If employees do not have a voice, organizations will fail.
For an organization to be effective it must allow and encourage its members to have a voice. Voice helps build employee relations and it also provides a ground truth of how the organization is performing. Senior leaders can stare at manipulated spreadsheets all day but they will only truly comprehend how their organization is doing by talking with its members. Voice is defined as having the freedom to speak, share opinions, and be an influential decision maker in an organization (COM665, 2015, slide 2). Campolieti, Gomez and Gunderson (2013) state, organizations should foster greater cooperation, create a climate of information sharing, and build employee trust in order to improve organizational performance (pg. 381).
There are a number of ways organizations can enable its members to exercise their voice. A few examples are; a suggestion box, a blog on an intranet, an employee sounding board, and allowing members from different organization levels to participate in group decision making. It is my opinion that the most productive way to allow employees to exercise their voice is to include them in group decision making. I would like to analyze one particular meeting I was involved in at my last job. I will demonstrate how we did not follow the standard agenda as presented by Young, Wood, Phillips, and Pederson (2007) and how my voice and the voice of my subordinates was ignored which led to our failure following the meeting.
This meeting was between the temporary staffing company I worked for and one particular client we serviced. This meeting was established to address our performance in providing and retaining temporary employees and how to rectify the situation moving forward. In attendance was myself, my two subordinates, my direct manager, our sales manager, our regional manager, the clientâ€™s human resources team, and their production manager. We had the proper amount of key players who could effect change and we had a common understanding of what needed accomplished which is step one of the standard agenda. Young, Wood, Phillips, and Pederson (2007) define the goals of step one as: â€œunderstand the charge, ascertain their authority, assess their resources, determine when they will be done, and assess the legitimacy of the topicâ€ (pg. 87). The group also accomplished step two of the standard agenda which is to understand the question (Young, Wood, Phillips, & Pederson, 2007, pg. 103). The question was how to we as a partnership increase the hiring of employees and lengthen the retention of current employees.
We as a group began to fail when we skipped through step three which is â€œfact findingâ€ and we started to consider solutions to the proposed problem identified in step two of the standard agenda (Young, Wood, Phillips, & Pederson, 2007, pg. 115). I also fell into this spiral of jumping to solutions without clearly identifying the facts of the issue. When we started offering solutions to solve the problem my voice and the voice of my subordinates were muted. I say myself and my subordinates as subject matter experts on the account and how to effectively solve the issues we were facing. Our management team and the client agreed upon solutions that my team did not think would be effective or be able to be implemented. As it turns out we were not able to implement the solutions and were unable to effect change.
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Campolieti, M., Gomez, R., & Gunderson, M. (2013). Does non-union employee representation act as a complement or substitute to union voice? evidence from canada and the united states. Industrial Relations, 52, 378. Retrieved from http://cmich.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.cmich.idm.oclc.org/docview/1243361720?accountid=10181
COM665. (2013, August 26). Discussion 4: Face Participation and Problem Solving [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://chipcast.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=92ad4c2b-5bb5-425d-beb6-c1f4abec5d42
Young, K.S., Wood, J.T., Phillips, G.M. & Pederson, D.J. (2007). Group discussion: A practical guide to participation and leadership (4th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland. PP. 87-182
Is there a difference between a leaderâ€™s voice and a managerâ€™s voice? Working for two Fortune 500 companies over the past twelve years I have witness and been directly impacted by the voice of both a leader and a manager. I have attributed my successes and failures of effectiveness and execution to that of my direct supervisors. My leader cared for me as a person first, employee second. I was able to voice my opinion and utilize candor to problem solve and strategize solutions. I felt valued by the leader and ultimately the organization to be fully committed to improving the business is every area possible. â€œEffective leaders know precisely when to coach, when to mentor and when to manageâ€ (Johnson, 2007). The leader would alter his style when necessary and would explain, train and complete, while testing for understanding and asking for feedback. â€œLeading by example and leading by enabling people are the hallmarks of action-based leadershipâ€ (Nayar, 2013). The success came from his ability to listen and hear my voice as a value part of the organization. As a subordinate, I was able to address issues and add value to different situations. Dailey (2013), discussed listening as a rare skill in the American Culture where we equate talking with power, but that tends to make the skilled listening leader all the more important and appreciated. â€œBy passing questions to others, leaders indicate that they welcome cooperation in leadership, thus encouraging other members to engage in leadership actsâ€ (Young et al, 2007). The experience with the manager was completely different. He did not believe or accept a culture of candor. The employeeâ€™s voice was limited to that of agreement and compliance. We were discouraged from professionally bringing forth ideas or issues. The only voice that was heard was that of the manager. When you are in a professional workplace and experience the different styles it is clear to see the impact on your production but those around. Plunkette (2014), detailed four differences between managers and leaders: 1. Leaders are visionaries, managers are administrators, 2. Leaders motivate the people they work with, managers oversee and regulate what they do. 3. Leaders take risks on long-term gains, managers take risks in hopes of short-term results, and 4. Leaders encourage and thrive on open debate, managers provide direction and expect compliance. â€œOnly managers count value; some even reduce value by disabling those who add valueâ€ (Nayar, 2013). There is a big difference between commitment and compliance. When an employee feels respect from their leader and they have a voice in the organization the comes very easily. On the other hand, when the employeeâ€™s voice is not heard by a manager then compliance is the bare minimum that will be given.
