Why amplifying employee voices is key to company culture

By Brian Hay, CEO of The Cardinal Partnership
Brian Hay, CEO of The Cardinal Partnership argues that Having a collective 'employee voice; is hugely beneficial to organisations
Having a collective 'employee voice' is hugely beneficial to businesses, creating diverse goals, improving productivity and boosting a team's involvement

The issue of what constitutes the 'best' company culture has been discussed, studied and dissected as a hot topic among organisation leaders for decades. For some, it all comes down to salary. For others, it’s about work-life balance. But a growing number of business owners have found that creating the right working culture isn’t about pay or benefits. It’s about flipping the traditional employer/employee dynamic to put staff in the driver’s seat.

Most companies would claim that their staff 'have a say'. But truly amplifying employee voices involves more than the occasional survey. It’s no longer enough to expect employees to speak up about topics that matter to them - it’s now up to companies to actively create ongoing conversations that foster a culture of collaboration.

Having a collective 'employee voice' is hugely beneficial to organisations, as it creates diverse goals, improves productivity and strengthens the team’s involvement in achieving their overall mission.

In the wake of the Great Resignation of 2022, business leaders quickly realised that people prefer working for companies whose values align with their own. In Q2, when job resignations rose to a record of 442,000, the conversation quickly shifted to how companies can retain and attract staff.

Employees are now expecting more from their employers, meaning companies are continually forced to reconsider how they can better listen to what their employees want from them, to drive a culture of openness and trust.

A heard workforce leads to a productive workforce

Many organisations previously encouraged competition amongst colleagues, believing that high-pressure and cut-throat atmospheres would allow the strongest employees to succeed.

However, the toxicity in these environments tends to have adverse effects, leading to more stress in the workplace, higher turnover rates, and an increase in missed work days. This is in addition to lowered morale, disengagement, and a significant drop in productivity.

A positive culture – one that reflects the employees values - is one that flourishes. When employees' voices are amplified, it creates a workplace of openness and trust, leading to better communication and collaboration between dispersed teams.

Companies can also gain invaluable insights based on the information their teams share, which can be translated into actions to improve overall performance. In fact, research shows that employees who feel their voices are heard are over four times more likely to produce their best work.

How are businesses amplifying their employees’ voice?

Business leaders often embark on plans or strategies without the input of their people. There are, however, a number of employee voice mechanisms that can be deployed, such as company-wide discussions to bring the organisation together and one-to-one meetings with management.

Employee voice mechanisms range from small to large changes. Consistently polling and requesting feedback on key issues and culture topics in the office can make a huge impact on employee input. Often, it is the staff who have a better understanding of the organisation’s day-to-day operations, so it’s important to ask: Are they involved in innovation and finding solutions? Acting upon these suggestions is just as important as listening.

There are also the more noticeable ways to make employees feel heard. From creating social spaces frequented by all levels of the business to create a direct line of communication, to larger company conferences and meetings, to the even more significant movement to employee ownership within the business - ultimately, the goal is to make the employee feel heard and rewarded in their job.

A greater say, means greater ownership. As partners in the business, employees have a tangible share of its success. They’ll feel more invested, and as a result, offer ideas that benefit the company in the long run rather than prioritising short-term profits. But it’s about more than just productivity – businesses can expect to see higher levels of engagement, creativity and retention, which will help solidify their company culture.

It is in the spirit of recognising and rewarding the workforce that logistics leader, Cardinal Global Logistics, recently moved to an employee ownership business model to form the Cardinal Partnership. This decision to become an employee-owned business will be transformational to the organisation.

The rise of employee democracy

There are now 1,000 businesses in the UK operating with an employee ownership model, including John Lewis and Richer Sounds. These successes demonstrate that regardless of the sector, the benefits for company and employee alike can be significant.

Take the case of Cardinal – where a £15,000 investment and a focus on employee voices has seen the firm become the biggest employee-owned logistics business in the world.

Alongside better financial performance, this business model creates an increased sense of ownership amongst employees, which helps maintain a company’s culture while fostering productivity, and encouraging innovation and creativity. Ultimately, with the rise of ‘quiet quitting’ in a market where employees want to feel valued, it is more important than ever that companies address this.

When a team has a voice that helps guide high-level strategies, employees will see how much the company values their opinions. The business, meanwhile, will identify new and innovative ways to progress the company.

It’s time to start listening. For any business monitoring their bottom line, the simple fact that heard employees are more productive employees should be enough reason to listen.

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