Worker voice is a critical part of equitable and inclusive worker success strategies. Authentic worker voice is more than employee satisfaction surveys. It is a whole-of-workplace approach in which frontline employees influence their workplace and their experience at work. This has real benefits for individual workers and businesses as it addresses organizational, social, and racial barriers to full participation. The National Fund developed the following definition of “worker voice” in partnership with our diverse network of workforce practitioners based at nearly 30 workforce collaboratives around the country.
The Core Elements of Worker Voice
Workers have the freedom and ability to represent their own interests on the job or have those interests fairly represented by a larger collective.
Workers feel empowered to raise concerns or shine light on problems to address any adverse conditions or terms surrounding their employment.
Workers are stakeholders and engaged in two-way transparent communication where their input is valued and yields policy and practice changes to create equitable opportunities for all workers to thrive.
Workers are valued for their skills and talents and their central role in our economy. Workers are considered business assets instead of expenses.
What Worker Voice Looks Like in Practice
Authentic, effective worker voice is infused throughout the workplace and is supported at all levels of the organization. There are intentional communications and spaces created for developing relationships and building community in the workplace. Workers take an active role in their own skills development and career pathways. There is recognition that workers’ well-being matters both inside and outside of the workplace — and employers dedicate resources that foster well-being among the workforce.
Workers have personal agency to advocate for their interests. They can do this through individual and collective channels, directly to management or indirectly through representatives, and via formal and informal mechanisms. There are outlets in workplaces for workers to express needs and priorities at work and opportunities to take part in the decision-making process. When possible, workers themselves are the decision-makers, building a more equitable distribution of power where the C-suite and management aren’t the sole influencers.
It’s important to note that effective worker voice is unlikely to result from any one single initiative, but rather, flourishes from multiple complementary channels that are supported by leadership at all levels of the organization. It is important to measure and evaluate worker voice as part of a continuous improvement process.
The benefits of worker voice are significant. Worker voice strategies can appeal to those seeking business improvements and to those pursuing employee rights.
For employers, effective voice contributes to innovation, productivity and organizational improvement. For employees, authentic voice results in increased job satisfaction, greater influence, inclusion, and sense of “mattering,” and better opportunities for professional development.
Worker voice is a core pillar of a quality job. The National Fund’s Job Design Framework has recently been revised to reflect this, in addition to many other elements that build a great company where employees thrive.