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Dailey, W. (2013). COM 665: Participation and Problem Solving. Lecture Video. Central Michigan University. Retrieved from
Johnson, R. (2007). The difference between a leader and a manager. American Fastener Journal,
24(6), 42-43. Retrieved from
Voice empowers the workforce. Dailey (2013) indicates that voice is the â€œright to be heard by others and to have oneâ€™s opinions matterâ€. In a 2015 employee job satisfaction and engagement survey, approximately 56% of employees surveyed indicated that it was very important for their leaders to respect their ideas and 55% indicated that communication between employees and senior managers was important to employee job satisfaction (SHRM, 2015). Job satisfaction is usually achieved when employees can effectively contribute to the success of the organization and are empowered to do their jobs.
Employees are already empowered. Leaders however, must give them a voice and the authority to â€œexercise the empowerment they naturally haveâ€ (Marquet, 2015). This can be accomplished by creating a work environment that invites employee ideas and participation in various decision making processes. â€œWhen we make decisions, there is the need and the right for people to be involvedâ€ (Dailey, 2013). Employees are willing to share ideas and suggestions if those ideas could directly contribute to the organizationâ€™s success (Truss, Mankin & Kelliher, 2012, p. 212), Therefore, allowing voice empowers both employees and managers to influence operational and strategic decisions.
A few years ago, the leaders in my previous organization was given the task to cut operating costs by one million dollars, so they made the decision that all departments needed to focus on reducing headcount. What they failed to realize, was that due to high turnover rates in some highly specialized positions, productivity was already suffering and employee morale was low. The HR department reached out to the employee community to help develop alternative cost saving methods. Leadership embraced the idea and laid out the â€œchargeâ€ to the workforce. Establishing a â€œchargeâ€ helps to create unity in the process and ensures that participants know what the expectations are. (Young et al., 2007, p. 88). Criteria communicated, included expected implementation timelines, cost constraints and limitations on outside resources. Young et al (2007) stated that â€œfocusing on a good set of criteria increases the likelihood that members can reach a solution when the time comesâ€ (p. 133) Once the criteria was established the employees were empowered to proceed with developing solutions.
Across the organization, employees collaborated and held brainstorming sessions among themselves. While brainstorming tends to exclude employees who are more introverted and shy away from participating in the lively process, these sessions yielded innovative cost saving ideas over the one million dollar goal that was initially set (Young et al., 2007 p. 142). Ideas ranged from ways to reuse office supplies, to re-engineering equipment for improved productivity. Surprisingly, some of the quieter, more reserved employees emerged as leaders of their sessions. Research suggests that when employees believe their voice has impact, they are more inclined to use it (Greenberg & Edwards, 2009). Other employees increased their productivity by making changes within their scope of work. The â€œchargeâ€ gave employees a sense of empowerment, developed the employee voice, and allowed innovative ideas to be released.
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Greenberg, J., & Edwards, M. (Eds.). (2009). Voice and silence in organizations.
Bingley, England: Emerald.
Marquet, D. (2015, May 27). 6 Myths About Empowering Employees. Retrieved May 25, 2016, from https://hbr.org/2015/05/6-myths-about-empowering-employees
SHRM. (2015). Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement (Rep.). Retrieved May 25, 2016, from Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) website: https://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Documents/2015-Job-Satisfaction-and-Engagement-Report.pdf
Organizational culture has a direct impact on employees comfort level in using their voice.
Voice is defined as having the right to speak, express opinions,to have an impact on decisions, and vote (Dailey, 2014). If an employee has the perception that their organization is rigid and unwilling to listen, the employee will not exercise their voice. As a public servant, many employees do not feel they have a voice. Government agencies often have limited resources and many of their actions are restricted by laws and regulations. This type of organization stifles creativity and innovation.
