It seems like the technology we have at our disposal nowadays plus the focus on curating intentional company culture would boost employee engagement in general over time. Unfortunately, data shows otherwise. As one Forbes contributor reports, Gallup polls consistently show that almost 70 percent of employees are “actively disengaged.” This spells serious trouble for organizations, as employee disengagement tends to fuel higher turnover rates, poor workplace environment and decreased productivity levels.
There are many factors with the potential to contribute to disengagement: management style, company structure, benefits, etc. But it’s important not to underestimate the more subjective way employees feel. Namely, do employees within your organization believe their ideas and opinions are heard—and furthermore, valued? Or do they believe it’s futile to offer feedback as “nothing will change,” anyway?
Here’s how to give employees a voice within your company, a critical step toward boosting engagement and overall satisfaction.
Ask for Feedback, Then Act on It
Traditional business models depended on top-down decision making. But employees tend to feel this makes them powerless in affecting change or improvement within their organization, and understandably so. When decisions come down from the top, it positions workers as passive participants rather than active agents.
So, how can organizations involve employees in important decision-making processes? Asking for feedback is a key foundational step. Using a tool like an online poll, leaders can collect anonymous feedback in real-time, opening up the floor for voting and further meaningful discussion. Participants can also ask honest questions, offer critiques and upvote others’ contributions for leadership to address.
The follow-up to asking for advice must always be acting upon it, otherwise employees will sense the exercise is a pretense. “And,” as one Inc. contributor notes, “it’s not just taking action but also doing so transparently within a reasonable timeline.” Make sure your organization is prepared to take employee feedback seriously and implement an action plan accordingly. This will reinforce a positive feedback loop in which employees feel compelled to contribute because they have a say in outcomes.
Open the Lines of Communication
It’s important to solicit honest employee feedback before making an initial decision—but there are numerous opportunities to keep in contact with employees throughout any ongoing development.
Here’s a real-life example, as reported by Modern Healthcare: Women’s Hospital prioritized active communication with employees as they designed and built a new facility. Many employees felt the decision was risky, adopting an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality. So, leadership decided to involve employees every step of the way to boost morale and excitement. This strategy included asking employees to vote on the brick design, as well as letting nurses design patient rooms to optimize their workflow. The end results? One employee said they feel “appreciated.” Another believes members of the administration “have faith in their employees.”
Communication between employees at all levels can make or break the company culture, depending on the degree to which workers feel involved in shaping decisions that ultimately affect them. The aforementioned hospital actually “bucked the architects’ recommendations and listened to the nurses” when it came to room layouts. This demonstrated the confidence leadership had in front-line employees. Look for opportunities to consistently communicate with employees before, during and after major changes in the workplace.
Provide Ample Channels for Feedback
Fostering a culture of openness, communicativeness and openness is important on a broad level. One more concrete way to do so is by simply providing multiple channels for employees to channel their feedback. Online polls during company meetings are a great start. Providing an area for feedback via your company portal is another. Collecting candid feedback during one-on-one meetings works, too. It’s important for you to get constructive feedback so you know how to better your company. For example, some of your employees may be struggling with healthcare benefits and may not know whether they should sign up for a ppo vs hmo insurance plan — you need to have an appropriate and secure outlet to capture these types of questions and have them addressed by your HR team if necessary.
As you’re working on your company culture, always consider how to give employees a voice.