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Employee voice is the key to better productivity

Employee voice is a key component in the productivity puzzle, according to Sir Brendan Barber, Acas Chair.

Writing in Involvement and Productivity: The missing piece of the puzzle, released by the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA), he emphasised the value of employee voice in improving workplace productivity and performance.

The report features the views of 12 experts who argue that employee involvement is essential to boosting productivity in the UK.

Voice is integral

Voice is one of seven 'levers of productivity' set out in the Acas report pdf icon Building Productivity in the UK [644kb], but of the seven, voice is the one that is 'integral to the model as a whole', Sir Brendan said.

Employee voice covers a broad spectrum, from representation and negotiation to open communication between colleagues on the shop floor, he said.

He noted how voice had been linked in research to:

  • higher levels of employee engagement
  • lower staff turnover
  • better business outcomes.

But improving employee voice in organisations often gets sidelined because many aspects of it are not legal requirements - things that 'must' be done - but just another thing that employers know they 'should' get round to doing at some point, he said.

Recalibrating voice

In the absence of enhancing the relevant legislation, Sir Brendan suggested that voice could be 'recalibrated' at work, with employers thinking about how it could be incorporated into their organisation along three axes:

  • values - how voice should be among workplace values on a par with fairness, equality and wellbeing. This includes recognising the role that collective voice plays in promoting effective and harmonious workplaces
  • processes - the procedures used to support voice, including use of social media and the channels that best suit organisational needs
  • skills - the skills needed to enable managers to listen, communicate and provide feedback.

New forms of 'pluralistic' approaches to voice are needed in this fast-changing workplace, Sir Brendan said, which 'continue to value the voice and role of trade unions, but equally look  creatively at new forms of voice and employee participation'.

'It is not just something we should do,' he concluded, 'but something we must do if we are going to safeguard this most fundamental aspect of working life.'

Acas publications and services

Acas has in-depth information and advice on Building Productivity in the UK, including links to its report of the same name, comment from leading voices on the topic, and all the relevant case studies.

Acas has also developed a new productivity tool that can help organisations assess where they can do more to get the best from their staff. See the Acas Productivity Tool for more details.

Acas experts are on hand to come to your workplace and work with you on all aspects of employment relations to create a happier, more satisfied, more productive and more engaged workforce. See Workshops, projects and business solutions or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150.

Practical training is also available on essential Skills for supervisors and Staff retention, including courses on 'The route to successful employee engagement' and 'Toxic workplace cultures - how to avoid them'.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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