Employee voice helping organisations manage employee relations in new and emerging workspaces

By Dr Nadia Kougiannou, Dr Sarah Pass and Professor Helen Shipton, Nottingham Trent University. 

Although voice has been seen as an instrument for mutual gain, it is also integral to employee attitudes and feelings at work (Wilkinson et al., 2014). As employees adapt to change and uncertainty, including working from home, new technologies, possible redundancy and downsizing, giving voice to employees is central to their recovery and that of their organisations.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of employee voice for working lives and has forced a greater emphasis on new methods of communication and voice to deal with the crisis and the new and emerging workspaces. Organisations will need to adapt their employee voice mechanisms to ensure employees are kept fully informed both about business operations and the implications for the workforce; allowing them to contribute to change; support their wellbeing; and, facilitate innovation.

So, how can organisations utilise employee voice to achieve the above and manage employee relations in the new and emerging workspaces?

This will not be a one-size-fits-all answer. Employee voice encapsulates a range of mechanisms that can be implemented within organisations that can serve different purposes. Additionally, each mechanism has different reach amongst employees. For example, a digital voice channel cannot be used effectively by workers with no access to digital technology in their day-to-day responsibilities. Similarly, a company-wide monthly meeting is not ideal in tackling well-being.

As the pandemic has demonstrated, the delivery of quality service and productivity relies heavily on the effort and commitment of employees. The quality of employee voice is essential both in terms of harnessing talent and also facilitating worker safety and wellbeing (Briône, 2020). Whether the post-pandemic economy returns to previous activity levels or transitions to something new, the role and place of employees in it is central to the recovery (Parent-Thirion et al., 2020). This climate of uncertainty, though unsettling for organisations and employees, provides an opportunity for businesses to examine how they might adapt their work practices to motivate their employees, re-establish trust and optimise performance (Parent-Thirion et al., 2020). Indeed, the achievement of quality outputs and productivity is dependent on the effort and commitment of employees and the quality of their voice as an important part of the human capital contribution (CIPD).

Employers and HR practitioners need to consider what they want to achieve with employee voice, before deciding what kind of mechanism to implement. If that is facilitating innovation, then a mechanism that enables employees to share ideas, such as problem-solving teams, might be the most appropriate. The CIPD’s Guide to group voice channels can be a very useful starting point. If on the other hand, employee voice aims to improve employee well-being, then more focus should be placed on mechanisms that allow self-expression at work, promote work-life balance and help foster an inclusive environment. This can be done for example with the establishment of Voice champions in the organisation (for more examples please see the CIPD’s guide to individual voice channels).

Employers and HR practitioners should also make sure that employee voice mechanisms are diverse enough to be able to capture the voices of the entire workforce. This will ensure inclusivity for all. For further guidance and practical tips please see the CIPD’s practical advice for employers and HR practitioners.

The above discussion is just the start of our work on how employee voice can help organisations manage employee relations in this new work landscape. The ultimate aim is to provide targeted recommendations on how employee voice can be utilised to initiate more commitment, creativity, well-being, and innovation at work.

Please get in touch if you are interested in participating in this project and/or if you would like to share good practices from your organisation.

Dr Nadia Kougiannou: nadia.kougiannou@ntu.ac.uk

Dr Sarah Pass: sarah.pass@ntu.ac.uk

Professor Helen Shipton: helen.shipton@ntu.ac.uk


  • Briône, P. (2020) ‘Information and Consultation for Employees (ICE): What, why and how’. CIPD Guide, in collaboration with IPA; London
  • Parent-Thirion, A., Biletta, I., Demetriades, S., Gallie, D. & Zhou, Y. (2020) ‘How does employee involvement in decision-making benefit organisations?’ Eurofound, Policy Brief. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/policy-brief/2020/how-does-employee-involvement-in-decision-making-benefit-organisations
  • Wilkinson, A., Dundon, T., Donaghey, J., & Freeman, R. (2014). Employee voice: Charting new terrain. In A. Wilkinson, J. Donaghey, T. Dundon, & R. Freeman (Eds.), The Handbook of Research on Employee Voice. Elgar Press.

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