The hidden costs of organisational silence
When we silence ourselves and our employees (even when we’re convinced that it is the right thing to do) we are often damaging our relationships and limiting innovation and growth. Research shows that this tendency to remain silent rather than express a different view happens in both individual relationships and in organisational ones. We often fear a loss of status or rejection from the group if we differ from the consensus. A fundamental need we all have is to belong, and we often feel the way to do this is to conform. We often say what we think other people want us to say.
Inviting your employees to have an effective voice can increase Employee Engagement and innovation in your organisation
Why end organisational silence? It can enhance productivity through its impact on employee engagement, creativity, retention and effectiveness.
The top 2 reasons for a lack of interest in employee voice:
- Many managers find it challenging as they see it as a challenge to their authority. Managers who dislike being challenged can find it hard to justify the decisions to share their plans with employees although it is often a valued approach to managing change.
- Employee engagement management approaches tends to view employees in a passive role, seeing engagement as something that is driven by the organisation, rather than by both the organisation and employees. Research shows that a large part of engagement, similar to discretionary behaviour, is brought to the table by employees, not something done to them.
A key driver of employee engagement is the employee’s sense of feeling valued and involved. This includes involvement in decision-making. A recent UK 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study showed a direct connection between involvement and engagement. The report found that less than 40% of employees were satisfied with the amount of involvement they had in decision-making. However, of those satisfied employees over 80% felt proud to work for their organisation (34% of the sample). This sense of feeling valued and involved is a key test of engagement and commitment. Of the 60% who were dissatisfied with their level of involvement in decision-making, less than 33% were proud of being part of their organisation (19% of the sample). This is a significant difference.
The key elements of engagement at work in descending order of importance are:
- An Employee’s trust in management (Gallup Q12 question –Does the mission/purpose of my organization make me feel like my work is important?)
- Work satisfaction (Gallup Q12 question – At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?)
- Involvement in decision making (Gallup Q12 question – At work, do my opinions seem to count?)
- Management and employee relationship climate (Gallup Q12 question – Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?)
- Pay satisfaction
- Challenging work (Gallup Q12 question – At work, have I had opportunities to learn and grow?)
- A sense of achievement (Gallup Q12 question – At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?)
The most influential factor across the board is trust in management. Towers Watson and Gallup both state that having a voice that matters is a critical engagement factor for employees today.
Some of the key Towers Watson and Gallup findings include:
- Employee voice is a key foundation of sustainable business success. Ending organisational silence increases employee engagement, enables more effective decision-making and drives innovation.
- Employee voice impacts both culture and organisational structures. It is important to first get the culture right, then to provide the processes and channels through which employees can express opinions and participate in innovation.
- Integrity, authenticity and trust are essential. Employees will only participate and share their thoughts when they feel safe and know their opinions are both valued and will be acted on.
- A variety of channels are necessary to utilise employee voice as a engagement factor, and ensure these channels support both the individual and collective voice of employees.
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