Other organizations outside of public sector seem to embrace employee voices, and often reward employees when it comes to expressing a voice that improves processes and solve problems. Many of these innovative ideas come forth during group discussions and meetings. As indicated in this week’s lecture video, to ensure group discussions and meetings are useful, the organizational culture has to support positive employee relations and imply that the employer will listen and react to employee needs and ideas (Dailey, 2014). One of the best examples of an organization that takes advantage of the effectiveness of allowing employees to have a voice is the software and product design departments of Apple, Incorporated. A former Apple employee describes their group discussions as an environment where ideas came forth freely. Ideas would be discussed to a point that no one could remember where the idea came from. If the idea was good, they all agreed on it and if the idea was bad it sank to the bottom of the pile no matter who it came from (Reed, 2016).
When an organizational culture supports employee voices, it becomes more effective, especially when group discussions are organized and facilitated in a manner that allows everyone to be heard. Robert’s Rules of Orders provides simple procedures facilitating group discussions in a productive manner (Dailey, 2015). There are also the steps provided in this week’s reading, “Group Discussion: A Practical Guide to Participation and Leadership.” The reading highlighted how when a comprehensive approach is taken to group discussions it encourages mutual respect. which is the foundation of a healthy organizational culture (Young, Wood, Phillips, and Pedersen, 2007).
Dailey, W. Com 665: Participation and Problem Solving. Central Michigan University. Lecture Video.
Reed, B. (2016). The Best Account of What It Was Like to Work for Steve Jobs. Www.brg.org.
Young, K., Wood, J., Phillips, G., and Pedersen, D. (2007) Group Discussion: A Practical Guide to Participation and Leadership.
Employee voices are important at every level in an organization.
In the lecture, Dailey (2013) states â€œOften it is the people on the ground floor who know exactly what the problems are, so their input should be extremely helpfulâ€. Managers are often promoted because they performed exceptionally in their positions. However, after being in a management position for so many years, they may become removed from the actual job that theyâ€™re managing.
This is the case with the company that I currently work for. My boss has been with the company for 25 years and has been managing our group for many years. Since he has been promoted to management, our company has gone through many changes, including an acquisition and the implementation of new software. These changes have significantly changed the role of Account Managers. Our boss thus relies on us to report any problems that we are experiencing so that he can take action, or voice the problems to his boss.
A current example of a problem in our department is a high employee turnover rate. Yesterday, our boss called a meeting with the remaining staff to discuss and understand the reasons behind the turnover. Our â€œchargeâ€, or our task that has been assigned by our supervisor, is to make recommendations and suggest solutions so that management can solve the problem (Young, et al. 2007, p. 88). The next step according to the Standard Agenda would be to explore the background of the problem. Our boss understands there are problems with morale and employee retention, but the details are unclear. Thus, a meeting was called to discuss how and why the issue came about.
Once the boss gains an understanding of the background of the problem, it would be time to phrase the question (Young, et.al. 2007, p. 106). For example: What is one thing we (management) can do to increase employee morale and job satisfaction?
Standard Agenda step three is fact finding. In order to understand the problem, group members will: â€œDetermine whether they are focusing on the symptoms of the problem or the causes of the problem, or both. Compile a body of factual material that will help them understand the situation they must resolve. Evaluate the information they gather.â€ (Young, et al. 2007, p. 115). A symptom of the problem is employee dissatisfaction. A cause of the problem is workplace stress. Evidence is the employees resigning.
In our meeting, we discussed various pain points in our position. In the next meeting, we will need to set criteria and limitations. A criterion may be: Any solution must resolve the current turnover and morale problem. A limitation may be: A solution can not infringe on the roles of other departments.
After criteria/limitations are set, we would select a solution. WSJ (2016) proposes some solutions that may fit in this situation: â€œPay attention to employeesâ€™ personal needs; Bolster employeesâ€™ engagement; Review compensationâ€. None of these solutions would be possible without the voice of â€œground levelâ€ employees.
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Dailey. W. (2013). COM 665: Participation and Problem Solving. Retrieve from https://chipcast.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=92ad4c2b-5bb5-425d-beb6-c1f4abec5d42
Wall Street Journal (n.d.). How to Reduce Employee Turnover. Retrieved from http://guides.wsj.com/management/recruiting-hiring-and-firing/how-to-reduce-employee-turnover/
Young, K.S., Wood, J.T., Phillips, G.M., & Pedersen, D.J. (2007). Group Discussion: A practical guide to participation and leadership (4th ed.)