Since employee voice was established as one of the 4 enablers of employee engagement in the MacLeod report in 2009, the IPA Best Practice Network has argued that the most effective is the Informed Employee Voice. This is not to say that the words independent and representative are not important but they can be less effective if they are not backed-up by knowledge and information.

By illustrating this in practice, the Best Practice Network has influenced Engage for Success to talk about the Informed Voice and this event aimed to showcase that good practice through a series of case study presentations from Best Practice Network members. For example, the scrutinisation of “the what, the why and the what else”, the resulting communication informing staff about what’s going on and the resulting change, eventually, in how the Informed Voice “speaks” and how it contributes to the business and higher engagement levels enables us to argue that the Informed Voice is more difficult for organisations to ignore.  

Our recent Best Practice Network Masterclass focused on the practical effect of the informed voice on employee engagement and,  provided examples of the “transactional to transformational” journey. Nita Clarke, IPA Director opened the day by providing an overview of the Engage for Success findings related to employee voice.  Nita pointed out that, remarkably, 7 out of 9 people have stated that they would rather have a new boss than a pay rise and that only 13% of managers receive training in the UK. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the UK economy loses around £26 billion through disengagement each year according to Kenexa. Nita concluded that it is the informed voice that gets listened to and; the more effective it becomes, so that £26 million will reduce.

Graham Steel, ex-PCS Official and now the Vice Chair of the IPA, continued this theme by illustrating how Trade Unions have helped to create the informed voice when they have concentrated on delivering high quality communication to their members and, sometimes, staff in general. Graham gave an example of where this helped to establish a system of flexible working in a call centre, something which many people do not believe can be done. He argued that some managers are unaware that they are responsible for what they regard as “people issues”. They believe these are solely HR’s territory and this observation is clearly linked to the lack of training mentioned by Nita.

David Williams, Partnership Manager and Senior Unison representative at United Welsh, discussed how creating an informed voice amongst staff takes time and determination. He explained how simple tools like the IPA’s Option-Based Consultation model are crucial to sustaining high levels of engagement. David illustrated that, once staff are informed, they can get involved contribute to discussions around management’s thinking and become a crucial part of the strategic narrative.

Jane Farleigh, Acting Director of Regulatory Operations Ofqual observed that staff like to be asked for their views but acknowledged that it is easier to listen when those views are informed. Jane also found that encouraging people to take some responsibility for their own level of engagement can be effective through tools such as The Passport about to be introduced within Ofqual.

Andy Bindon, Human Resources Director at Southeastern Railway, discussed how social media can help provide a means for the informed voice to be heard. Despite the misgivings of many organisations, he insisted staff can be trusted to use such tools responsibly. The use of social media can make people feel involved but not necessarily allow them to influence the management’s thinking so it cannot be regarded as a panacea.

Stuart Inness & Paul Muir, VIVO Office Bearers at Standard Life, presented a compelling case of the impact Information & Consultation Forums can contribute to the informed employee voice. They described how using the 15 Strategic Questions developed by the IPA had helped employees understand the business rationale and engage in high quality, informed dialogue. The Standard Life Information & Consultation Forum, called VIVO, used another key enabler – integrity – as the basis of strategy. They concluded that staff representatives can play a crucial role in engaging staff as long as the skills and behaviours of the representatives are of the highest calibre.

Expertly managed by the IPA’s Chairperson, David Yeandle, the event was a great success and the information and discussion generated will feed into the IPA’s Best Practice Network agenda for 2014.

The IPA Best Practice Network: the informed voice for workforce representatives

The Network provides a forum for employee representatives to share and learn from good practice.  It is open to IPA member organisations and meets four times a year at venues around the UK.  The Network supports an annual Masterclass event which all are welcome to attend.  For more information on how to get involved, contact [email protected].