each employee a voice can spark both collaboration and engagement. For companies looking to take that path, here are some steps that can lead to improvement.

Empower Employees to Contribute

All employees have their own opinion when it comes to their workplace. What they lack is an opportunity to voice it.

Often, employees stay quiet because they don’t believe they’ve been invited into the discussion. A recent survey found that 49% of employees don’t contribute ideas in the workplace because “no one asked.” They’re holding feedback or great ideas in because they feel like it’s not their spot to contribute.

Another common issue arises when employees are quiet because they don’t have an avenue for input that feels comfortable to them. While some employees love sharing their thoughts during Zoom meetings, others may find it unnerving and feel that a one-on-one meeting with their manager is a better setting for them to speak their minds. An anonymous survey works for any employee but especially for those looking for a low-key way to provide feedback. If you have multiple solutions for feedback, you’re more likely to hear from a broader set of team members.

Be specific in what you’re asking for when asking for feedback. Prompts that are overly vague can discourage people from participating, and questions that seem leading can also be off-putting. Ideally, organizations will invite input in a way that allows thoughtful and relevant feedback.

Whenever feedback is given, providing follow-up is critical. This doesn’t mean every suggestion needs to be adopted or even addressed, but it must be acknowledged because expressing appreciation for input will drive ongoing participation. Make sure employees know the feedback was heard so they don’t withhold it the next time around.

Take Steps to Amplify Voices Where Necessary

In some cases, even employees who have been given the opportunity to contribute may lack confidence. If you want to empower this group, make sure their voices are amplified.

One way for leaders to amplify the voices of timid employees is to encourage dominant voices to be more aware and proactive in making space for those they may be drowning out. There are always Type-A personalities that have a comment to share. Coaching that group is an easy way to create opportunities for less aggressive team members to speak up.

Leaders can also hold brainstorming sessions and other discussions in smaller groups where participants feel more confident to contribute. The ideas that emerge from those sessions can later be taken to larger groups for discussion.

Don’t Ignore Employees’ Limitations

While employees need to be given a voice, there’s the potential to take it too far. Organizations shouldn’t be run by committees. Many positions don’t have (and shouldn’t have) access to data and other information that’s critical for understanding and contributing to certain discussions.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean hearing from a multitude of voices isn’t helpful. After all, hearing from more team members as often as possible allows for deeper insight and better decision-making in the future. As the proverb says, in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.

Still, many crucial decisions will be best made by executive teams on their own. Taking steps to ensure that all employees have a voice is critical to achieving the goal of staying competitive in today’s market.

Logan Mallory is the Vice President of Marketing at employee engagement and recognition software Motivosity. Mallory is a public speaker, professor, and thought leader on culture and leadership in the workplace to achieve employee retention. Motivosity helps companies promote gratitude and connection in today’s digital era of work.

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