Employee voice: An antecedent to organisational engagement?

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

Last week at Bledcom Dr Mary Welch and I presented a paper that we are working on relating to employee voice and engagement.

This comes from part of my PhD thesis and the research has been inspired by a critique of the academic literature that suggests that ‘relatively little attention has been given to the relationship between voice and engagement’[1]

The study adopts three research objectives:

  • How satisfied are employees with opportunities to exercise their voice?
  • How good are line managers and senior managers at responding to suggestions from employees?
  • To what extent might employee voice be positively associated with organisational engagement?

Although there is no consensus on the definition of employee voice it is often described either as an indirect process that includes trade union representation or as direct individual and/or group processes that relate to speaking up inside organisations. Our research adopts the latter definition and is focused on employee engagement and, in particular, organisational engagement which relates to an employee’s engagement with their employing organisation rather than their job.

The research is based on a questionnaire that incorporates a correlational research design that was administered at five organisations in England and Wales. The questionnaire explores employee satisfaction with opportunities for voice via questions which enable participants to rate items including: opportunities to feed my views upwards; ways for me to pass on criticisms; and, ways for me to communicate ideas to top management. It also includes questions that enable participants to rate line managers and senior managers on how good they are at responding to suggestions. The total combined number of respondents was 2066.

Initial data analysis has found variable satisfaction with elements of employee voice in the five organisations in the study. Results for ‘opportunities to feed my views upwards’ ranged from 28 percent to 59 percent, measured on a 1-5 Likert type scale with 5 denoting  ‘very satisfied’. Line managers are rated as better at responding to suggestions than senior managers in the study. In two organisations the ratings for senior managers responding to suggestions were very low.

A positive association between satisfaction with employee voice and organisational engagement has been indicated in correlation analysis for all five organisations. This is particularly strong for emotional organisational engagement.

This research extends our understanding of how employee voice is associated with employee engagement. The findings suggest that internal communication strategies that incorporate employee voice as a systematic process may have an impact on employee engagement.

Here’s the slide pack from Bledcom with more of the data.

[1] Gruman, J.A., Saks, A. 2014. Being psychologically present when speaking up: employee voice engagement. In Wilkinson et al. (Eds) Handbook of Research on Employee Voice, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.