Employee voice

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Employee voice refers to the participation of employees in influencing organisational decision making. Because research and analysis have grown around the voice concept in a variety of disciplines, ‘employee voice’ has become an elastic term meaning somewhat different things to different policy, academic and practitioner actors . In the many disciplines that cover voice, such as human resource management, political science, economics, organisational behaviour, psychology or law, perspectives toward the concept differ. Drawing on Dundon et al. voice can be seen with different lenses. First, voice is an articulation of individual dissatisfaction or concern that aims to address a specific problem or issue with management. Second, voice takes the form of collective organisation, where voice provides a countervailing source of power to management. Third, there is the role of voice as a contribution to management decision-making. Here the purpose is to gain employee input to improve work organisation and efficiency more generally, perhaps through quality circles or teamwork, or eliciting workforce engagement. Fourth voice can be seen as an instrument for mutual gain, with productive collaboration between capital and labour increasing the long-term viability of an organisation and economic well-being of employees The editors of the Elgar Handbook of Employee Voice [1] define employee voice as the ways and means through which employees attempt to have a say and potentially influence organisational affairs about issues that affect their work and the interests of managers and owners. This definition combines a variety of voice mechanisms that analysts often group in separate boxes (e.g. involvement or bargaining; union and non-union). It allows for employer implemented Non-union Employee Representative (NER) systems as a collective form of voice, be it chosen to marginalise a union presence or to provide an alternative to union influence In general, employee voice is about how employees are able to have a say over work activities and decisions within the organizations in which they work, regardless of the institutional channel through which it operates—whether through speak-up programmes, quality circles, teamwork, or collective negotiation.

Arguments for employee voice can be both moral and political as well as economic.[2] There are a wide range of mechanisms related to employee voice, and these may be direct or indirect, formal or informal, and power-centred or task-centred. As well as trade union representation, voice may refer to a wide array of techniques including Empowerment, Employee Engagement and Teamworking initiatives. In reality, many employers adopt a blend of voice mechanisms. However, some employers may also wish to limit employee voice, believing instead that the best approach is for management to command and control the organisation. Equally, some employees may not want to have their voice heard, or may not want to express their thoughts.

In July 2013, an international workshop on the benefits of employee voice was organised by Dr Andrew R Timming, an employee voice scholar based at the University of St Andrews. The workshop, entitled, 'Strengthening Democracy at Work', brought together the world's leading employee voice researchers, including: Peter Ackers (University of Loughborough), John Budd (University of Minnesota), Tony Dundon (National University of Ireland, Galway), Stewart Johnstone (University of Newcastle), Andrew Pendleton (York University) and Andrew Timming (University of St Andrews). Also present were several practitioners. The workshop was funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute and the Russell Trust. The first day took place in Glasgow and the second day was held at New Lanark. The workshop participants discussed the benefits of employee voice for employees, organisations and societies. In short, when employers give employees a 'say' in the strategic direction of the organisation, all three levels benefit.

Informal and formal mechanisms[edit]

Employee voice is attained through both informal and formal mechanisms. Informal employee voice mechanisms include general conversation between employees and employers, email communication, employee feedback, social functions and meetings at the workplace. Employees can also influence corporate decision making through their actions, such as turnover and absenteeism[3]

Formal mechanisms include communication tools implemented by an organisations human resource department, such as employee surveys and suggestion boxes. Some organisations promote employee voice through financial participation, such as share ownership and profit-sharing opportunities. Employee consultative committees and representation through trade unions are also formal ways of ensuring employees are informed and are given a voice in decisions that affect their employment[3]

European Works Councils[edit]

In an international context, the role of employee voice varies immensely. The European model is fundamentally based on employee communication and consultation between employees and corporate management. European Works Councils were introduced through the European Directive 1994 to accommodate these goals and provided employees with an opportunity to gain access to senior levels of their employers. The European model has required amendments to improve its effectiveness in managing employee voice and legal compliance[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wilkinson A.Dundon ,Donaghey J and R.Freeman (2014) The Handbook of employee voice, Elgar
  2. ^ Johnstone, S and Ackers, P (2015), Finding a Voice at Work? New Perspectives on Employment Relations, Oxford, Oxford University Press
  3. ^ a b McLean, P (2008), Employee Voice, MGMT341, International and Comparative Human Resource Management, University of Wollongong, delivered 19 August 2008
  4. ^ Timming, A (2007), ‘European Works Councils and the Dark Side of Managing Worker Voice’, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol.17, Iss.3, pp.248-254

References[edit]

  • Davis, E,M, Lansbury, R,D (1996), Managing Together: Consultation and Participation in the Workplace, Longman, Australia
  • .T. Dundon, A. Wilkinson, M. Marchington and P. Ackers (2004) The Meaning and Purpose of Employee Voice, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 15, No. 6, 2004, pp. 1149-1170.
  • Johnstone, S and Ackers, P (2015), Finding a Voice at Work? New Perspectives on Employment Relations, Oxford, Oxford University Press
  • McLean, P (2008), Employee Voice, MGMT341, International and Comparative Human Resource Management, University of Wollongong, delivered 19 August 2008
  • Stone, R (2005), Human Resource Management, 5th edition, John Wiley & Sons, Queensland
  • Timming, A (2007), ‘European Works Councils and the Dark Side of Managing Worker Voice’, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol.17, Iss.3, pp. 248–254
  • Wilkinson, A, Donaghey, J, Dundon, T and Freeman, R (eds) 2014, The Handbook of Research on Employee Voice Cheltenham, Edward Elgar Press.
  • Wilkinson, A, Gollan, P, Marchington, M and Lewin, D (eds) 2010, The Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations, Oxford University Press, Oxford.