Highlights from our first Round Table of 2019: Employee voice and the environment of trust

People sat working in a casual setting

Highlights from our first Round Table of 2019: Employee voice and the environment of trust

Last week we held our thirteenth Employee Engagement Round Table at a new venue – The Langham, London. Now in our fifth year, this celebrated event brings together senior HR and Reward professionals to network, learn, and share ideas around employee engagement.

We were delighted to welcome our guests, all of whom had their own experience and expertise to add to the discussion. It was also a great pleasure to be joined by our guest speaker Faran Johnson, Managing Director at Engage for Success.

Not only did we enjoy a delicious breakfast feast supplied by the talented staff at The Langham, but we were able to come together to discuss some interesting topics circulating in the employee engagement field at the moment.

Faran delivered a thought-provoking presentation which focused on one of the four enablers of employee engagement, Employee Voice. This then raised some questions and stimulated our main discussion which was hosted by our Managing Director, Andy Caldicott. Here are our key takeaways:

The importance of Employee Voice

Faran began by explaining how Employee Voice is especially important when used in any kind of business transformation. For example, if a company is trying to introduce new values or implement a different piece of software, inviting employees to contribute their thoughts and feedback is an essential tool to ensure the process is a success.

Employee Voice also helps businesses measure their level of engagement. Through focus groups, surveys or one-on-one review meetings, businesses can effectively tap into the thoughts and feelings of their employees and assess how happy, motivated and engaged they are.

The level of trust

However, although Employee Voice can act as a useful window into any business’ working environment and the general mood of employees, Faran suggested that it isn’t always a reliable tool to measure employee engagement. She pointed out that trust can play a major role in affecting the authenticity of the feedback provided by employees.

To put this into context, employees who complete a feedback survey in a high trust environment will likely be open and honest in their answers. Their feedback will be a true reflection of their thoughts and feelings because they know that their views are valued and respected. On the other hand, in a low trust environment, employees may feel that their honest feedback may either be disregarded, not taken seriously, or could even result in backlash. In this situation, employees are more likely to answer questions dishonestly and respond with the thoughts and feelings that they think their employers want to hear.

Employee Voice in a low trust environment may not be an accurate measurement of engagement. Instead, it may actually provide employers with a false picture and lead them to believe that their employees are engaged when in reality they are not.

The zones of engagement

Leading on from this, Faran then described the four zones of engagement – a particularly interesting notion that would be useful for any business looking to assess how engaged their workforce is.

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The pseudo engagement zone is of particular interest because it can develop from a low trust environment. As is shown, pseudo engagement is present when employees are pro-active, but the general team climate is negative. In other words, individuals serve their own needs and work hard but independently – there is little to no relationship between colleagues. At the same time, employees will say and do the right things to get into their manager’s good books.

For businesses trying to measure their level of engagement, these zones are worth considering because as we can see, employees can display all of the behaviours associated with engagement and when asked can say that they’re engaged, but in reality, they may not be committed to the business or working to a common goal.

How to effectively measure engagement

So, to measure employee engagement accurately, Faran suggested that businesses should take into account other factors. This includes performance which is a largely statistical analysis of the business and looks at things such as the number of sales, the retention rate, and the level of absence amongst staff. On top of this, external factors should also be considered such as the political climate and the current state of the market. Employee Voice is still a very valuable tool and should be a central part of business operation, but when used to measure employee engagement, should be used in combination with other methods.

We hope our guests enjoyed our Round Table event and found the topics of discussion interesting. If you’d like to attend our next one in June, keep an eye on our website for the details which will be released very soon.

1 – Image courtesy of SHADES OF GREY: An exploratory study of engagement in work teams, Engage for Success, Ashridge Executive Education, Oracle (November 2018).

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